After more than two years of pandemic disruptions, many of us are being hit especially hard by the travel bug this summer. Whether you have a huge list of dream destinations or you’re stuck at home dream-Googling flight info, there is a whole world of podcasts out there that can inspire your next trip, make you a better traveller, or just provide a temporary escape.
The following nine shows explore places you’ve always dreamed of visiting, cities you’ve never heard of, and towns not easily found on maps. Each one has a unique spin on the travelog format — in Not Lost, Brendan Francis Newnam is on a mission to get invited to dinner parties by strangers all over the world; Evan Stern’s Vanishing Postcards takes you on a 11,016 km journey down Route 66 — and will fuel and sate your wanderlust in equal measure. Let’s go!
You might recognise Brendan Francis Newnam from his now retired podcast The Dinner Party Download, co-hosted with Rico Gagliano. Now he’s back for Not Lost, a travel podcast with a specific goal: He visits new cities and tries to get invited to a dinner party. With a buddy in tow, he skips from Montreal, to Vegas, to Mexico City, ducking into coffee shops, dance clubs, and museums to get to know the locals, who he hopes will become his new friends and extend them an invitation for a home-cooked dinner. It feels very man-on-the-street, as each episode introduces you to the sounds and people of a city in a totally new way. While Brendan learns about the places he visits, he also reflects on how he’s changing as a traveller, making this a personal journey that feels at once like a game show and cultural snapshot.
Rough Translation is NPR’s global podcast tapping into interesting stories around the world in an attempt to help us understand culture and history through compelling narratives. Visit a dance camp in Sweden, where Black dancers are trying to reclaim the Lindy Hop; take a trip to Ukraine to learn how they way its comedy culture helped shape Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s political approach; or meet the COVID patients who were trapped inside a hotel in Jerusalem and forged unexpected friendships. The latest season, subtitled @Work, is all about the way the workplace is evolving in other countries; an episode about the illegality of eating lunch at your desk in France might make you think twice about shoveling down your noontime salad alone in front of a computer.
Saleem Reshamwala is on a worldwide city-hopping hunt for the world’s most exciting ideas, hoping to discover how they have gone on to improve society and define the places where they originated. Far Flung takes you onto a bus in Caracas where journalists spread news through the city with informative stand-up acts; to a tiny town in Germany that made a promise to God 400 years ago to put on an annual play in his honour and has been going strong ever since; and to the streets of Mexico City, where a real-life superhero in a luchador mask and cape fights speeding cars to protect pedestrians. It’s not a travel show as much as it is an idea show, but the storytelling and soundscape make this podcast a portal that plops you into disparate places the world over to discover the innovative ways people are solving problems both local and universal.
In season one of Vanishing Postcards, Even Stern documented his road trip to lazy Texas places that don’t show up on GPS, searching out establishments that have never been written about and are in danger of disappearing. The project is like a time capsule, documenting the people who have kept these places alive all these years; the audio is so intimate you’ll feel like you’ve been dropped in Evan’s shirt pocket as he enters speakeasies, haunted mansions, and country stores to interview musicians, chefs, and cowboys. For season two, Evan’s making his way down Route 66 on a 11,016 km journey to understand its history and the people who have shaped it. Each episode feels like a personal postcard sent from a place you’ll probably never visit.
In Greetings from Somewhere, Zach Mack brings us along on an American road trip to understand how visiting new places can impact our worldview, and how we in turn affect the places we visit. It’s a twist on the travel documentary that proves every trip is a two-way conversation between the traveller and the destination. In conversations with a guy who spent a year walking 6,437 km across America, a wheelchair traveller, and a Walt Disney World nut, Mack cracks open the places he visits through developing an understanding of the people who put them on the map in the first place.
Travel reporter Carlye Wisel has a very fun job and an energetic podcast to go with it, Very Amusing, a chronicle of her enthusiasm for all things theme park. Carly is paid to cover park openings, new restaurants, and new attractions all over the world, all before they’re available to the public, and she’s happy to share what she’s discovered on the job as she hits up the Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, DreamWorks Water Park, Tokyo’s Toy Story Hotel, and more. She’s the total expert on ticket deals, secret menus, not-to-be-missed merch, and what’s going on behind the scenes — even stuff the parks might not want you to know. If you’re headed to a theme park this summer, she’ll arm you with tips that will make you the most informed person there; if you’re stuck on your couch, you’ll at least feel like you’re there, tasting the popcorn, watching the fireworks, and hanging upside-down on a rollercoaster.
National Geographic photojournalist might be one of the coolest jobs ever, and the Ambie-winning Overheard at National Geographic makes you feel like a fly on the wall in their headquarters. In conversations with explorers, photographers, and scientists, hosts Peter Gwin and Amy Briggs share stories of pirates in the Malacca Straits, lost manuscripts in Timbuktu, ship-breakers in Bangladesh, that feel like they were plucked from an adventure novel. There’s a particular focus on the environment, anthropology, and science of animals, people, and places so secluded they’ve never been explored on a podcast. If you’ve ever been entranced by an issue of National Geographic magazine, this audio version will scratch your itch for global curiosity and make you a more informed world citizen.
Passport is an audio roadtrip that celebrates one place per episode, covering a little bit of everything — history, food, religion — in order to impart a better understand the culture and people who live there in a way that will have you adding new locations to your travel bucket list. Hosts Neil Innes and Andrés Bartos are here to inform you, but they’re also friends; their lighthearted approach makes you feel like you’re in on the jokes and part of the journey. Passport is a show about friendship, the world, and all the stunning, strange and breathtaking stories waiting out there to be discovered.
Return Ticket, hosted by Jonathan Green, is an audio adventure to places you’re familiar with to find the places you’re not, skipping the touristy landmarks and opting for stories about the people and quirks that make a place feel like itself. If you really want to get to know a place, you have to understand its tunnels, its garbage pickup, and its bicycle economy — and those are the kinds of stories Jonathan is telling. He never actually leaves his studio in Melbourne, Australia, even as the podcast brings in sounds of blaring horns and city chatter alongside interactions and scripted sequences with “guides” who bring the streets come to life. It’s an interesting technique that will allow your imagination to wander from Melbourne to Bali and beyond.