The past year has been filled with very little, if any, travel. Former travelers have, however, been inundated with plenty of ways to “travel” from home. Virtual tours, pretending you’re in a hotel while at home, buying subpar airline food and cherishing it like it’s something you actually once enjoyed — all of these things are a set up for disappointment.
At first blush, podcasts about travel seem like they would fall into this category as well. Yet there’s a good number of travel podcasts that are not disappointing. In some cases, they’re the best thing for your travel-yearning earholes. Nothing will replace the experience of getting out there, but the right travel podcast can be just the right low-commitment escape.
Data from Statista shows that 18 percent of adults have increased the amount of podcasts they listen to since lockdowns started in the United States in March 2020. Just over 55 percent listen to about the same amount of podcasts, while 10 percent listen less than before the pandemic. This is at a time when commutes — a common time to catch up on podcasts — have been eliminated for many. And it’s not just listening. A few people who work in the travel industry and travel media have even started new travel podcasts.
“Part of the reason for starting the podcast was to satiate our own wanderlust while being grounded during the pandemic,” says Tim Wenger, an outdoors editor at Matador Network who started the travel podcast No Blackout Dates with Matador’s senior staff writer Eben Diskin. (Full disclosure: I, obviously, work with both Wenger and Diskin. Their podcast is unaffiliated with Matador.)
There’s a wide net of topics that fall under the general “travel podcast” label. There are travel stories from renown travel writers and adventurers, destination-focused trip guides, hacks and how-tos, and culturally focused programs. Some are focused on the hosts while others bring on guests. Publications back many of the more highly produced podcasts, though there are many quality independent podcasts out there as well. All of the above provide either serviceable information to use as soon as travel opens back up, travel-focused entertainment, or both.
No Blackout Dates “started as a way to trick ourselves into thinking the world was still explorable, but then became a cathartic way of looking forward to the future,” Diskin says.
Both Wenger and Diskin are hopeful that people will continue to listen to travel podcasts as we’re able to venture back out in the world. Maybe there will be even more listening — something has to fill the downtime in lines and airports, after all. These are the travel podcasts to get familiar with now and to keep up with as soon as travel once again becomes a part of everyday life.
1. No Blackout Dates
No Blackout Dates has the vibe of two friends having a drink together. Episodes focus on the messier side of travel through guest interviews with people who work in the travel industry, Q&A segments, and travel tips.
“I didn’t want to hear about some guy’s enlightening experience in Southeast Asia,” Diskin says. “I didn’t want to listen to a slightly younger version of Rick Steves tell me why Italy was so beautiful. I wanted a more unfiltered, honest look at the complete travel experience, and that includes the not-so-glamorous stuff too.”
The podcast features guests like one of New York City’s top pizza chefs speaking on pizza culture, a German astronaut on the view from space, a winner of Amazing Race on travel TV, and a flight attendant who spills on what the job is really like.
Episode to start with: A Flight Attendant Breaks The Code of Silence. Diskin and Wenger interview the flight attendant behind Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase about the perks and downsides of being a flight attendant — including the most annoying habits that passengers have.
2. Thrillist Explorers
The writers and editors of Thrillist tap into their wide contributor network to bring their offbeat stories about places, celebrities, and food to the podcast space with Thrillist Explorers. The topics are wide ranging, from an exploration of why Washington, DC is an underrated city (hint: there’s lots of good music and food) to interviews with someone who raced cross-country on a lawnmower.
Episode to start with: Tony Hawk’s Best Travel Stories, Alexis Ren Is Saved by a Stranger, Monkeys Attack Angela Kinsey, and Gabriel Chavarria Has a Bad Flight. Easygoing humor mixed with actionable tips are found throughout this episode, which features interviews about travel mishaps with Tony Hawk, a talk with Angela Kinsey from The Office about traveling with the cast, the difficulty comedians coming from the US can have when doing shows in Canada, and more.
3. Sex Outside
Sex Outside is a new podcast by Laura Borichevsky that goes into, as you might have guessed from the name, sex and the outdoors. Borichevsky was the host of Ravel Media’s Women on the Road podcast from 2017 to 2020. Her new project is released every other week and covers everything nature and being au natural. If you only have a short time to kill, Sex Outside’s “nature quickie” series are under 10 minutes and feature fast, impactful stories on topics like taking nude photos outside or finding love on the Appalachian Trail.
Episode to start with: Our First Time: The Premiere of Sex Outside. Get into Sex Outside from the start before toying around and listening to the shorts that’re available.
4. Let’s Go Together
Let’s Go Together is operated by Travel + Leisure and hosted by pilot, TV host, and travel expert Kellee Edwards. The podcast highlights a more diverse side of travel than many of the podcasts currently available. The stories feature a range of travelers, including a quadriplegic who climbed Machu Picchu, travel influencers who center their religion in the travel experience, and a single mom who travels the world.
Episode to start with: Road Tripping While Black. Released at a time when road trips once again captured the American imagination, this episode features writers Martinique Lewis and Lawrence Ross as they talk about the history of violence against Black motorists and the modern experience of hitting the open road.
5. Zero to Travel
Zero to Travel has a mix of interviews and advice to blend in the practical and entertaining. It’s all about traveling better with advice from those with plenty of experience making it work.
“Travel podcasts help us to keep our dreams alive, and provide a space to continue to explore our curiosity about the world and ourselves,” creator Jason Moore says via email.
Episode to start with: Transition To Travel: Before and After With Sofia and Teague. In the Transition To Travel series, Moore speaks with people who are starting a nomadic lifestyle both before they leave and once they’ve been on the road for awhile. It’s a real-world look at whether “their expectations of long term travel or nomad life matched up with the reality of it,” Moore says.
6. Out Travel The System
Out Travel The System is put on by Expedia. Host Nisreene Atassi speaks with travelers of all walks of life about their experiences, talks to industry insiders for tips on the best travel hacks, and covers how to travel to various destinations. It’s focused on Expedia and can feel a little branded at times, but coming from one of the largest travel-booking companies, the insights are helpful for anyone looking to book on a budget.
Episode to start with: Look Into The Travel Future with Expedia’s Travel Trends Report. A deep dive into Expedia’s yearly travel report that incorporates billions of data points to figure out how to best make travel happen. It’s a data-focused view that’s extremely serviceable for anyone planning a trip.
7. Travel Tales
Travel Tales from AFAR gives listeners an inside look at last minute, globe-spanning trips and highlights the experiences of both people who travel for a living and those who do it just for fun. The episodes are short — the average time is around 15 minutes and few run longer than 20 — making them an ideal quick listen when you want an escape from the mundane.
Episode to start with: A Blind Man’s Trip Will Change the Way You Think About Safaris. This episode follows writer Ryan Knighton’s trip on an African safari as someone who is blind. A written piece about the trip was published in 2017, but the audio version brings the experience to life.
8. Wild Ideas Worth Living
Wild Ideas Worth Living is produced by REI, and it has all of the adventure you’d expect from the company. Host Shelby Stanger interviews outdoors experts, athletes, and authors in each episode. Sometimes it’s an ultramarathon runner or backcountry skier, other times the interviews are with people who are working to diversify surfing or train more women in the sport of professional cycling.
Episode to start with: Running the AT and PCT with Karel Sabbe. Start with the story of Karel Sabbe, a Belgian dentist who is one of the premiere ultramarathon trail runners.