Do you consider music an integral part of your travelling? If you are someone who comes up with mix tapes for every trip, you might want to skip this feature. Because, I frankly think road trip music CDs are overrated (don’t shoot me, as I’m among a rare breed that would cease to exist if eliminated). Besides, I’m only offering a slightly better alternative.
Welcome to the world of podcasts. As a self-professed podcast junkie, I spend every free second of my waking hour with earphones plugged in, listening to the latest episode of Travel with Rick Steves or The Dinner Party Download. That is to say, the retro radio is firmly back in fashion, and the Internet is propelling its boom, giving it a much-deserved makeover. Just that, they call it podcasting now.
According to my Stitcher app (that I use to listen to podcasts), I have clocked nearly a thousand hours of listening to podcast content (979 according to last count, but that doesn’t involve the hours I have clocked in my previous devices). That is more than 4,000 episodes. From environment and literature, to travel and food, to pop culture and relationship advice, my podcast list will put me among the top 10 lists of multi-hyphenated listeners, if they made one of those listicles.
I agree, it is possible you might miss out on the sense of the place you are travelling to if you have something plugged into your ears. Once, a host of mine told me in Hamburg that I should listen to the birds while walking, smell the earth and watch all that is around me — the trees changing colours in the fall or the apple trees with fruit. And not plug my senses with some random music streaming into my ears (and thus into my brain). Only that it wasn’t random music I was listening to.
But hear me out. Often, the podcasts I listen to serve as travel inspiration themselves. For instance, of the various travel podcasts I listen to, I regard Rick Steves’ highly. Each week, veteran travel journalist and radio host Rick Steves digs deeper into a destination to bring interesting features by interviewing experts. What Steves presents is essentially a travel magazine, but in audio form.
Here are samples of what the shows feature: Tour guides from Prague explain how sharing a beer is an important part of the social fabric in the Czech Republic, a Dutch language spotter recommends interesting foreign words English speakers might want to borrow, and Scottish tour guides discuss specifics on tracking down scenes from Outlander and Harry Potter.
So on and so forth.
Recently, I rolled headlong into the world of permaculture, as I started listening to the Sustainable World Radio podcast. In the show, host “Jill Cloutier interviews experts from around the globe; teachers, designers, environmentalists and earth activists who learn from and work with Nature”. Permaculture is a methodology derived from three basic principles: ‘Care for the Earth. Care for each other. Share the surplus.’
I listened to an interview by a Norwegian farmer Andrew McMillion, who in his ecological farm in Ornes, Norway, grows over 200 varieties of vegetables, trees, and herbs. McMillion is part of Norwegian Seed Savers, who distributes the seeds of plants that he has successfully managed to grow in his own farm (like Caucasian spinach, Syrian homs squash, Bolivian cucumber). I immediately wrote to McMillion who, in turn, immediately replied to me, assuring me that he will add me to the next batch of his seed dispatch and send me seeds of Syrian chard, Amaranth, Skullcap, Quinoa, Valerian, and many squash varieties.
Incredulous ambitions notwithstanding, these days I dream of growing a food forest in my balcony, while simultaneously thanking my podcast habit for connecting me with people whom I would never have found otherwise.
The writer is an independent journalist who lives in Stuttgart, Germany, and often writes stories that intersect food and travel