For all my friends and fellow travelers who’ve asked over the years, here is a list of the podcasts I always turn to on noisy Vietnamese trains and 23-hour Argentinian bus rides. Give them a listen, and let me know what you think.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History – He makes people from history feel alive, from the Mongols to Martin Luther.
Highlights from Talking History – A brilliant Irish-led discussion of historical happenings with the scholars that study them.
Backstory – A really entertaining and eye-opening look at U.S. history.
Documentaries – The BBC’s long-form reports from every region of the world.
New Yorker Out Loud – Discussions with New Yorker writers about the world they cover.
Radiolab – Riveting sounds, science, and stories from NPR.
The World in Words – Reports about languages and words from around the world.
Coffee Break – The RadioLingua network has a plethora of great podcasts for learning languages; I’ve used CoffeeBreak French and German and am now completely fluent (or at least can order baguettes and currywurst).
A post about travel podcasts and there are no travel podcasts? The thing is, most travel-focused podcasts are dull. If I want to learn about Germany, I don’t want to listen to someone else talking about what they did and saw there — I want to do it myself while listening to something like Dan Carlin’s astonishing Thor’s Angels, which follows the Germanic people from when they were Ancient Rome’s brute garlic-eating tormentors. Travel is about society, culture, language, and history, so the above podcasts are just better than so-called ‘travel’ podcosts.
That said, Travel With Rick Steves has a few fantastic episodes (especially interviews with travel-writing greats like Pico Iyer and Paul Theroux), but tends to be geared towards middle-aged Americans oblivious to life outside of Kansas. I also listened to the Indie Travel Podcast for years, and will always have a place in my heart for Linda and Craig and their journeys, but it’s frankly hit or miss.
2012: Six months in Colombia and five months backpacking through South America.
How does one sum a year abroad?
I threw it all into one big list when I got back from Asia. Here it goes with South America.
PLACES VISITED: 67
Los Angeles -> Bogotá -> Cali -> Tumaco -> Medellin -> Rionegro -> Florencia -> Caquetá countryside -> Tuluá -> Buenaventura -> Golfo Tortugas -> Cartagena -> Villa de Leyva -> Santa Marta -> Tayrona -> San Gil -> Bogotá -> Quito -> Canoa -> Montañita -> Guayaquil -> Máncora -> Zorritos -> Chiclayo -> Chachapoyas -> Kuelap -> Gocta/San Pablo -> Trujillo -> Huanchaco -> Lima -> Ica -> Huacachina -> Nazca -> Andahuaylas -> Pacucha -> Pampachiri -> Bosque de Piedras -> Abancay -> Cuzco -> Aguas Calientes -> Machu Picchu -> Puno -> Lake Titicaca -> Arequipa -> Arica -> Iquique -> San Pedro de Atacama -> La Serena -> Santiago -> Valparaiso -> Viña del Mar -> El Yeco -> Buenos Aires -> Bariloche -> El Bolsón -> Lago Puelo -> Mendoza -> Maipu -> Mina Clavere -> Nono -> Córdoba -> Puerto Iguazu -> Iguazu Falls -> Rosario -> Colonia -> Montevideo -> Punta del Este -> La Barra -> Piriapolis -> Montevideo -> Los Angeles.
NATIONALITIES MET: 39
Colombian Venezuelan Filipino German Austrian French Australian American Canadian Peruvian Ecuadorian Chilean Belgian Danish Dutch English Scottish Finnish Italian Spanish Croatian Bosnian Irish Icelandic Mexican Japanese Argentinian Brazilian [Basque] [Quebecois] Uruguayan Paraguayan Portuguese Swiss Ukrainian Israeli Malaysian Costa Rican Chinese
Mountains: 13 different parts of the Andes.
Beaches: 19 (20 if you include an Argentinian river beach)
Things lost/stolen/magically vanished:
Frisbee. Camera. Swim trunks. Towel.
Weight lost/stolen/magically vanished: 10 lbs.
Stomach issues: Lots.
Mosquitos killed with hotel bibles: 137.
Mumford and Sons – “Babel”
Noah and the Whale – “Last Night on Earth”
Jorge Drexler – Various
Kele Goodwin – “Hymns”
Passion Pit – “Gossamer”
Radical Face – “Family Tree”
Gustavo Santaolla – “Diarios de Motocicleta”
BEST JAM SESSIONS:
Irish singalongs with Irishmen in Huacachina
Teaching Peruvian kids in Chachapoyas
Playing with indigenous instruments in Argentina
Oktoberfest in a beer-hall in Lima
Halloween in hostels and streets and bars in Cuzco
Thanksgiving with a real turkey in Santiago
Christmas with vegetarian food and gifts and la novia in the cold Andes of Argentina
New Years with local wine and besos from the novia in Mendoza
WEIRDEST FOOD EATEN:
Fried large-butted ants (Colombia)
Fried guinea pig (Peru)
Fresh fish with coconut sauce (Pacific coast Colombia)
Fru-fru Peruvian-Japanese fusion restaurants (Lima)
Fruit I’ve never heard of (Colombia)
Three months in Asia flew by, and I’ll never forget its sights, tastes, adventures and people. But how do you sum up an entire experience? What words do you choose? What stories do you tell?
Here’s a shot at trying to digest a whole trip through pages of scribbled notes and tally marks at the back of a travel journal.
(I copied this journal idea from traveler extraordinaire Cressida Stolp. Gracias, tia.)
CITIES VISITED: 38
Lake Forest -> Los Angeles -> (Tokyo) -> Seoul -> Phnom Penh -> Siem Reap -> Angkor Wat -> Phnom Krom -> Phnom Penh -> Saigon -> Cu Chi -> Nha Trang -> Hanoi -> Halong Bay -> Hanoi -> Guangzhou -> Hong Kong -> Shenzhen -> Shanghai -> Suzhou -> Hangzhou -> Tunxi ->Huang Shan -> Tangkou -> Wuhan -> Yichang -> Xi’an -> Beijing -> Kuala Lumpur -> Mersing -> Tioman -> Melaka -> Penang -> Hat Yai -> Krabi -> Railay -> Ton Sai -> Ao Nang -> Suruthani -> Had Rin -> Had Yuan -> Had Thien -> Had Yuan -> Had Rin -> Suruthani -> Bangkok -> (KL)-> (Taipei) -> Los Angeles -> Lake Forest.
NATIONALITIES MET: 43
South Korean • Serbian • Japanese • American • Cambodian • English • Swiss • Swedish • French • German • Canadian • Scottish • Welsh • Dutch • Vietnamese • Kiwi • Australian • Indonesian • Irish • Danish • Czech • Norwegian • Mexican • Israeli • Iranian • Spanish • Trinidadian • Indian • Singaporean • Argentinian • Russian • Senegalese • Algerian • Yemeni • Sri Lankan • Polish • North Irish • Maltese • Austrian • Thai • Chilean • Paraguayan • and Filipino!
Rivers (swim or boat): 3
Indian sweet milk tea
Te Tarik (Malaysian sweet milk tea tossed in the air)
Banh Xeo (Vietnamese burrito)
Sweet and sour pork (It’s better than in the states! I swear!)
Bamboo stirfry with pork
Kung Pao chicken (Better than Panda Express!)
Uighur lamb dishes (Muslims make the best food in China)
Thai curries (All)
Fruit shakes (Any)
Malay spicy chicken (Delish!)
Malay 3-taste fish (I think the three tastes are sweet, spicy, and sour?)
Nasi lemak (Malaysian rice, peppers, anchovies wrapped in banana leaf for like 30 cents. Obsessed.)