Travel Tuesdays - Listen Up

Welcome to “Travel Tuesdays,” a resource for those whose plans have been deferred and a distraction for people who enjoy armchair travel.  Each week we’ll suggest a virtual destination for you to visit.

All of these ideas are curated and brought to you by Lorraine Rubinacci!

To read Lorraine's archived posts, visit this page.


Travel Tuesdays, April 13, 2021 - "Listen Up"

Recent Travel Tuesday posts have emphasized images and visual skills such as map reading.  For a change of pace, let’s revisit the world of travel podcasts.

Several organizations that are well known for their radio, print, or web communications have added podcasts to their repertoire.  National Public Radio offers “Rough Translation,” a biweekly series of “stories that follow familiar conversations into unfamiliar territory.”  Like NPR’s radio programs, “Rough Translation” is a well-researched, polished production that addresses a wide variety of topics.  Introduced in 2017, this podcast now has a good number of episodes in its catalog.  Lengths vary from less than 20 minutes to nearly an hour; 30 minutes is typical.


I listened to, and would recommend, “Brazil in Black and White.”  This episode from 2017 considers criteria that have been used to define race -- such as ancestry or appearance -- and how Brazilians see themselves and each other.  The interviews are particularly effective, as ordinary people grapple with their identity, their frustrations, and their government’s shifting policies.  

Released in May, 2020, “Hotel Corona” tells the story of COVID-19 patients recovering in a Jerusalem hotel.  Amidst the pandemic crisis, an unlikely set of people are thrown together in close quarters:  Jews and Palestinians, secular and religious, young and old.

The “guests” interact in ways that would not have been possible in their normal lives, and, much to their surprise, they begin to form friendships.

“Far Flung” is a similar podcast offered through TED, the organization that sponsors TED Talks and conferences and whose goal is “to make great ideas accessible.”  Its producers describe the program as “a deep dive into the ideas that shape a particular spot on the map, brought to you by local journalists and creators.”  “Far Flung” can be found through TED’s website; choose your favorite podcast app to see its playlist.  Ten episodes were produced last year, with the last one dated December, 2020.  It is not clear whether more will be created.


I enjoyed the episode, “Sky Science in the Painted Desert.”  This 56-minute audio considers the relationship of indigenous architecture and rituals with the clear, open skies of northern Arizona.  The rich connection between place and culture is revealed through interviews with native people:  an architecture professor, a student, and a dean of Diné studies.  The traditional Navajo house, the hogan, incorporates local materials and provides cool shelter in a shadeless region.  Its construction and operation is environmentally sound, but that’s just the start.  The design of this seemingly simple structure also transforms the home into a calendar that guides seasonal activities and reminds its inhabitants of their relationship with the earth.

Hogan reconstructions, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, AZ-UT

MPSharwood, CC BY-SA 4.0

If your time or attention are limited, or if you prefer a lighter distraction, check out The Atlas Obscura Podcas‪t.  Atlas Obscura describes itself as “The definitive guide to the world’s hidden wonders.”  Its online magazine, books, and organized trips focus on strange and obscure places.  Users can contribute to the atlas, which now includes over 22,000 “places and foods.”  The podcast episodes in this “short, daily celebration of the world's strange and wondrous places” run about 10 to 15 minutes long. 



Each episode serves as an introduction to a very specific place or experience.  Subjects range from “Kulning,” a specialized song/call used by herdswomen in northern Sweden; to “Gold Medal Flour,” a reminiscence about an abandoned landmark that was the center of Minneapolis’s graffiti art; to “The Root Bridges of Cherrapunji,” which are woven and tended by local people in northeastern India.

Rangthylliang 50+ meter living root bridge

Anselmrogers, CC BY-SA 4.0


Each installment provides just enough to pique curiosity.  Listeners can learn more by clicking the “In this story” section of the page.  Like all of the free podcasts mentioned in this post, the Atlas Obscura Podcasts are interrupted by brief sponsor commercials.  It’s a small sacrifice in order to listen to the world’s people tell their stories.

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