Over the last year, I’ve realized something about myself: I love travel podcasts. Maybe this is a side-effect of working in an international office, being too broke to travel, or growing up on The Travel Channel. Regardless, I’ve found myself falling in love with travel podcasts lately, whether they be cute and funny or honest and brutal, and Far from Home is no exception:
Far From Home is a first-person, sound-rich, documentary-style podcast where award-winning print and public radio journalist Scott Gurian brings listeners along on his unexpected adventures and chance encounters with interesting people around the world. It’s part journalism, part narrative nonfiction, part fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants storytelling that aims to take its audience outside their comfort zones on journeys to far-flung places from the comfort and safety of their headphones.
Travel podcasts are easy to come by, but what makes Far from Home stand out is its premise. First, Far from Home isn’t a typical podcast about flying from one glamorous place to the next. Instead, it’s about a few friends cramming into a tiny, tiny car and driving from London through Mongolia. It isn’t a podcast about the hottest destinations or how to best bask in the sun on a beautiful beach; it’s a podcast about a journey, some friends, and what they learn along the way.
One of the best episodes to serve as an example is “09: An Eye-Opening Experience.” In this episode, host Scott Gurian, his brother Drew, and their friend Rosi arrive in Iran–a country known in the States for its tumultuous history, often depicted as a terrifying wasteland–which they soon find is absolutely lovely, and one of the most welcoming places they’ve ever been. “The problem isn’t with the people,” an Iranian man say in the episode, “the problem is with the government.” Hearing about Iran through the first-hand account of specifically an American who didn’t quite know what to expect is, as its title would suggest, an eye-opening experience both for Gurian and the listener. As someone who works with international populations, including people from Iran who often have visa and travel issues while in the States for little to no reason, this episode hit close to home.
This is the feeling for much of Far from Home: it’s a lovely contrast between the small-scale–whether that be the tiny car, the small moments that make a trip memorable, or the small-scale reactions of a few friends against the breadth of the world–and the large scale–whether it be the length of the roadtrip, the history and cultures being conveyed in each episode, or the far-reaching political and philosophical questions the podcast goes into without letting those questions rule over the podcast. In such, Far from Home encapsulates what makes travel so formative and important. There’s the typical cliche about how it’s not about the destination, but the journey, and that’s partially true . . . but it’s also about the destination. Far from Home is one of the few podcasts that balances both concepts almost effortlessly.
Of course, the podcast does have its ups and downs, which should be expected from a podcast where each episode’s premise won’t be known until it’s already bee lived. Upon listening, some episodes left an impact on me like “09: An Eye-Opening Experience,” but others did float past without leaving much behind. The hit rate for Far from Home is high, though, even for someone who’s used to the scripted-out high takes of audio drama anymore. My other main complain for Far from Home is its mixing in moments where bed music is playing: usually, these levels are comfortable, but sometimes the music has a tendency of devouring the narration. Luckily, these instances are rare enough that it didn’t hinder my desire to keep listening at all.
Far from Home is the perfect travel podcast for someone who doesn’t quite want a travel that’s all destination or all just journey. It’s a great combination of creative nonfiction and traditional travel podcasting, taking the humanity from creative nonfiction and the adventure from travel podcasting. It’s the perfect listen for those who want to get away, but not necessarily escape altogether.
You can find Far from Home on their website or any podcatcher.
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