From virtually experiencing the world’s greatest performances to exploring the Seven Wonders of the World, there are plenty of ways to escape without actually leaving home — and few are more fun than by getting lost in someone’s personal story. Podcasting has become an ever-popular platform for uncovering and sharing tales from across the globe, so if you’re looking for a few with a travel and culture twist, here are 10 great places to start.
Wanderlusters craving a quick break from the day will surely find one in “Arm Chair Explorer.” Wildly different from your typical Q&A podcast, they promise to have “no long-winded interviews” and to get “straight to the heart of the action.” This documentary-style travel series has an immersive storytelling approach that will make you feel like you’re part of the adventure, whether that’s in Alaska’s backcountry, from the perspective of an Olympic gold medalist, or on an out-of-this-world expedition aboard the International Space Station.
In this eye-opening podcast, host Daniel Browning covers a vast range of art and cultural topics with members of the Australian indigenous community. His interviews reveal deeply personal stories that range from intercultural love to finding your voice through poetry to history lessons from 120-year-old recordings of Aboriginal songs.
Why do so many cultures across the world love spicy food? Why did French high society eat margarine instead of butter? And what did Napoleon III have to do with it? “Burnt Toast” explores the intersection of food and culture, and how past events have shaped the way we think about certain foods today, such as milk and soda. The podcast sadly ceased production in 2018 after just three seasons, but there are 74 excellent episodes — most under 30 minutes — just waiting to be devoured.
Though certain cultures may seem wildly different, there are a countless number of common threads across our shared human experience. “Rough Translation” is an NPR investigative podcast that reveals those similarities through real-life stories. Episodes explore topics like how societies perceive failure, how flirting works between two very different cultures, and how opinions of race differ by country.
In 179 episodes, narrator Mike Duncan takes listeners through the rise and fall of the once-powerful Roman Empire. It begins with Aeneas’s arrival in Italy and takes listeners on a journey through the empire’s most important historical events, ending with the exile of Romulus Augustulus in 476. This compelling podcast is recorded in an audiobook style, with episodes between and 20-30 minutes each.
The fact that the past shaped the present probably seems rather obvious. But sometimes, those links can be forgotten, and others overlooked. This NPR podcast is a blend of culture and history that uses vivid storytelling to examine the why behind topics ranging from current events to societal norms. Discover how former Nazis influenced the U.S. space program, what happened over a 1,400-year period to shape today’s Sunni-Shia divide, and what one man did to help propel China into being a world superpower.
This playful yet informative podcast makes it feel as if you’re tuning into an unscripted conversation between two friends — mostly because that’s precisely what’s happening. “She’s in Russia” is a series created by two best friends from their respective homes in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Brooklyn, New York. They discuss their lives and a variety of topics related to Russian culture and politics. You’ll learn, you’ll laugh, and when you reach the end of an episode, you’ll be looking forward to the next.
“The Moth” podcast is a spinoff of a live events series that started in 1997. Speakers of all backgrounds bravely take to the mic to share a personal story within a specific theme — such as switching gears, eyewitnesses, or stories of questions — all in front of a live audience. The result is a moving and engaging series that celebrates the human experience and the commonalities that bind us.
Whether you’re a history buff or just want to learn a bit more about the people and places that have shaped our world, you’ll find this podcast to be a source of both education and escapism. The team at “BBC History Magazine” interviews prominent historians about a range of fascinating topics, such as how Viking women fared in Norse society, the history of celebrity status, and parallels between the present day and events of the past, to name a few.
In this funny and lively podcast, host Dan Pashman takes the show’s slogan very seriously: “We obsess about food to learn more about people.” Food is the centrepiece of every episode, but the narrative ultimately connects cuisine to cultures, history, and heritage. Check out the episode where Dan interviews comedian Aasif Mandvi to find out how food influenced his upbringing as someone who is Indian, British, and American.
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