Everyone knows there are few worse feelings than jumping on a 15-hour flight, starting a long hike, or wandering through cobblestone streets solo and reaching for your earbuds, just to realize that you’ve left them behind.
But what’s just as important as your headphones? What’s being broadcast through them. While music may be the typical go-to, the same old playlists get stale quickly—so serious travelers need to start stepping up their entertainment game, in the form of podcasts. And these are the top six series every traveler should have in his or her back pocket.
6 Podcasts to Listen to While Traveling
- 1 / 8LISTEN UPWhile music may be the typical go-to, the same old playlists get stale quickly—so serious travelers need to start stepping up their entertainment game, in the form of podcasts. And these are the top six series every traveler should have in his or her back pocket.
- 2 / 81. SERIALAttracting an audience of dedicated listeners—many of which were first-time podcast listeners—the first season followed the case against (and sometimes, for) Adnan Syed in the murder of his girlfriend back in 1999. Serial is currently in its second season, which tells the story of Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier held captive by the Taliban from 2009 to 2014. Purely entertaining and engaging. Serial is a riveting binge listen.
Recommended episode: The Alibi (Season 1, Ep. 1). Since Serial focuses on one single story each season, you’ll need to start from the beginning.
Photo Courtesy of Serial.
- 3 / 82. THIS AMERICAN LIFEIn many ways, This American Life is the proverbial grandfather of the modern podcast. Hosted by Ira Glass, each episode of the weekly radio show and podcast focuses on a different theme, each aptly pertaining to “American life.” With crowdsourced stories and a signature tone that vacillates quickly between serious and hilarious, there is something deeply relatable and familiar about this show. If you’re missing the homeland or just feeling like you need some (virtual) company, this show has a keen ability to fill any sort of emptiness.
Recommended episodes: Switched at Birth (Ep. 360), the unbelievable-yet-true story about two baby girls switched in a hospital accident; Act V (Ep. 218), about a group of inmates who stage a Shakespeare play; Notes on Camp (Ep. 109), an exercise in nostalgia in the form of stories from summer camp.
Photo Courtesy of This American Life.
- 4 / 83. RADIOLABAt its heart, Radiolab is a show about curiosity. The weekly episodes often explore the intersection of science and philosophy, all under the broader umbrella of striving to more wholly understand the human experience. The show has explored everything from the privacy (or lack thereof) of politicians to face blindness, all with an impressively impactful aire of empathy. A truly mind-expanding experience, Radiolab will fuel your desire to explore, adventure, and learn.
Recommended episode: Lost & Found (Season 9, Ep. 2), in which the hosts explore various stories about people being “lost” and attempting to find their way.
Photo Courtesy of Radiolab.
- 5 / 84. WTF WITH MARC MARONHosted by stand-up comic Marc Maron, this podcast feels like eavesdropping on conversations between some of the funniest—and most creative—minds of Hollywood. Each episode is essentially an informal interview between Maron and other comedians, artists, and actors; he’s pretty much tapped everyone, including David Spade, Sarah Silverman, Cindy Crawford, Gloria Steinem and many, many more. You’ll be moved and entertained, seeing many of your favorite celebrities in a different light for the first time.
Recommended episode: Robin Williams (ep. 67), a uniquely intimate window into the now-late actor’s mind.
Photo Courtesy of WTF With Marc Maron.
- 6 / 85. MYSTERY SHOWWhen the first season launched last year, Mystery Show quickly established itself as an obsession-worthy podcast. The show, led by host Starlee Kine, is dedicated to solving mysteries—but, unlike Serial, these aren’t large-scale murder mysteries, they’re everyday mysteries affecting everyday people. The show exhibits universal human kindness that helps you feel an even stronger sense of love and attachment for the people around you.
Recommended episode: Belt Buckle (Season 1, Ep. 3), a delightful hunt for the origins of a belt buckle found in a Phoenix gutter in the 1980s.
Photo Courtesy of Mystery Show.
- 7 / 86. LA PIÑATurns out you don’t even need to leave your house to travel the world—you just need this new podcast from El Camino Travel. Named for the international sign of hospitality, the pineapple, La Piña is an experiential travel podcast focusing on getting to the heart of a different destination every episode. By highlighting the authentic stories and insider tips from each city’s local trailblazers, this podcast virtually transports listeners to locales around the world.
Recommended episode: Mexico City (Episode 1), the inaugural installation of the brand-new series, features conversations with a Mezcal connoisseur, the operations director of a high-end fashion brand, and a fourth-generation chef using traditional Mexican ingredients.
Photo Courtesy of La Piña.
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Sure, you have your favorite travel playlist—but you should try listening to one of these audio shows next time.