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Travel
December 03, 2018

A Journey To The Land Of Indian Travel Podcasts

Text by Anvita Budhraja

What if, instead of 1000 songs as Steve Jobs promised, you could put a hundred travel destinations in your pocket?

If your choice of media is dictated by a desire for escapism, travel podcasts are the thing for you. Travel as a genre has fascinated audiences for years. Traditionally written about and, more recently captured on images and video, it can inspire you to embark on your own adventures or simply offer you a view of the world from your armchair.

In its newest iteration, travel has taken over podcasts – a medium both abundant and versatile. Often called the modern-day radio or “Netflix for audio,” podcasts have come to revolutionise the world of audio content. There is quite simply a podcast for everything – doling out advice, discussing books or TV one chapter/episode at a time, recapping daily news, tracing the history of sports clubs, talking about cooking, and even learning a language.

The Indian podcast scene is relatively nascent, a slowly but surely growing market championed mainly by the 20-30-year olds in the country’s metropolises. Perhaps Indian audiences are hesitant to adopt this medium or they simply aren’t aware of its bounties. Curious, we spoke to the creators of two Indian travel podcasts about their experience in this industry. A particular taste for the offbeat, untouched, and unexplored pervades both these podcasts as they tap into India’s already thriving travel writing and blogging community to bring a new dimension to their stories.

The Musafir Stories is a fortnightly interview-based podcast hosted by Saif Omar and Faiza Khan. Omar was inspired by a budding wanderlust and by Chris Christensen’s “Amateur Traveler” podcast to seek out the captivating stories of seasoned travellers – youtubers, bloggers, and even Instagrammers. At almost 50 episodes, TMS has hosted the likes of Prachi Kagzi, founder of Little Passports, and Vibha Ravi of PixelVoyages and has discussed destinations ranging from the imposing ancient ruins of Mandu, Madhya Pradesh to Majuli, Assam – the largest river island in the world.

 

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Explore Karimnagar in Telangana with @mapinmypocket and Neeharika Satyavada! Experience the sights of Karimnagar from historic forts and temple ruins on river banks to Buddhist relics and ancient mosques! This erstwhile capital of many a kingdom of the Deccan, Karimnagar has been ruled by Kakatiyas, Bahamanis, Qutubshahis, Moghuls and Nizams adding to the unique flavor of the architecture. Pictured on the cover is the beautiful Elgandal fort with its 3 minars jutting out on the hilltop with terrific views of the Godavari river and Manair dam from the summit! Check out the podcast on The Musafir Stories! Podcast out on: itunes – https://goo.gl/9yQN5n audioBoom – https://goo.gl/JS96m2 Saavn – https://goo.gl/6qp2mF castbox – https://goo.gl/3EHvAk pocketcasts – https://goo.gl/vdXakz Overcast – https://goo.gl/fM9Som Stitcher Radio – https://goo.gl/ihL4Gr TuneIn – http://tun.in/pilOI RadioPublic – https://goo.gl/Dy2VPv #india #travel #podcast #karimnagar #telangana #elgandal #molangur #forts #manthani #mantrapuri #naagnur #temple #ruins #godavari #manair #deccan #kakatiya #nizam #travelphotography #travelphoto #history #architecture #buddhist #relics #mosque #photooftheday #roadtrip #wanderer #wanderlust #nikon

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Omar recounts his journey from the early days, needing to explain the medium to many guests, to the current moment when listeners write in to share their stories and ask to be on the show. “We’ve heard so many diverse and unique travelling styles, which still manage to convey the local flavour that people can relate to.” Not a commercial venture, there are definitely challenges that the show faces – from co-ordinating schedules with guests over Skype to patchy internet speeds, and even sometimes finding a quiet space to record in a lively joint family. “We will probably never get to studio quality but that shouldn’t stop us from telling these stories,” he says.

The reDiscovery Project started as a temporary year off for Ambika Vishwanath and Hoshner Reporter to travel across the country in 2015 and later document their travels. It has since developed into a vibrant podcast that is produced by IVM Studios and whose 4th season has recently aired. Reporter and Vishwanath wanted to explore India in a way that most people might not consider these days – to see other shades of India and, well, rediscover it. While Season 1 documented their personal journeys to destinations like Pamban Island, Tamil Nadu and Bhandardara, Maharashtra, Season 3 interviewed people around the country who are striving to preserve arts, culture, heritage, and tourism to highlight some lesser known but fascinating stories.

 

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It was quite a journey to get to #TheGoatVillage! We were in Tehri just a little bit away from Uttarakashi and Goat Village, Dayara Bugyal in Raithal village was to be our next stop. However due to a series of unavoidable circumstances we had to detour to Landour, 3 hours to the south. We had already been on the road for over 5 weeks by then and travel weariness was beginning to set in. A few quiet days in Landor and we were tempted to end our Uttarakhand journey and head back home. But we really did want to visit the Goat Village which we had heard and read so much about! Set up with aim of providing employment to locals and encouraging reverse migration from the cities, back to the hills of Uttarakhand, The @greenpeopleind, a community and sustainable tourism organisation, run a bouquet of three ‘Goat Villages’ in the Gharwal Himalayas, where they invite visitors to come experience life in a rural setting in the hills. Along with the rural eco retreats run by villagers, The Green People also promote sustainable farming practices, market locally grown organic produce and engage with the local communities on education, sustainable livestock breeding and other livelyhood initiatives. As you can see, we did make the journey back up to The Goat Village at Dayara Bugyal and we are so pleased we did. Over the next few posts we will tell you why. Stay tuned! #GreenPeople #DayaraBugyal #GoatVillage #Uttarakhand #sustainabletourism #ruraltourism

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A largely flexible and adaptive format allows them to try new things, while choice of destination is sometimes influenced by exciting events in certain locations or even the weather – a recent winter themed episode talked about going back to Binsar, Uttarakhand to gaze upon the sun-kissed Himalayan snowpeaks or floating serenely upon Meghalaya’s Dawki river. Responses has been positive – “Listeners appreciate us going into the car with them during long commutes,” says Vishwanath, “and the seasonal format has led to several people writing in to ask when we’re coming back!”

But at the heart of most travel blogs and magazines are the pictures – breath-taking vistas, close-ups of decadent meals, and stunning architecture. What can audio content then add to a format as intensely visual as travel? Reporter admits that it was quite a challenge to go from the written word to the spoken word. “Besides,” he adds, “there are only so many ways of saying ‘beautiful’!” But what draws people in, says Reporter, “is the banter, the casual conversation, and the depth of connection the listeners feel as they hear our voices.”

“It’s similar to recounting a story to family or friends over a couple of drinks… we describe what we felt in the place more than we describe the place,” finishes Vishwanath.

It is definitely a novel way of engaging with audiences in this genre and Omar contends that while visuals give travel an added dimension, audio perhaps works precisely because it takes away that aspect – “It paints a partial picture that draws on your imagination, and thus sometimes ends up being a more inclusive medium.”

A final clue to the puzzle lies in a compelling idea that Omar articulates, “We as people usually fall back on recommendations when it comes to travelling to a new place. We appreciate stories and details from people we trust so we can make informed decisions.” Vishwanath’s experience affirms this as a recent decision to add a travel tip at the end of the episodes has been met with especially positive feedback.

Both sets of podcasters agree that the Indian podcast community, and interest in this medium, is burgeoning. Omar, who has hosted and participated in several meet-ups for podcasters, describes it as an ecosystem where no one creator can get ahead without the simultaneous symbiotic growth of the others. Reporter confirms that everyone essentially knows and promotes everyone else.

For a medium that enjoys enormous popularity abroad, podcasts in India are only just picking up. But, according to Vishwanath, companies are undeniably realising the market and potential with several producing their own limited audio content. For Omar, India’s huge population is both a challenge and a thrilling opportunity.

Here is a ready-made audience with numbers that will dazzle any international podcaster. All it takes, as these creators have realised, is getting started.

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