3 free travel podcasts for a 20/40/60 minute mini-break

I have a dirty secret to admit: I have not been a podcast listener. The mystery of Serial has yet to be (un?)resolved for me. Long trips are filled with bad pop songs, not intellectual chatter, so I’m forced to focus on the road. I guess, if pushed, I’d have to say the idea of listening to people just talk is not my activity of choice.

That being said, I am slowly but surely becoming a podcast convert for one simple reason: I have to walk a lot now. In a big city without a car and a just OK public transport system, I’m walking a lot of repetitive routes. When I’m walking somewhere new, I like to be focused on what I’m seeing – somehow wandering with my headphones in distances me too much from what I’m discovering.

But walking down the same street over and over again? Bo-ring.

So I’ve been attempting to cultivate my brain just a little bit as I make my trips through Indianapolis. Suddenly I’m finding that my walks are transformed from simple obligations into a chance to learn about something really interesting. Best of all, this mental stimulation comes from free travel podcasts which don’t run longer than an hour.

I figure at some point everyone has at least 20 minutes to kill. So on your next obligatory walk, pop on a pair of headphones and make that time a little more special. Alternatively, if you just need a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, you can create a handy little route using MapMyWalk that perfectly complements the free travel podcasts you’re about to listen to. (FYI at a standard walking pace – not too fast, not too slow – 20 minutes is equal to about one mile (1.6 kilometers).)

I Need a Travel Podcast for…

Stroll along with Travelosophy: what if travel is your calling? by Zero to Travel [17:09]. The Zero to Travel site is all about making travel your life. While it’s a fine idea, the concept just isn’t something I’m into despite the deluge of picture-perfect bloggers cheersing on a Thai beach to three, four, or five years of travel. Different strokes and all, but not my style after a three-month stint traveling through Central America that ended with a… meh, this ain’t for me.

All that being said, I was surprised to find I really enjoyed this particular podcast about travel philosophy since it really centered around travel becoming your life – in whatever form was most meaningful to you. There isn’t a hard sell of ‘you must quit your job and travel the world’, which I loved.

If you think travel may be your calling, in whatever form it may take to you, this will be a really interesting listen.

Try this interview with Peter Hessler by Longform [38:30].

Longform bills itself as a weekly conversation with a non-fiction writer or editor on craft and career. Because of this Longform has something for nearly everyone, whether you’re interested in business, politics, tell-all journalism, or something else entirely.

This particular podcast is an interview with Peter Hessler, a staff writer for The New Yorker as well as the author of three books about China. The interview is a fascinating look at his journey to becoming a China-focused writer. I particularly love his stories about getting his start in China as a foreign writer struggling to navigate the publishing process without easy use of telephones or internet. If you’ve only got 40 minutes for a mini-break, this interview is the perfect way to fly across the world.

Feeling like this hour-long mini-break may need to extend indefinitely? Check out this absolutely amazing podcast, The Leap, from This American Life [58:16]. I’ll let TAL explain what it’s all about: “Most of us go from day to day just coasting on the status quo. If it ain’t broke, why fix it, right? But when routines just get too mundane or systems stop making sense, sometimes you just have to hold your breath… and jump.”

My favorite part of the episode is the introduction story about a New York bus driver who one day failed to show up to work, instead hijacking his bus and driving all the way to Florida. This concept excites me a great deal, although I can’t necessarily advocate for you stealing company property and getting away from it all.

Try β€œIslands” from Backstory with the American History Guys [59:10]. I’m biased toward this show for several reasons: first because it’s produced in my home state of Virginia and second, it’s full of all those juicy historical tidbits that may not have been introduced in your history lessons. Plus, the southern accents are just too adorable. This particular podcast focuses on islands around the US; more specifically, about how they are always placed on the periphery of our history and culture. Not this time. Backstory brings the peripheral central with stories of the islands that are a part of American history.

3 Free Travel Podcasts for a Mini-Break - Let's Love Local (1)

Are you a podcast listener? What’s you’re favorite podcast for whiling away a few spare minutes?

  • Great post! I love podcast but have never listened to any travel ones!

    • Thanks, Bri! Give them a go – these ones are really fascinating!

  • Haven’t been a podcast listener yet either but the last one sounds interesting! Will have to check it out πŸ™‚

    • Do it! You’ll be a convert soon enough!

  • I freaking love podcasts. They keep me company on my long runs when my friends won’t. Ha! I love Zero to Travel but you’re right, it’s definitely geared towards drop everything and travel. I’ve been trying to find other good travel ones but haven’t had much luck. I listen to The Lively Show every week though!

    • I like the Lively Show OK, but I generally only listen to the episodes with people I’ve heard of. Trying some new ones soon, though, to branch out a bit as they can be really useful/inspiring!

  • ohhh neat thanks for these suggestions! we have a car ride this friday that we will play these on!

  • Thanks for sharing these. My absolute favourite travel podcast is The Bitter Sweet Life – hosted by two American expats in Rome. One has lived there for 10 years, the other just for a year and they talk through lots of interesting topics that anyone who has travelled or lived abroad can relate to. Enjoy.
    Claire xx

  • MC

    I love this! I’m looking for travel podcasts to listen to for some inspiration as it gets colder/darker in NYC. I’m looking forward to a Costa Rica trip in February and Mexico in March but for now I need to keep the travel wheels spinning. Also this kind of makes me want to start a podcast of my own! πŸ˜‰


    • Yes, these in-between times can call for some serious inspiration, can’t they?

      And I would LOVE to hear your podcast! Count me as the first subscriber!

      • MC

        Hey Piolly! Just following up because we actually launched the podcast last week! :}


  • I am OBSESSED with Amateur Traveler podcasts. I have probably listened to 30+ and still have twice as many to go through. They are all destination-oriented, and almost all I listen to are on Europe – but overall there are nearly 500 episodes covering the entire world.