Have You Heard? is a new series in which the team from Pod Bible meet the people behind the podcasts you may not have heard of yet. While the Oh. My. Pod. section in the magazine gives a quick shout out to shows of that ilk, Have You Heard aims to go deeper in an effort to spread awareness for shows that deserve a larger audience! In this second edition we sat down with Scott from the Far From Home podcast…
Who are you and what’s your podcast about?
My name is Scott Gurian, and I’m the host and producer of a show called Far From Home. People often say it’s a small world, but I’ve realized that there are actually giant parts of the planet that most people never think about and billions of stories they’ve never heard, so on my program, I visit some of those places and tell some of those stories. On my first season, I documented an 11,000 mile / 18 country road trip I took with some friends from the UK to Mongolia in a couple of Nissan Micras, raising money for charity! We had all kinds of crazy experiences along the way, from meeting Iranians who had never met Americans before, to crashing a Kazakh wedding, to getting stranded in Mongolia and having to contact the embassy for help! My second season will feature more stories from my travels to places like Peru, Japan, Russia, Cambodia, and Chernobyl. I describe Far From Home as part journalism and part fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants storytelling that aims to take listeners (and myself) outside their comfort zones and bring them along on unexpected adventures and chance encounters with interesting people around the world!
Why did you decide to start podcasting in the first place?
I worked as a public radio journalist here in the States for many years, so I already had an audio background and knew how to craft a good story. Most of my work was more straightforward, serious reporting, however, and I wanted to start producing more personal material where I myself was one of the characters. Plus, as far back as I can remember, the most fun and memorable experiences I’ve had as a journalist have been when I was abroad, exploring a totally foreign culture, so I decided I wanted to do more of that.
Around this same time, my brother and had I decided to start taking a big trip every year over Christmas and New Year’s. We didn’t have a lot of close family left in the area, so we decided we might as well go somewhere interesting instead of just sitting home and cooking holiday dinner for ourselves. One year when we were in Cuba, we met this woman named Rosi, who was a Brit now living in Western Australia. We were in a tour group, but we had some problems (our guide got drunk one night and abandoned all of us), so we all kind of bonded, and after we returned home, we kept in touch. A few months later, Rosi reached out to us on Facebook. That was when she told us about this crazy road trip she was planning with her best friend Jane, and she asked if we wanted to join her. It sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime sort of adventure, so we quickly said yes, and then I decided that this trip would make an amazing podcast!
Which podcasts do you take inspiration from?
It’s a total cliche, but coming from a public radio background here in the States, I was originally inspired – like many people – by the storytelling style popularized by This American Life and replicated on numerous other programs over the years. Scott Carrier’s random conversations with strangers (he now has a podcast called Home of the Brave) are something I try to emulate as I go about my reporting. And — while my aesthetic style is very different — I like Love + Radio’s penchant for breaking rules and finding characters and situations that make you ask, “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” In a perfect world, all of my stories would have moments like that.
Who’s your dream guest for the podcast?
I don’t normally have guests on my show, but if anything were possible and I had a time machine, I’d love to have a long conversation with Anthony Bourdain.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far as a podcaster?
There are a lot of podcasts out there that cover travel-related topics, but the vast majority of them are simply interview or discussion-type shows. Sometimes the hosts might even record their episodes remotely, but they’ll be in their hotel room in Bangkok or wherever, talking about what they did that day. What’s the point? I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be room for shows like that, but I’ve learned that the power of good audio is that it transports you places. I want to hear the sounds of traffic and marketplaces, foreign accents, and insects in the rainforest. I want to be able to close my eyes and imagine that I’m somewhere else. People think that you need a video camera to gather images, but in some ways, well-recorded audio is much more intimate, since listeners get to form their own pictures in their minds.
Which episode would you say is the perfect introduction to your podcast?
From my first season, I’m particularly fond of episode 11: “Just Plain Weird,” about our profoundly odd and discomforting experiences in Turkmenistan, one of the most authoritarian countries in the world, where we also visited a giant fire pit that’s been burning in the middle of the desert for the past forty years. But given that the story of our road trip is serialized, your best bet would actually be to start with the first episode and then binge the rest of the series in order for everything to make sense.
Where can the Pod Bible readers find out more about you?
You can listen and subscribe to Far From Home in all the usual podcast apps or in the smart speaker of your choice. Follow the show on Facebook or Instagram, or follow me on Twitter. And despite what I said about the power of audio, I do also recommend visiting my website at farfromhomepodcast.org to check out the bonus content, pictures, and videos I release with each episode, since there are some amazing places I’ve visited that sound alone can’t fully convey.