Many people have found solace in travel podcasts whilst travel has been curtailed during the pandemic. But one travel podcast has resonated with many listeners (35,000+ a week in fact) through its mix of nostalgia for special places and the familiarity of celebrities we feel we know. As it recently hit a 2 year podcast birthday, we spoke to Holly Rubenstein about her chart-topping podcast The Travel Diaries.
We heard a little bit about why you started The Travel Diaries on #085 of the Pod Bible Podcast – but why podcasting? What is it about the medium that appeals to you?
I was a huge podcast fan before I started my own. Every week I’d listen to the New York Times Daily, WTF with Marc Maron, The High Low, Table Manners, Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin and many more. I love podcasts because they offer me companionship – I have a weekly date with those hosts, and they keep me company while I’m walking the dog, cleaning the house and cooking dinner. As a travel and entertainment broadcast journalist, I saw an abundance of food, news, politics on offer but where was travel? There was a gap in the market there, and I was determined to corner it. Now I hope that my listeners have that same relationship with me!
Did you take inspiration from any podcasts in particular before you started?
My main inspiration actually came from an all time great radio show Desert Island Discs (now a hugely successful podcast) and how the format reveals so much about the guests and their lives through music. This got me thinking on how I could achieve the same – telling someone’s life story – but through the lens of travel. I’m also inspired by how other podcasters get their guests to open up and reveal honest truths – no one is better at that than Louis Theroux and I learned a lot from his podcast during lockdown.
You have just hit a 2 year podcast birthday – congratulations! – and your podcast has been the No.1 in the Travel charts on more than one occasion, with 35,000+ listeners a week. Did you think the podcast would get this far this quickly?
Thank you so much, I can’t believe how much the podcast has grown in that time. Fortunately, the podcast certainly reached a big audience and generated a lot of press attention during the Covid lockdowns, where the opportunity to ‘armchair travel’ was in such high demand. On the whole though, I’ve been told the podcast is a soothing listen – many people say it helps them drift off to sleep, which I’m choosing to take as a compliment! And along with getting to know a lot more about each guest, we’re all a bit curious about where celebrities like to spend their holidays, right?
What do you think makes a good guest?
Guests who are really evocative storytellers that just transport you with their words to far off lands. I also really appreciate the honesty of my guests, from sharing about grief, heartbreak and ill health, to love and success.
You’ve spoken to so many different people including many absolute legends of travel. But – who do you think would be the best travel companion?
Good question. Depends what I’m after. For adventure I’d take Simon Reeve, for wildlife spotting I’d take Gordon Buchanan, for foodie hotspots I think I’d go for Yotam Ottolenghi and for glamour and fun, Poppy Delevingne.
In Travel Diaries, you ask people to go through 7 chapters of their life through travel. Will we get to hear your answers to the 7 chapters at some point?
I am asked this a lot! I think so, when the time feels right – though I know I will find it just as hard as my guests to distil my travel experiences into just seven chapters.