Far From Home

A Society, Culture and Travel podcast
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In light of the recent political developments that briefly brought the US and Iran to the brink of war, I’m re-releasing an excerpt of a story I produced for the first season of Far From Home. It’s about the time a few years ago when I drove through Iran with my brother Drew and our friends Jane and Rosi as part of an 11,000 mile road trip we took across Europe and Asia, raising money for charity. Along the way, we had enlightening conversations with average Iranians that made us see their country in a totally new light. You can read more and see photos that accompany this episode on my website. To listen to this complete story, as well as my other stories from Iran and the rest of my road trip, go back and check out the first season of this podcast. Note that it’s a series, so it’s best to start at the very beginning and listen to all the episodes in order for the story to make the most sense. Far From Home is a podcast where award-winning public radio journalist Scott Gurian visits parts of the world that most people never think about and tells stories they've never heard. For more info, visit farfromhomepodcast.org
While driving across Russia on my way home from the Mongol Rally (the story I documented on the first season of this podcast), I had several conversations and interactions with people in Russia and Kazakhstan that surprised and even baffled me. So on this episode, I call up Charles Maynes, an American public radio journalist based in Moscow, to help me interpret and understand Russian culture. If you want to hear some of Charles’s reporting, I highly recommend the Spacebridge documentary series he co-produced that ran on PRX’s Showcase podcast. Far From Home is a podcast where award-winning public radio journalist Scott Gurian visits parts of the world that most people never think about and tells stories they've never heard. For more info, visit farfromhomepodcast.org
This upcoming January marks the tenth anniversary of the massive earthquake in Haiti. It came on a Tuesday afternoon, 12 days into the new year, and destroyed or severely damaged a quarter of a million homes, killing more than 100,000 people. Eight months later, in September of 2010, I traveled to Haiti with several journalist colleagues to document the country’s slow recovery process. On today’s episode, I revisit my journey and some of the reporting I did, and I check in with Haitian freelance journalist Etant Dupain to see where things stand in Haiti today. Visit my website to see some photos and videos I took during my trip and for a list of worthwhile organizations if you’d like to make a donation to help the Haitian people. Far From Home is a podcast where award-winning public radio journalist Scott Gurian visits parts of the world that most people never think about and tells stories they've never heard. For more info, visit farfromhomepodcast.org
When he was growing up in Southern California, Addi Somekh wasn't quite sure what to do with his life. But he knew from a young age that he wanted to "spread warmth" and make other people happy. On this week’s episode, the unusual story of how Addi’s quest to do just that set him off on a worldwide mission to make people laugh. Addi and his friend Charlie hatch a plan to travel around the globe making balloon hats for people, but what at first sounds like a fun and quirky adventure turns out to be far more meaningful than they ever could have imagined! Visit my website to see some of Charlie’s amazing photos of people around the world wearing Addi’s balloon hats, and for links to his balloon art, his balloon bass music, his reality TV show, and the documentary that was made about his travels. Far From Home is a podcast where award-winning public radio journalist Scott Gurian visits parts of the world that most people never think about and tells stories they've never heard. For more info, visit farfromhomepodcast.org
After driving 11,000 miles over the course of seven weeks, we finally reached the finish line of the Mongol Rally, and everything was suddenly over. There was no more waking up early to hit the road, driving 12 hours to make up for lost time, and arriving at our destination long after dark. No more tow trucks or tow ropes, restaurants serving meat from another strange animal, or sleeping in uncomfortable beds in sketchy hotel rooms that desperately needed a remodel. No more use for Google Translate or need to hand over bottles of vodka to police officers as bribes.  And you know what? As crazy as it sounds, we kind of missed it! On this final episode of Far From Home season one, I take a look back at our journey, give some updates, and talk about what it was like finishing this adventure and returning to normal, everyday life. Read more a see a video of some highlights from our journey on my website. Far From Home is a series, so it’s best to listen to all the episodes in order from the beginning for the story to make the most sense. Learn more about our trip and follow our adventures at farfromhomepodcast.org and teamdonundestan.com. And if you like what you hear, please do me a favor and leave a quick rating or review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!
After a series of bad decisions, my brother and I had ended up stranded with our friends at the bottom of an incredibly steep and rocky hill in a really remote part of Mongolia. We’d sent a text by satellite to the American embassy in Mongolia’s capital who dispatched a rescue team, and when that team couldn’t find us, they sent a second team.  Help finally arrived after dark, but this would be no simple rescue. Read more and see photos on my website. Far From Home is a series, so it’s best to listen to all the episodes in order from the beginning for the story to make the most sense. Learn more about our trip and follow our adventures at farfromhomepodcast.org and teamdonundestan.com. And if you like what you hear, please do me a favor and leave a quick rating or review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!
After getting stuck driving across a shallow river in Mongolia, my brother and I make the fateful decision to veer off the main path onto another trail that seems like it might be easier. Unfortunately, it’s not long before we realize we’ve made a terrible mistake. Now we’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no other signs of life for miles in any direction. Having exhausted all our options, we seek shelter in an abandoned-looking building and contact the American embassy for help. Read more and see photos on my website. Far From Home is a series, so it’s best to listen to all the episodes in order from the beginning for the story to make the most sense. Learn more about our trip and follow our adventures at farfromhomepodcast.org and teamdonundestan.com. And if you like what you hear, please do me a favor and leave a quick rating or review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!
Mongolia is a place of wide open spaces and little vegetation. It’s the the land of Genghis Khan, nomadic culture. and yodeling dance music. It’s a country that’s twice the size of Texas, but with only 3 million people, it has the lowest population density of any nation on earth. It’s also a place with notoriously bad roads, where the main east-west routes are often little more than tracks through the dirt. Maps and satellite GPS are of little navigational help, and signs are few and far between. Throw in some river crossings for added entertainment, and – as we found out – traversing the country can be quite an adventure! Read more and see photos on my website. Far From Home is a series, so it’s best to listen to all the episodes in order from the beginning for the story to make the most sense. Learn more about our trip and follow our adventures at farfromhomepodcast.org and teamdonundestan.com. And if you like what you hear, please do me a favor and leave a quick rating or review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!
When my brother and I told friends we’d be driving across Kazakhstan, we got plenty of jokes about Borat, but we were about to find out that the real-life nation of Kazakhstan was almost nothing like what was portrayed on the screen. Far from being backwards and uncivilized, the country we experienced was fascinating, friendly, and full of surprises. Read more and see photos on my website. Far From Home is a series, so it’s best to listen to all the episodes in order from the beginning for the story to make the most sense. Learn more about our trip and follow our adventures at farfromhomepodcast.org and teamdonundestan.com. And if you like what you hear, please do me a favor and leave a quick rating or review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!
We were in an extremely remote section of eastern Tajikistan, and we’d just received news that our car’s engine might not last much longer. Left with few options, the best we could do was to keep going, keeping our fingers crossed that our luck would hold out. In the midst of it all, our route was about to take us over a mountain pass that was nearly 3 miles high. Then we end up getting horribly lost in Kyrgyzstan on a rocky dirt road with dozens of switchbacks, and we have no idea where we’ll spend the night! Read more and see photos on my website. Far From Home is a series, so it’s best to listen to all the episodes in order from the beginning for the story to make the most sense. Learn more about our trip and follow our adventures at farfromhomepodcast.org and teamdonundestan.com. And if you like what you hear, please do me a favor and leave a quick rating or review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!
The mountainous Pamir Highway in Tajikistan was precisely the type of terrain that our 1-liter Nissan Micra hatchback was not suited to handle. One of our friends had described it as a car “that you would expect a 60-year-old woman to drive to the supermarket twice a week,” and now we were pushing it to ever-greater extremes, keeping our fingers crossed that it would somehow persevere. So we weren’t totally surprised when our luck eventually ran out. Read more and see photos on my website. Far From Home is a series, so it’s best to listen to all the episodes in order from the beginning for the story to make the most sense. Learn more about our trip and follow our adventures at farfromhomepodcast.org and teamdonundestan.com. And if you like what you hear, please do me a favor and leave a quick rating or review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!
Our car was running once again, but now we faced a handful of new mechanical issues, just as we were about to embark on the roughest part of our journey yet: a 600 mile stretch of mostly unpaved and mountainous road along the Tajikistan - Afghanistan border that’s considered one of the most spectacular and potentially dangerous routes in the world. Read more and see photos on my website. Far From Home is a series, so it’s best to listen to all the episodes in order from the beginning for the story to make the most sense. Learn more about our trip and follow our adventures at farfromhomepodcast.org and teamdonundestan.com. And if you like what you hear, please do me a favor and leave a quick rating or review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!
When we first learned that it would take a week for our car to get repaired, we figured we’d have some time to relax and explore the historic city of Bukhara, Uzbekistan. But instead we’re hit with a variety of unforeseen challenges: our friends Rosi and Jane’s visas are about to expire, the four of us contract some sort of nasty stomach bug, and we learn that we might not be able to enter Mongolia after all. Read more and see photos on my website. Far From Home is a series, so it’s best to listen to all the episodes in order from the beginning for the story to make the most sense. Learn more about our trip and follow our adventures at farfromhomepodcast.org and teamdonundestan.com. And if you like what you hear, please do me a favor and leave a quick rating or review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!
In the three weeks since we started our journey, we’d broken down about 4 times, been to half a dozen mechanics, and tried all sorts of stop-gap measures to solve our car issues, but there was still some sort of big underlying problem whose name we didn’t yet know. Now at another mechanic in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, we were about to find out. Read more and see photos on my website. Far From Home is a series, so it’s best to listen to all the episodes in order from the beginning for the story to make the most sense. Learn more about our trip and follow our adventures at farfromhomepodcast.org and teamdonundestan.com. And if you like what you hear, please do me a favor and leave a quick rating or review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!
When it comes to welcoming foreign tourists, Turkmenistan is close to the bottom of the list. It was hard enough to get visas in the first place, and when we did, they were only good for 5 days. Now broken down with serious car problems, we had to try to convince officials to give us more time. Alternately, we could throw in the towel and tow the car all the way to the border to try to get it fixed on the Uzbekistan side, but would the border guards even let us in with a car that wouldn’t start? Suddenly, our little road trip had turned into an international bureaucratic dilemma, and the next 24 hours were sure to be interesting as we sorted this one out. Read more and see photos on my website. Far From Home is a series, so it’s best to listen to all the episodes in order from the beginning for the story to make the most sense. Learn more about our trip and follow our adventures at farfromhomepodcast.org and teamdonundestan.com. And if you like what you hear, please do me a favor and leave a quick rating or review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!
Driving a small, crappy car was a prerequisite for anyone participating in the Mongol Rally. The point was to make the journey more exciting and adventurous. We liked the idea at first, but now we’d broken down yet again, and our mechanical issues this time were worse than ever. After getting a hole in our radiator while driving across eastern Turkmenistan, we get towed to a garage where they repair the leak, but things take a turn for the worse. Read more and see photos on my website. Far From Home is a series, so it’s best to listen to all the episodes in order from the beginning for the story to make the most sense. Learn more about our trip and follow our adventures at farfromhomepodcast.org and teamdonundestan.com. And if you like what you hear, please do me a favor and leave a quick rating or review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!
We visit the hermit kingdom of Turkmenistan — one of the most reclusive and authoritarian nations in the world — and we see why some visitors describe its capital city of Ashgabat as a cross between Las Vegas and Pyongyang. Paranoia sets in as we get the feeling we’re constantly being watched. And we take a side trip to a giant fire pit in the desert that’s been burning for 40 years! Read more and see photos, as well as a video of the Darvaza Gas Crater on my website. Far From Home is a series, so it’s best to listen to all the episodes in order from the beginning for the story to make the most sense. Learn more about our trip and follow our adventures at farfromhomepodcast.org and teamdonundestan.com. And if you like what you hear, please do me a favor and leave a quick rating or review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!
“Honestly, most Americans — when they think of Iran — probably think of 3 things,” my brother said. “Desert, oil, and nuclear capabilities.” And it was true. Before our road trip across Europe and Asia last summer, we didn’t really have much of an idea what to expect. But now as we drive across Iran, we realize it’s a place where things are rarely black and white. Everywhere we turn, we see a tension between sticking to the old way of doing things and forging a new path. Listen in as we visit the country’s holiest site and have more car trouble in the middle of the desert. Read more and see photos on my website. Far From Home is a series, so it’s best to listen to all the episodes in order from the beginning for the story to make the most sense. Learn more about our trip and follow our adventures at farfromhomepodcast.org and teamdonundestan.com. And if you like what you hear, please do me a favor and leave a quick rating or review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!
Our eighteen country road trip across Europe and Asia last summer left us with a wealth of memorable stories and experiences. But if you asked me to name the single most fascinating and thought-provoking place we visited, the answer would clearly be Iran. On this episode, we have enlightening conversations with average Iranians that make us see the country in a new light. Read more and see photos on my website. Far From Home is a series, so it’s best to listen to all the episodes in order from the beginning for the story to make the most sense. Learn more about our trip and follow our adventures at farfromhomepodcast.org and teamdonundestan.com. And if you like what you hear, please do me a favor and leave a quick rating or review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!
We’d spent 7 weeks driving nearly 11,000 miles across Europe and Asia, and although we were nearing the end of our journey, we still had a series of challenges ahead. Our route in the coming days would take us across some of the roughest terrain we’d encounter our entire trip, and our car problems would continue, but after hearing stories from some of the other rally teams, we realized our situation could have been far worse. Plus the hardships along the way only make getting to the end all the more rewarding! Read more and see photos on my website. Far From Home is a series, so it’s best to listen to all the episodes in order from the beginning for the story to make the most sense. Learn more about our trip and follow our adventures at farfromhomepodcast.org and teamdonundestan.com. And if you like what you hear, please do me a favor and leave a quick rating or review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!
You probably missed it amid everything else going on in the world recently, but last week was the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, so on this episode, we’re staying within the U.S. for a change and going to New Orleans, revisiting what the storm was like for residents of the city and looking at parallels with the current situation with COVID-19. Katrina left lasting footprints on New Orleans that may never be erased, but for many people who don’t live on the Gulf Coast of the United States, it’s now largely faded into history. The thing is, this is something we need to remember. From the federal government’s botched response, to the lessons about the ongoing threats of climate change, to simply honoring the memories of the thousands of people who died, it’s a historical event we should never forget. So this time on Far From Home, I’m going back in time to August of 2007 when I visited New Orleans and had conversations with several people who were struggling to rebuild their lives and reclaim this once great American city as their home. Far From Home is a podcast where award-winning public radio journalist Scott Gurian visits parts of the world that most people never think about and tells stories they've never heard. For more info, visit farfromhomepodcast.org
On this episode of Far From Home, I’m beginning an occasional series where I’m checking in with friends and colleagues around the world to get a sense of the many ways COVID-19 is affecting people and how their governments are handling the pandemic. This time we hear voices from France, Haiti, Brazil, the UK, Peru, the United Arab Emirates, and Japan. I’m hoping to do more shows like this, and I’d love to hear from listeners in far flung places! If you’re living somewhere outside of the continental U.S. or Canada and you have a unique perspective, story, or experience you want to share about what’s going on where you are or in your life, please drop me a line at info@farfromhomepodcast.org, and I’ll send you some instructions on what I’m looking for and how to send me a recording from your cell phone. Thanks to radio producer Neil Sandell, who generously allowed me to share his confinement diary recordings with my listeners. Check out his Soundcloud page if you’d like to hear more of his work. Far From Home is a podcast where award-winning public radio journalist Scott Gurian visits parts of the world that most people never think about and tells stories they've never heard. For more info, visit farfromhomepodcast.org
If you want to build a house on the Caribbean island of Barbuda, you can just put up a fence wherever you want, and have it. You don’t pay for it. You don’t sign for anything. You just have to be Barbudan. Barbudans have held their pink sand paradise “in common” since the 1800s. No titles. No paperwork. But on the heels of a major disaster, the Prime Minister has come up with a new plan. He wants to sell Barbudans the plot of land they’ve been living on for one Eastern Caribbean dollar and give them legally binding property titles they can take to a bank, to help rebuild. A lot of Barbudans don’t want the deal, though. I team up with reporter Sarah Gonzalez from NPR’s Planet Money podcast to tell the story. Visit my website to see some photos from our trip to Barbuda. Far From Home is a podcast where award-winning public radio journalist Scott Gurian visits parts of the world that most people never think about and tells stories they've never heard. For more info, visit farfromhomepodcast.org
From the 1930s to the 1960s, Black motorists driving across the United States and Canada often brought along a copy of The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, which was a sort of AAA guide that told them which gas stations, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses were safe for them to stop at, and which areas they should avoid. Publication eventually ended after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, when things seemed to be improving. But now two Colorado women are trying to revive it in digital form. Parker McMullen-Bushman and Crystal Egli join me to talk about their GoFundMe campaign and explain why they think we need a new Green Book. You can read more about their project at inclusivejourneys.com. Far From Home is a podcast where award-winning public radio journalist Scott Gurian visits parts of the world that most people never think about and tells stories they've never heard. For more info, visit farfromhomepodcast.org
In light of the recent protests for racial justice across the United States and around the world, I chat with two African American friends about what it’s like to travel as a Black person, both in their own country and abroad. The stories they tell are sometimes funny and sometimes sad, but always eye-opening, and they shed light on what it’s like to constantly stick out from the crowd, even when you’re just trying your best to fit in. Far From Home is a podcast where award-winning public radio journalist Scott Gurian visits parts of the world that most people never think about and tells stories they've never heard. For more info, visit farfromhomepodcast.org
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Podcast Details

Created by
Scott Gurian
Podcast Status
Active
Started
Mar 10th, 2016
Latest Episode
Sep 9th, 2020
Release Period
Weekly
Episodes
53
Avg. Episode Length
27 minutes
Explicit
No
Order
Serial

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