Published: 23rd September 2020
The Musafir Diaries: This duo’s India travel podcast is precisely what you need if you have domestic #travelgoals
The Musafir Stories is a podcast that will give you the lowdown of both popular and unique destinations in India. Check them out and while you’re at it, grab your backpack and your travel buddy too
Let’s play a little game of word association, shall we?
Did you think of a place that’s anywhere but India? If you did, you’re not alone. When I played this game with my husband just the other day, I first thought of the rolling green hills of Ireland and he, the sandy beaches of Bali. But if we play this game again, I’m going with the quaint little hill station of Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh. And I have The Musafir Stories to thank for opening my eyes and ears to the beauty of this and other treasures hidden in plain sight on the map of India.
Started in early 2017 by Saif Omar (36) and Faiza Khan (31), The Musafir Stories (TMS) is an India-only travel podcast. Talking about its origin, they say, “In 2017, we had moved back to India from the US. Once we got here, we realised that India has so much potential with respect to travel but it isn’t that well explored. With TMS podcast, it was our way of not just socialising but also exploring India, albeit virtually, through the eyes of its residents and travellers.” Their sole aim, they say, is to highlight the unimaginable beauty India has to offer within its borders.
One of our more popular episodes recently was exploring Landour with Aakash Mehrotra | Picture Credit: The Musafir Stories
TMS has 88 episodes out so far and each episode is a chat with a traveller or a travel blogger and sometimes even a local who either reaches out to them with a destination in mind or is sought after by the husband-wife duo for their expertise on the subject, like their recent podcast is a walkthrough of Hampi by Anirudh Kanisetti, a fellow podcaster and creator of Echoes of India — a podcast that delves into our history. “It’s been a mixture but a majority of the time, we have on the show people who have travelled to these destinations, bloggers whom we have come across and so on. If it catches our eye, we go ahead and schedule an interview and the rest of the process follows,” says Faiza.
Listen in on our conversation with the duo:
Saif adds to this, “With every decision, we’re looking to bring the most authentic experiences for our listeners. We wanted to cover both the breadth and the depth of each place and the stories behind them.” And we all know the rich heritage and culture every state, city, town and hill station in India is blessed with. If you check out their episode list on www.themusafirstories.com or any of the many platforms they are on, including Spotify, JioSaavn and Google Podcasts, you’ll see the diversity in the places they have covered — from metropolitan Bengaluru to the aesthetic towns of Mechuka and Bastar.
On a ride | Picture credit: The Musafir Stories
But how does one even decide where to begin in a vastly expansive country? Saif weighs in on this. “It is a conscious decision, we try to mix it up as much as possible just so that there is diversity. We wanted to avoid the beaten-to-death itineraries and bring places and voices to the fold that are hidden gems, all the while keeping it very conversational and informational.” The duo informs us that while they discuss details like accessibility, the best time of year to visit and the places to see with their guests, they also do a lot of the research before posting it all on their website and Instagram page.
Not just the beaten-to-death itineraries, the duo also wanted to avoid beaten-to-death media for travel enthusiasts. While there are a multitude of blogs to consume content through the written word and videos/vlogs beautiful enough to give you a dopamine high, Saif and Faiza realised that for the generation that's always on the go, there was no audio-only platform in India that could allow them to travel vicariously while logging in their daily steps or waiting amidst bumper-to-bumper traffic on a weekday morning. “Also, audio has the ability to paint a mental imagery of the place in the mind of the listener. This storytelling aspect has the power to set your imagination free and motivate you to get more involved in the place,” says the Bengaluru-based duo.
Podcast on Manipur | Picture credit: The Musafir Stories
Though the podcast, which has over a million listens so far across different audio platforms, is a passion project that the duo started as a bonding exercise after they got married, they are now heavily motivated day in and day out by the kind of feedback they’ve received. With the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, their listenership has understandably increased and their podcast has served as a form of entertainment and enlightenment to many. “We are thrilled with all the positive feedback but we’re just scratching the surface now, reaching only a handful of what could be our potential audience. We’re constantly thinking of ways to increase engagement and reach more people,” says Saif.
Faiza then tells us about the latest element to their website, an episode map. It is a map of India with the destinations they’ve covered so far pinned on it and the respective podcasts are linked too. This map has also served as an inspiration for the duo as they’ve been able to identify which regions they have and haven’t done justice to. “I think we’ve done quite a few places in the North — Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand — because people love the mountains, and also the Seven Sisters — the Northeast. But we realised that we hadn’t covered central India so we recently recorded an episode featuring Chitrakoot in Madhya Pradesh,” says the duo, adding, “When you look at India’s terrain, it is mind-blowing — you have the mountains on one side, the desert, plateaus and beaches — it has every element."
With two episodes a month, it looks like there’s no dearth of places to cover for Saif and Faiza. And whether you love to travel or at least want a cool lesson in India’s history and geography, plug in your headphones and check out The Musafir Stories.
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