Travel Tape

From guidebook and travel feature writer Robert Scott Kelly comes this immersive story-driven podcast offering a full pack of tales, histories, interviews, and curiosities from around our world. Learn more:
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Welcome to Travel Tape. This is the hosting page for the show. For details, pics, transcripts, etc., please visit

Mar 24, 2017

Some borders are walls; others are just lines on a map. In the Xishuangbanna region of Yunnan Province, China, it's the latter. Burma's to the south, and about the only things demarcating the boundary are forests and jungle rivers, which the locals on either side cross whenever they want.

In this episode of Travel Tape, journalist David Eimer looks at how Xishuangbanna's fluid border affects its minority culture, famed throughout China. And he doesn't just look. He settles into the region's capital, witnesses how genuine ethnic culture is preserved in the shadows of mass tourism, and in a superb example of participatory journalism, imitates his neighbors in an illegal river crossing into Burma. Smuggling is one of the major economic activities in Banna, and David's destination is the notorious Golden Triangle, one of the world's centers of opium and methamphetamine production.

Mar 17, 2017

Garrett Martin and his team are almost halfway through their filming and backpacking adventure in Chile along the Greater Patagonia Trail. And what a journey it has been!

In part three of Travel Tape's extended interview series with @UnboundedFilm, Garrett talks about being stuck in town as forest fires rage nearby; learning to pack raft frigid rivers and lakes; retracing steps as a branch trail proves utterly impassible (and filled with hornets and tarantulas, to boot); and about working with a slightly mad but completely dependable team.

Feb 25, 2017

Garrett Martin, a young filmmaker from the US, is still on an ambitious trek down the Greater Patagonia Trail, in Chile, but he's now he much wiser about both the hiking and the filming he has to do. In this second interview with Travel Tape, he talks about staying at gaucho ranches, sleeping under the gaze of volcanoes, waiting in town for new boots, and learning that a hiking documentary should be more than just "landscape porn."

Jan 23, 2017

An obscure Wiki Travel entry leads a young filmmaker to plan a 4-month trek down the Chilean Andes to document a linked route known as the Greater Patagonia Trail (GPT).

In this interview, the first of a new series in which I follow adventurers and regularly chat with them while they are on the road, I speak to Garrett Martin in Chile. Garrett has just finished the first 10-day section of the GPT and we talk about the origins of this new trail (now reputedly the longest in South America), the rigors of trekking with film equipment, and ambitions to capture both the landscapes and the stories of the people living in this remote, wild and bewitching region of the world. 




Nov 21, 2016

If you fell in love with a new country and thought you might want to become a citizen, just how much would you sacrifice to make that a reality? In 1989, TC Lin (born TC Locke), a freshman in the US, went to Taiwan on an exchange program and felt such an affinity with the people and culture that he decided this is where he belonged. After finishing his studies, he moved to Taiwan, became a citizen, and then waited for the day he would be called up to do two years of military service like every other male in the country.

As one of very few non-Asians to have served in the Taiwan (ROC) armed forces, and the only one I know to have written about the experience, TC has a unique perspective on the country's military culture -- and as you'd expect some good stories to tell. But this podcast is also about how the experience of serving helped him in the process of mentally and emotionally becoming Taiwanese. When you talk about cultural immersion, of becoming someone new, somewhere new, TC Lin's story is truly one of the standard bearers for the term.

Sep 3, 2016

Everywhere in the world, people enjoy sharing stories about their encounters with wild animals. In this episode of Travel Tape, Kenyans Josphat Mako and Kyle Ray, Tanzanian Lenganasa Tombo, and UK-born guidebook writer Stuart Butler swap fables, legends, and true tales that include being lunged at by an 18-foot (6m) python, chased by a rampaging elephant, and losing out on an interview with a king when he turned into a bird.

For fans of history there's also some speculation on whether the great fabulist Aesop was himself an African.

Once again the audio for this show was recorded live in Kenya and once again I've used it to create some very lush and immersive soundscapes. You may find yourself booking a flight to Nairobi by the time the final credits start to roll.

There's more about this episode, including photos at:
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Jul 15, 2016

In the 7th century, the Tang court in China sent Princess Wencheng off on a long journey to marry the king of Tibet. The princess was influential in converting Tibet to Buddhism, but her full impact and legacy has been contested by central authorities in China and Lhasa for over a thousand years (is this the world's longest propaganda battle?).

A few years back, I set off on my own travels to Tibet and in the eastern regions discovered a highly localized and utterly captivating version of the princess story. This story centered around her illicit love affair with a Tibetan minister and the birth of a child who later reincarnated to found a powerful line of local Buddhist masters.

In this second show of The Borderlands series, my guest is anthropologist Cameron David Warner. He's a collector of Princess Wencheng stories, and a scholar who has a way of making the complexities of Tibetan Buddhism seem entirely relatable.

Transcript (and more about this episode)
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Mar 15, 2016

War, migration, annexation, and pure happenstance have turned many border regions into hybrid zones where people who identify with one country can find themselves citizens of another.

In the opener of this multi-part series, journalist David Eimer and I talk about a Korean enclave, on the border with North Korea, but within China. What's the history behind the 2 million ethnic Koreans living as citizens of the PRC (People's Republic of China), why are they turning to Christianity in alarming (for Beijing) numbers, and just why did North Korean leader Kim Il-sung have to relearn to speak Korean as an adult? Travel Tape tells.

There's more about this episode at
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Mar 15, 2016

In the summer of 2015, travel guidebook writer and photographer Stuart Butler took a five-week walk across Massai (Maasai) country in southern Kenya. His goal: explore new models of conservation, evolving attitudes towards wildlife, and gather the best stories about the changing life of the Massai.

In addition to conversations with animal researchers, former poachers, village healers, Massai warriors, and conservation leaders, this podcast gives you the feel of the walk, with richly textured recordings made on the ground, and Stuart's real-time thoughts as mishaps and classic African adventures unfold. 

This is part one of a three-part series and includes an interview in the Maasai Mara National Reserve with Moses Kinyaika, a former poacher turned conservationist.

There's more about this episode (including some gorgeous photos) at
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