Scott Gurian Far From Home
Could you tell us your name and the name of your podcast?
Scott Gurian, Far From Home
What is the premise of your show?
I describe Far From Home as a show about unexpected adventures and chance encounters with interesting people around the world. On this first season, I’m documenting an 11,000 mile / 18 country road trip I took last summer from London to Mongolia in a ridiculously tiny car. On future seasons, I plan to feature audio snapshots from other journeys I’ve taken and adventures I’ve experienced over the years.
What type of person would love listening to your show?
My target audience is people who love traveling, are curious about the world, and have a sense of adventure. Several listeners have told me that they love living vicariously through my podcast.
What compelled you to start podcasting?
I’ve worked as a public radio reporter and producer for many years, so I already had the audio production skills. When my brother and I decided a few years ago to take a trip across Europe and Asia, I knew almost immediately that it would be a perfect adventure to document for a podcast, so I started recording everything I could, from the initial planning stages to the daily encounters and experiences on the journey itself.
Where is the podcast based?
I’m based in northern New Jersey, just outside of NYC.
Could you name your three favourite podcasts and explain why they are your favourites?
- 99% Invisible – consistently well produced, it fulfils my curiosity about the world, and I always feel like I’m learning something new.
- Reply All – who knew a show about the internet could be so fascinating? I always feel like I’m being taken down some sort of rabbit hole adventure.
- The Biggest Story in the World – excellent series about climate change produced a few years ago by The Guardian newspaper in the UK. Blurring the lines between traditional journalism and advocacy, it raises a bunch of questions and is so incredibly well produced that it’s still one of my favorites.
Could you share a single podcast episode that you love that isn’t your own and explain why?
I loved Twice Removed’s first episode where the host researched Dan Savage’s family tree. I was impressed by the amazing amount of research that went into tracking down relatives dozens of steps away from him, and the surprise ending brought a smile to my face.
What is your favourite personal podcast episode to date?
I’m quite fond of episode 9 of my podcast, “An Eye-Opening Experience.” It’s the first of two episodes documenting my journey across Iran last summer, and I think it does a good job of destroying whatever negative stereotypes many listeners might have about what Iran and its people are like. The interactions with everyday Iranians that I was able to capture on tape were pretty amazing and enlightening.
What’s one notable insight you uncovered doing your podcast?
Although my podcast documents many of the experiences I’ve had while traveling, I’ve never intended for it to be about vacation tourism. Rather, as I’ve journeyed around the world, I’ve tried to meet interesting people, look for adventures, and find crazy and exciting situations where I ask, “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” The problem is, it’s often really difficult to set out looking for that sort of tape. I’ve tried to crack the code, but there doesn’t appear to be a simple solution. You just need to hang out in a place for a long time and get lucky.
What book or learning resource would you recommend to people?`
Actually, I’d recommend another podcast called HowSound, which is produced by Rob Rosenthal, who was my radio instructor many years ago at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. Rob now works at the Transom Story Workshop on Cape Cod, and he’s an excellent teacher. If you're an aspiring audio producer or just a listener interested in the craft, I strongly suggest you listen to his podcast to hear how good radio / audio is made.
What’s one lesson you’ve learnt along the way that has made your podcast better?`
I recorded more than 65 hours of tape on my trip last summer, and while there are a lot of amazing moments, there’s also a lot of boring, unusable audio. Even among the nuggets I like, I’ve had to be super selective, killing many of my darlings – as the expression goes – to whittle it all down to only the very best material so it keeps moving along, has a nice narrative arc, and doesn’t drag. That’s painful to do at times, but I feel like being my own worst critic – and asking a few friends to listen and give feedback before I release each episode – makes the final product better and stronger.
What equipment would you recommend people use to get started in podcasting?
The website Transom has a really great Tools section, where they test and write reviews of all sorts of gear, from microphones to recorders to editing software. I really like my Marantz PMD 661 flash recorder, since it does a great job and feels really sturdy. And I usually use a Rode NTG-2 shotgun mic to get the best sound possible (I’m an audio snob), but I wasn’t able to bring any of that on my trip across Asia, since I was traveling through several authoritarian countries where I couldn’t openly practice anything that resembled journalism. Instead, I brought a Tascam DR-40 handheld recorder with a built-in mic, and it did a decent job most of the time. It’s a lot smaller and cheaper than the Tascam, so it might be a good option for folks just getting started. For editing, I really like Hindenburg Journalist Pro, but there are other options out there. If folks are interested, they can see a list of all my gear on my personal website. Most importantly for sound quality, though, is where you choose to record. If you don’t have access to a studio, record and listen back to yourself in various rooms in your house to see which sounds the quietest and least echoey. Sometimes a coat closet works best. If all else fails, climbing under a heavy blanket usually yields good results.
What tools or tips do you have to make the process of podcasting easier?
Hindenburg – the audio editing program I use – has a number of great features that let you easily record a Skype call with host and guest on different tracks and adjust the loudness of your final podcast so it’s in-line with industry standards. It all saves a ton of work.
Can you share what techniques use to grow the listenership of your show?
So far it’s mostly been through word of mouth and social media promotion, particularly on Instagram, of all places. I’ve purchased Facebook ads to reach a narrowly defined target audience who I think might be interested in my content. And I’ve been making an effort to cross-promote with other podcasts.
What would be a dream podcast episode for you?
I’ve been making an effort to venture to usual places for my podcast that might seem scary to the average person. I’ve already been to Iran and plan to include scenes from Cuba and Chernobyl on future episodes. If I could have any wish, I would love to be able to wander around Pyongyang, recording conversations with average North Koreans, but I’m afraid that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
How do you currently monetise your podcast if you do at all?
I’m not currently making any money from my podcast. At this point, I’m still trying to build my audience so it’s large enough to attract potential advertisers.
Favourite Quote & Why
"It's not true I had nothing on. I had the radio on!"
-- Marilyn Monroe
Where is the best place for people to reach you?
The most direct way is probably via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for telling us about your podcast. Do you have an ask of the readers?
The host of Anchor.fm’s “Podcast of the Day” recently reviewed Far From Home, calling it “one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard,” so you might like it too! I encourage you to check it out on my website or subscribe, and if you like what you hear, please leave a rating or write a short review in the iTunes store to help other people find it.