We at Travel Earth recently had the exciting opportunity to be a part of a podcast with Musafir Stories. The Musafir Stories is an audio podcast about various Indian travel destinations and about exploring this melting pot of diverse heritage, culture and religion and share the rich experiences of travelling in India. It is hosted by an Indian couple based out of Toronto – Saif Omar and Faiza Khan. Here is what they had to say about their work:

TE: You run Musafir Stories, so what is the concept behind it? Why did you start a podcast, and not a visual medium?

Saif: So, I think one of our motives was a bit of a personal agenda; I used to listen to podcasts for a long time when based in the US – around 2010-2012, and when I moved back to India I started to look for local content that was India focused. But I couldn’t find a lot in my search. 

And when it comes to the question, why audio and not YouTube or even blogging, in both these spaces there are already lots of options when it comes to India related travel content. But audio is a relatively new medium, and at least at that time (back at the end of 2015) it wasn’t very mainstream and many people didn’t know about podcasts. 

As a medium it also has a lot of advantages – it’s a very passive medium so you can multitask easily without staring at your phone the whole time, you can listen in when you’re working out or cooking or while you’re driving; this medium is completely without distractions and it’s also a very intimate medium, it’s like someone is speaking directly to you, while in a video interview it’s more like they’re talking between themselves. 

TE: Plus the consciousness for you guys also, right? I mean for someone like me, I can talk on the phone for hours, but when it comes to video, I get conscious and 50% of my energy drops 

Saif: Exactly, yeah. That’s another important point. Neither of us is a professional at this, we’re not trained in media or journalism or anything, neither are we experts, so we can get quite conscious when we sit in front of a camera and record things compared to how we can express ourselves a little better over audio – it’s a good medium for introverts!

So a combination of these things worked out well, and as I said I was looking for India focused podcasts to explore and there weren’t many. And just on a whim when we moved here, we were newly married at the time and wondering what to do in our free time, and this was a great opportunity for us to experiment with something. 

Of course, at that time we had no idea we’d continue to do this, and it’s been close to 3 years; Oct 2016 is kind of when we got the idea, and Feb 2017 is when we released our first episode. So, it’s been a while, and it’s been a fun and refreshing journey, it’s not become mechanical and monotonous after all this time because we’re always speaking to new people – it’s not just between friends or people we know where it can become repetitive and boring. It’s kept us busy and motivated

Faiza: And because it’s related to travel, both of us really like travelling, but we don’t get that much time. So, I feel that listening to other travellers and their stories we get a different perspective of places, what’s there, its history and lots more. It’s pretty fascinating, and that also keeps us going. 

TE: So are there any disadvantages that you face while you’re doing what you’re doing? 

Saif: So I wouldn’t really say there’s a disadvantage – but if you’re going after this as a full-time gig and were dependent on this for your livelihood, then I’d say the reach is a bit of a problem. Not many people still know about podcasting (especially in India), even though it’s better than it was four years ago.

Podcasting as a medium has been around since 2004-2005, so its pretty old, but it only took off globally around 2014; so that reach still isn’t as mainstream as youtube is, which needs no explaining – you can just say “go check out our video on youtube”, but with podcasts, you need to tell people “oh you have to download this app”. Though now popular streaming services like Spotify, Soundcloud, and  Saavan and Gaana in India offer podcasts; but, a few years ago that wasn’t the case and we had to do a lot of explaining and that was a challenge. 

Secondly, technologically it’s still a little bit of a challenge. Because we do these interviews remotely to a large extent, it’s not always possible for us to travel to places to interview people and have them in a closed studio – so getting good quality recordings can also be a challenge. Even this I would say has improved quite a bit; compared to a few years ago, the smartphone mics are really good.

So our two main challenges are the reach, or awareness of the medium and the technological challenge

Faiza: Yeah, and even as a podcast, you have to be dependent on other sources. If you’re spending so much time on it, you wonder am I going get back something in return, – it’s the challenge of depending on a podcast for your livelihood … that’s not really possible 

Saif: You have to be a bit of a celebrity or something, or your podcast has to be of really amazing quality for you to be able to do that

Faiza: Even then, it’s not that you’re getting all your income through the podcast, you’d have to do a lot of other things also

Saif: And even when it comes to the medium itself, discovering new podcasts is not that easy – I mean how would one discover a podcast right, unless you’re already a listener and you’ve been digging around – So, things like that – again 1. The awareness, 2, the technology, and 3. The discovery aspect.

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Capping off @internationalpodcastday by inviting all listeners to our annual contest #GetFeatured on @musafirstoriespodcast The process is very simple, just reach us on our email with a. An #Indian destination or experience you would like to talk about (preferably not already covered on the podcast) b. A summary of your experience/highlights c. Links to blogs/posts about your experience (optional) The winner will be announced at the end of October! Please share with anyone who might be interested!! #InternationalPodcastDay #India #travel #podcast #indiatravelpodcast #september #indianpodcast #getfeatured #podcastlife #podsquad #indiatravel #indiaholiday #offbeattravel #happyvacation #wanderlust #mountainbiking #mountains #beach #outdoors #adventure #history #architecture #unescoworldheritage #unesco #incredibleindiaofficial

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TE: One more question that I’m very curious about – why the name “Musafir Stories”?

Faiza: we knew that we wanted to do a podcast, we knew that it had to be related to travel, so we were playing around with a lot of words and some really generic combinations like “India stories,” “India travel-cast”. We hit upon “Musafir Stories”, which wasn’t there at all

Saif: It doesn’t have an origin story so much as just us narrowing down lots of combinations. But there’s some sort of romantic feeling with the word “Musafir,” which gives a unique Indian touch. And you don’t relate to someone who’s an influencer. It has a more Sufi kind of feel to it, someone who just wanders from place to place

Faiza: We had a listener who we met, and who told us that they found the podcast only because of the name. They were looking for some Indian content and saw the name “Musafir” and thought “this has to be from India!”

You can check out their website here, and be sure to listenfor TE’s podcast about locals exploring Bangalore as tourists!


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