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From the 15th Annual Shorty Awards

Travel Tales by AFAR

Gold Honor in Other Podcast Genres


Since AFAR’s inception in 2009, our mission has been to inspire people to travel deeply. We’re known for our immersive, personal storytelling in both print and digital mediums—and Travel Tales by AFAR—the company’s first original podcast—is a natural extension of that. What’s more human than oral storytelling? 

In each episode, an influential traveler shares a story of a journey that shaped their life, while also reflecting AFAR’s continued commitment to make travel a force for good. In “The Healing Powers of Maine’s Forests,” the Somalian author Abdi Iftin walked us through the Northeastern forests that act as a balm to his PTSD. In “I Got Stood Up in Paris!,” comedian Michelle Buteau zooms back to her 20s, when she and her best friend traveled to Paris to drink wine and meet French boys—only things didn’t exactly go to plan. And in “Arctic Revelations,” author Maggie Shipstead narrates the trip to the Arctic that finally helped her begin Great Circle, a novel recently shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Our primary goals were to establish a presence in the audio space and provide a unique POV; work with influential, contemporary storytellers; increase audience engagement; and develop a high-quality, profitable podcast.  

Strategy and Execution

Travel Tales by AFAR originated in 2018 as a live storytelling event copresented with the Moth and sponsored by the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card from Chase. The following year, Travel Tales transformed into salon-style storytelling events in three U.S. cities. In 2020, we launched a podcast that brought these stories to a broader audience of captive listeners, reaching a number two ranking on Apple iTunes Podcast. Chase Marriott has remained the exclusive sponsor of Travel Tales since its inception. 

While the podcast world is crowded, we believed that the travel vertical is still ripe for newcomers and that a highly personal, inspiring, story-oriented travel podcast was missing from the space—and based on our results, our audience agrees. 

Fresh off of its third season, Travel Tales has evolved over the years. In our first season, we turned to the archives, creating audio versions of 15 stories we’ve shared in the print magazine over the years. In our second season, we assigned 15 fresh stories that touched on everything from the friendships of Pan Am flight attendants to a daring giraffe rescue in Kenya. In our third season, we were the most ambitious, sending five storytellers on the road, which resulted in such stories as Chris Colin’s dreamy tour of the West Coast on the Coast Starlight train—with his teen daughter in tow—and Brendan Francis Newnam’s funny romp across Ireland in search of his roots. 

Our initial challenges were pulling off a travel podcast just as the pandemic was growing, and tapping into external expertise that could help us create a high-quality podcast. To that end, we reached out to Boom Integrated, a new venture from audiobook producer John Marshall Media, to produce the podcast while retaining all editorial control. (AFAR editor Aislyn Greene developed all stories.) We discovered that, despite the challenges of working in a pandemic world, our show was exactly what listeners were looking for in 2020 and beyond. And as we found our footing and downloads increased, the challenge was around how to better serve our listeners and how to evolve the podcast, which resulted in our ambitious season three. 

Over the years, we’ve also evolved our promotional strategy, working with a PR team and leveraging partnerships and swaps to increase our reach and support other travel-oriented podcasts, from Not Lost to Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. We also received a shoutout in National Geographic’s newsletter—proof that, in challenging times, our work was still recognized by other leading travel media. 


Travel Tales by AFAR celebrates first-person, transformative travel stories, and The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card from Chase has served as the exclusive partner for five executive years. Since the launch of the show in 2020, total downloads have grown 200-plus percent on average, YOY. In 2022, unique listeners were up 16 percent vs 2020 and total downloads were up 51 percent. This is testament to the ways in which Travel Tales by AFAR has resonated deeply with travelers while serving as an effective and prolific platform for advertisers.  

Travel Tales ranked #2 on Apple Podcasts upon launch, and has a 4.7 rating on Apple Podcasts, and we’ve consistently received praise for our high-quality stories. It received industry-wide recognition as a finalist at 2019 Imagination Awards, 2019 MPA Kelly Awards, and 2022 Publisher Podcast Shortlist.   

We continue to work with influential, contemporary storytellers, including blind adventurer Erik Weihenmeyer, writer Abdi Iftin, and comedian Atsuko Okatsuka. 

We’ve seen such success in the audio space that, in 2022, we introduced another podcast, Unpacked by AFAR. In 2023, we’ve brought podcast production in-house to increase the number of episodes we produce each year and create a true audio arm of AFAR’s business. 


Entrant Company / Organization Name

AFAR Media


Entry Credits