Now that iPods are indispensable to travelers, bulky guidebooks are becoming a thing of the past. From downloadable audio tours to free, travel-themed podcasts (episodic feeds produced by DIY narrators), the newest way to embrace an exotic locale is with your headphones.
Tours range from destination-specific guides, such as those found on iJourneys.com and Soundwalk.com, to focused walks through museum collections. iJourneys' guides to Paris, Venice, Rome, Pompeii, and Florence ($15 each), written and narrated by former NBC news producer Elyse Weiner, are traditional travel guides with a quirky twist. Soundwalk.com, on the other hand, specializes in hipster overviews of neighborhoods in New York and Paris ($12), and even a journey down the Ganges narrated by an ayurvedic doctor. New York's Museum of Modern Art has begun posting free multilingual commentaries by curators, critics, and artists as well as descriptions of key works such as Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon and Marcel Duchamp's Bicycle Wheel.
More unpredictable are the free podcasts found on PodGuides.net, PodcastAlley.com, and Apple's iTunes.com. These off-the-cuff travelogues—such as those from Josh in Japan, an exploration of Tokyo culture with an American slant, or Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase, a flight attendant's unusual view from above—give a refreshingly personal look at the travel experience. They might even inspire you to record a podcast of your own.
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