Travel The World By Radio


One of the things I miss most about travel is being immersed in a culture different from my own. The sights, the smells, the sounds… it all seems so far away after a year in quarantine.

I’ve stumbled on a new-to-me website that helps with the “sounds” portion at least. It’s called Radio Garden, and it lets you listen to radio stations all around the world. Over 25,000 of them.

Sure, internet radio isn’t new. There are all sorts of ways to listen to radio stations. It’s Radio Garden’s interface that sets it apart. I’m definitely not the only one who thinks it works brilliantly, since in a span of a few days multiple people have messaged me about it.

If you haven’t clicked over already, here’s what it’s all about.

Radio Radio

Radio Garden started out in 2016 by Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and several other universities. It’s now maintained by Jonathan Puckey and a small team in Amsterdam. The interface looks like the satellite view in Google Maps, but uses imagery from “Esri, DigitalGlobe, GeoEye, Earthstar Geographics, CNES/Airbus DS, USDA, USGS, AeroGRID, IGN, and the GIS User Community.” Overlayed on top are small green dots indicating a station or group of stations.

If you’ve ever used Google Maps, or any mapping app really, using Radio Garden is second nature. Swipe around the globe for an area, zoom in, and hover over a dot. After a moment that station loads.

As I type this, I’m listening to J1 Radio in Tokyo. With a few clicks, I can switch over to Radio Skye in Scotland, then Komboni Radio in Lusaka, then ORF Radio Wien in Vienna. You can go to the station’s website from here if you want, or share it with a friend.

There’s a certain delight listening to what’s broadcasting live in far off places around the world. To think what you’re hearing is what others might be hearing in Jamestown, Saint Helena, or Port Mathurin, Mauritius, or Hanga Roa on Easter Island.

The easy-to-use interface is the brilliance of Radio Garden. Sure you could have sought out any of these stations, but being able to flip from one to another on the opposite sides of the world, with no searching, is incredible. You can also search for specific stations and save favorites.

But, of course, it’s the stations themselves that are the real prize. On one hand, it’s fascinating to listen to music loved by locals. It is, perhaps, an even better way to expose yourself to new music than even the hallowed Spotify algorithm.

For me though, though, as someone who fiercely missing travelling, it’s hearing the voices and accents of the DJs. A slice of life on the other side of the world, with traffic, weather, and news. The sounds you’d expect to hear in a local shop or wafting out a window as you passed by.

Radio Garden is free, as are the stations. If you get the mobile app (iOS and Android), there are visual ads (the audio isn’t interrupted), or you can pay $2.49 to support the effort and remove the ads. If you find a station you like, they could certainly use support too.

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