It’s been just over a year since broadcaster Sam Walker moved her family from a rain-soaked English suburb to the sun-drenched American Southwest, where she launched the Desert Diaries podcast that explores their ongoing adventures in their new home.
She’s put out more than 50 episodes that draw listeners into her life as an Arizona transplant and share her perspective on American culture. Most recently, Walker released an episode titled “Socially Distant House Hunting and Very Expensive Cats.”
Her tagline for the podcast — "What’s it like to actually follow your dreams?" — reveals the essential question at play here “I always felt there was another life out there,” she recalls of growing up in England. “I’ve always had an itch, a wanderlust.”
Walker was born in 1972, and says she’s been fascinated with American culture since childhood. “I grew up watching TV shows like Bonanza, Wonder Woman, The A-Team, and The Bionic Woman,” she recalls.
She first dreamed of visiting the U.S. when some airlines began to offer low fares from England to the U.S. “I didn’t go on holiday as a child, but suddenly for people like us it was a possibility to visit America,” Walker says. “My dad drove to the travel agent and got a ticket from London to L.A.”
The experience radically shifted her perspective. “I suppose it changed my view of the world, this world we saw on TV, because we could visit it.”
Years later, she traveled to cities across the U.S. After a friend moved to Phoenix, Walker and her family paid a visit. “I didn’t even know where Phoenix was," she recalls.
It was June 2018, and Walker's husband Dave did something that would change the course of their lives forever. While standing in their friend’s swimming pool, Dave searched the internet for jobs. And he found one. “We had a long checklist of what we wanted to do, so I quit my long career at the BBC,” she says.
They moved to Phoenix in May 2019, renting what Walker calls “a little falling-down house.” Walker works as an audio consultant specializing in podcasts, and Dave works in the tech industry. Together, they’re navigating physical and cultural landscapes that sometimes defy their expectations.
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“America is more like 50 different countries than a monolith,” she says. “It really is an incredible melting pot, where if you meet five different people they’ll all have a different heritage.” It’s one of many themes that recur in Desert Diaries, where Walker mixes frank and funny reflections on both her own internal life and the world around her.
Living in England, Walker viewed the desert as an exotic place. As you’d expect from the title, her podcast often explores nature-related themes, including encounters with hawks, javelinas, scorpions, and coyotes. “We’ve had many beautiful and terrifying experiences with desert wildlife,” she says.
Other topics, from pandemic life to parenting, are part of the mix. “I didn’t want to just talk about the joyful things,” she says. Walker hopes the podcast will inspire listeners to follow their own dreams, and endure challenges along the way. “If you do something, and it doesn’t go to plan, that’s okay.”