road trip essential: podcasts

"Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose."

- Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road

I love a good road trip. I'm currently driving across the Midwest and, well, it's not the most exciting part of the country. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing the sights anywhere - but I need something to keep me occupied during a long (or short) trip. Enter Podcasts.

I don't have any actual data (although I'm sure I could find some) to back this up but I'm fairly certain the popularity of podcasts has grown exponentially in the past few years (thanks Serial) BUT I'm still so surprised when I frequently talk to people who don't listen to any - mostly because they don't know where to start. 

I listen to sooooo many (because there are sooooo many out there) so it was hard to narrow it down but here are my recommendations on tried and true podcasts (all available via iTunes) to get started for a newbie and some less popular casts for those looking for something new. 


Tried and True:

It wouldn't be a list of podcasts without TAL. This is continually the first or second most downloaded podcast on the iTunes charts each week and with good reason. It blends journalistic non-fiction, short stories, essays in generally a three act format. There are over 500 episodes hosted by Ira Glass available online and an estimated 2.5 million listeners per week. 

Available: once a week

Time: 1 hour

Memorable Episodes: Is This Working? , The Problem We All Live With, Abdi and the Golden Ticket

This podcast is a collaboration between TED (Technology, Engineering, Design) and NPR hosted by Guy Raz bringing together snippets of popular TedTalks and interviews with the speaker that all relate to a common theme. 

Available: weekly

Time: 1 hourish

Memorable Episodes: Solve for X, Quiet, Do We Need Humans

Spun off the popular book series - the authors are back with a podcast exploring the "hidden side of everything" If you enjoy the books or are just a curious person this is for you. 

Available: weekly

Time: 30-50 minutes

Memorable Episodes: Is America's Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?

iTunes describes Radiolab as an "investigation through sound and stories, centered around one big idea" Each episode is a trip through science and philosophy woven together brilliantly. There are shorter and longer episodes (I prefer the longer) and it rivals This American Life as one of the most popular podcast downloads.

Available: every other week

Time: Ranges 30-1 hour +

Memorable Episodes: 60 Words, Space


and For Your Consideration...

An advice podcast from the original "Sugars" of the Dear Sugar column from The Rumpus - Cheryl Strayed (of Wild fame) and Steve Almond. Each episode centers around a theme with one or more letters that the hosts and special guests (authors) give advice on. Strayed has created a huge following (me included) due to her insight and empathy and she doesn't disappoint. *Also check out the book of her columns as Dear Sugar - Tiny, Beautiful Things.

Available: Fridays

Time: 30-45 minutes

A newer podcast I stumbled upon hosted by two friends from Kentucky - one is conservative and one is liberal - discussing politics. They say the word nuance a little too much but in general I enjoy their perspectives. They don't argue, are both very well informed, and just seem like the type of friends you'd want to have at happy hour (if you're like me :))

Available: They have a weekly longer show and "The Briefcase" a shorter episode also each week. 

Time: 30-1hr

This is a newer podcast that aims to take a deep dive into a news story and, well, embed into the story. So far I'm enjoying it. The first episode especially hooked me - I'd recommend starting there since there aren't many episodes yet.

Available: Season 1 all available

Time: 30-45 min

Memorable Episodes: The House (episode 1) and the follow up We Found Joy, The School 

A podcast from Buzzfeed that takes on race, gender, popular culture (and jokes!) I really like the two hosts and they have some good guests and interviews. 

Available: weekly

Time: 45ish min

Memorable Episodes: Ep 28 with Hillary Clinton

This show is hit or miss for me but I love criminology and the episodes are short so I always give it a chance. Each episode is a different story related to crime in some way throughout history. 

Availability: not sure - 44 episodes available on iTunes

Time: 15-30 min

Hosted by Lea Thau, this is a podcast with great stories. Some are personal to Thau and some she becomes involved in. I like how she allows herself to become moved by the stories but again, this is sometimes hit or miss for me.

Available: bi-weekly

Time: 15-50 min

This is a fictional serial-type podcast with just six episodes in the first season. It follows a reporter investigating a town where everyone disappeared and ... you'll find out (through twists and turns) 

Available: Season 1 is all released

Time:20-35 min 

I'd say this is my guilty pleasure but whatever - no guilt. This is a Real Housewives breakdown podcast from Casey Wilson (of snl and Happy Endings!) and Danielle Schneider, two cast members of the Hotwives parody series on hulu. They are both hilarious and talk about the Housewives franchises on at the time and really all the other Bravo shows. The only thing I'm guilty about is that I haven't been listening all along!

Available: weekly

Time 1 hour ish


So there ya have it - a sampling of some of the podcasts I'm listening to now. Enjoy!

Nowhere to go? Check out my post on how to plan a weekend roadtrip! And remember, you don't have to go on a roadtrip to listen. I listened to four podcasts while I was writing this blog about podcasts! (so meta) Happy travels!