What to Listen to on Your Next Road Trip

Open road. Open ears.

Open road. Open ears.

Picture this — you’re in the middle of a seven-and-a-half-hour drive, your iPhone is dead, and the only available entertainment is the central Pennsylvania radio (predominantly Christian music and the occasional Spin Doctors and Barenaked Ladies song) or the three CDs you find in the glovebox: Meatloaf, Andrea Bocelli, and Mozart. Would you A) turn the radio off  and drive in silence B) curse yourself for forgetting your charger and connector cord C) pull over and scream in one of the many (many) open fields or D) all of the above ?

These were my feasible choices last weekend when I drove my father’s car from upstate New York to DC. After one too many sing alongs to “Bat out of Hell,” I began to have thoughts like, “I wonder what would happen if I refused to make left turns?” Ways to avoid entering into madness on my next road trip have definitely become a top priority for me.

When you have a distance of longer than an hour to go, the road can start to get to you. If you’re alone, the yellow lines and curves of the pavement can be hypnotize you into sleep. That or you get so caught up in your own thoughts that you start to feel a little crazy. And, if you’re with company, there is a very real chance that somewhere along the way one or all of you is going to get sick of talking. Few things (maybe a deer running out onto the highway?) are worse than the person who wants to talk out every one of their personal and familial problems for the duration of a ten-hour road trip. Your car’s angelic ability to make sound come out of it can be your savior in moments like this.

Next time you’re gearing up to hit the road, take a moment to download a few things for your enjoyment (and sanity):

This American Life :

An hour-long, weekly podcast hosted by Ira Glass. It features essays, memoirs, recordings, short fiction, etc. Each week’s show has a theme that is explored in several “acts”. The show is smart, funny, engaging, and has been going since 1995–no matter how long your road trip, there will always be more episodes.

Story Corps :

Need to let out some tears? Feel some faith in the human spirit? Hear some heart-warming stuff? Enter Story Corps. My first listen was the story of Danny and Annie and I bawled my eyes out. StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit who records, shares, and preserves stories. As they explain it: “We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, strengthen and build the connections between people, teach the value of listening, and weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that every life matters. At the same time, we will create an invaluable archive of American voices and wisdom for future generations.” Since 2003 they have collected and archived over 45,000 stories–more than enough to see you through to your final destination.

Pandora :

I was of the belief that everyone in the entire universe knew what Pandora was, but I’ve met a few people recently who gave me a “Huh?” look when I mentioned it. So, just in case–Pandora is like your friend at parties who always picks the right songs for the right mood and adjusts the music accordingly throughout the evening. Search Pandora’s stations by artists, genre, composer, or song and hear similar selections. Give the thumbs up or thumbs down to let the app know what you’re feeling or not and the music will adjust accordingly. You can also skip songs all together. Perfect for when you’re sick of listening to your own music, but want to stick to your tastes and mood.

TED Radio Hour :

Most of us have heard and been inspired by a TedTalk. Now, you can get an hour-long dose of inspiration every week through their radio hour hosted by Guy Raz. Each show is centered on a common theme and conversations and soundscapes bring the topics, like the source of happiness, to life. Now your road trip can be a self-motivating and empowering thing!

The Dinner Party Download

Get your jokes, clever stories, and quips for whatever events you might be attending at your destination while you drive. A fast-paced and funny hour of food, conversation, and culture. The Dinner Party promises that “In every episode you’ll learn a joke… bone up on an odd bit of history and then wash it down with a themed cocktail recipe… meet artists of note (for instance Willie Nelson, Venus Williams and Steve Martin)… have your burning etiquette questions answered by the likes of Dick Cavett or Henry Rollins… savor an emerging food trend… and hear your new favorite song.”

The Moth

I was introduced to The Moth on a recent two-hour car ride with a friend. Started in 1997, it is a weekly podcast where people share personal tales live and without notes. It was the perfect choice for two people taking a trip together–we were listening closely, but also having small conversation as the stories unfolded – since there is a common denominator (unlike your friend talking endlessly about her mother, brother, aunt, boss, cousin you’ve never met). Each show has a theme that the storytellers explore through spoken word. On the episode we listened to, we heard a hilarious and touching story about how a man knew he was ready to have children, and a heart-wrenching, but inspirational story of a woman who had to come out to her family…three times and on two continents.

Road Trip: Songs to Drive By series

A former NPR summer series that featured 5-song themed playlists like Night Driving: Take Time to Listen and Songs for the Left Lane. No new posts have been made since the summer of 2008, so if you’re looking for new music, this might now be the place for you. But, if you’re wanting some well-picked songs based around interesting themes, this is an option to check out. You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or follow the links to the playlists on your device.

LibriVox :

Free public-domain audiobooks and ebooks recorded by volunteers and easily searchable by author, title, genre/subject, language. Have at it! Get your Jane Austen and Charles Dickens on. They also have a wide selection of children’s book if you’re sharing the car with some little ones or they’ve got headphones and devices of their own.

Happy travels and happy listening!

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