Podcasts have gone from cool kid water cooler conversation starters to cultural phenomenons worthy of TV time. Episodes on everything from history, to comedy, to video games are right at your fingertips for less than the cost of that non-premium Pandora account (which is to say totally free, with less annoying commercials). Now that binge listening is officially the fastest way to pass your morning commute, those old mix CDs are not going to cut it for this summer’s long awaited road trip.
Upgrade your listening with five podcasts sure to keep everyone awake in the car this summer:
What do a former bank robber, DJ Khaled’s brother, and a woman who tries to incarcerate her own son have in common? They’re all subjects of this podcast from Moth creator Lea Thau. The show is billed as a “shot of empathy” taking you deep into the mind of a stranger as they tell a unique and personal story. The topics range from a hopeful adoption story to a heartbreaking tale of childhood abuse and hit every emotional chord in between. In a recent departure from the usual format, Lea took her costal liberal sensibilities to “Trumpland” interviewing (and even staying with) Trump supporters to prove that now, more than ever we can’t afford to be strangers
Suggested listening: Eleven Up, for a family blending story unlike one you’ve ever heard
Perfect for: Your drive through Glacier National Park’s breathtaking Going-to-the-Sun road. The 50 mile road just reopened this week, and has some of the most beautiful views on the planet. Pair the emotional journey of listening to Strangers with an equally powerful physical journey through the unbelievable landscapes of Glacier.
While most of the country is senselessly feeding on episodes of the Bachelor and the same two songs from Kendrick Lamar’s recent album, Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris are chewing on each cultural phenomenon and spitting out some knowledge. The New York Times culture writers will guide you on the path to wokeness with smart, eloquent discussions on everything from Katy Perry’s live stream to Gay Pride month. If you miss the communication studies lectures at your liberal arts college, this podcast is for you.
Suggested listening: The most recent episode, for something incredibly timely to say at your next happy hour.
Perfect for: Hitting bumper to bumper rush hour traffic right as you’re driving through Chicago. Throwing this on will keep your mind active as the sun dips in the sky, the skyscrapers light up, and all you want to do is get to a warm, hotel bed. And as a bonus, the thought provoking conversation topics will keep you and your travel mates talking about something other than how much you have to use the bathroom.
When you don’t have an hour and a half attention span (sorry Tim Ferriss), How I Built This is your source for a quick dose of entrepreneurial inspiration. Feast your ears on the real stories behind companies like WeWork, Instagram and TOMS in just 30 minutes. NPR’s Guy Raz makes an enthusiastic and relatable narrator as he digs into the unexpected snags and technical execution that took a great idea to a nationally known company. Each episode ends with a “How You Built This” segment from listeners who are having some initial success at their own endeavours.
Suggested Listening: Patagonia: Yvon Chouinard, to get the unplanned-road-trip-adventures vibes going.
Perfect for: A gorgeous drive up the Pacific Coast Highway ending in the San Francisco Bay Area. By the time you reach Silicon Valley, you’ll have your own perfect startup idea and all the tools you need to start raking in your millions.
Proving that Max Martin isn’t the only person writing songs these days, Song Exploder invites musicians to tell the story behind one of their most popular songs in just 15 minutes. It’s basically the musical equivalent of taking apart your clock and putting it back together. The podcast has an impressive range of genres with episodes from Solange, Iggy Pop, U2, Spoon and more than 100 others. Consider it a safe compromise when the argument over who is picking the road trip tunes gets heated.
Suggested listening: Fleet Foxes, for some insight on that six year hiatus.
Perfect for: A road trip from New York to Nashville. Driving through the beautiful forests of the Appalachian Mountains (from one great music city to another), you’ll be glad to hear the stories behind the songs you’ve been rocking. Plus, any trip through Tennessee has to involve a stop at Dollywood, the greatest musically based theme park in the world.
Unbeatable optimism is Instagram celebrity and “Goodnewspaper” founder Branden Harvey’s brand. His weekly podcast is a uniquely hopeful look at the world, interviewing world-changers and fellow optimists on what they’re doing to fight for social justice and change the world for good. Trust us, it helps with that that whole what-fresh-hell-is-this feeling you get everytime you refresh your Twitter feed these days.
Suggested listening: Zach Houghton– Traveling with Purpose, for those wanderlust vibes.
Perfect for: That dream trip along (what’s left of) historic Route 66. The positivity of Branden’s podcast will perfectly sync up to speeding through the desert, the bright sunshine streaming through the windows. Catch all of the eccentric, classic road trip attractions like the Cadillac Ranch, an art installation from the 70’s that involves a row of Cadillacs buried in the desert. And then end at Santa Monica Pier. Stand over the ocean, watch the waves come in, and, thanks to all the world shaking superstars you’ve been hearing about, know that all will be right in the world.