15 podcasts for your next road trip

March 13, 2017

[Updated June 2019] I live in Montreal and my family lives in Toronto, so I travel there often. I used to gallantly take the train for each trip, and spend those hours in transit working, studying or catching up with the latest cat videos trending on YouTube. 

Recently, however, I adopted a dog that I bring with me everywhere (even if she’s not really that “packable”), so I’ve found myself road-tripping the six-hour stretch between home and the T-Dot on a regular basis. Driving there and back is a lot of downtime. Until I realized it was the perfect opportunity to indulge guiltlessly in one of my favorite leisurely activities: listening to podcasts. Before I knew it, I'd cruised over 500 km and learned about the translucent skin of polar bears, listened to a short story by Raymond Carver and discovered the latest from the insane world of Night Vale. Basically, I should visit my family more often.

Anyway, if you are planning a road trip this summer, these are the podcasts you will want to download in advance and listen to while you drive.

1. The Moth

This is my all-time favourite obsession. Actually, I barely listen to it while driving because I so look forward to each episode, I listen to it right away. The Moth is a live storytelling event with shows all over the world. Their weekly podcast comes out every Tuesday and features a curated selection of the best recorded stories in their archives. You will laugh out loud, sob, experience anger and joy. And you will want to retell the stories to your friends. 

  • Listen here
  • Episodes can last between 15 and 55 minutes.

2. Stuff You Should Know

Imagine two dudes having a beer. One of them recently read an article about polar bears. The other dude also stumbled across some super interesting polar bear related facts. Go! Stuff You Should Know is uncomplicated, seemingly unedited, candid and interesting conversation. And really, this stuff you should know can be anything. History, science, economics, drugs, anthropology… To give you an idea, these are some of the titles they’ve podcasted about: Can You Live Without a Bank Account, How Porta-Potties Work, Hibernation: Not a Snooze, Do Animals Have Natural Rights?  How Chili Peppers Work, How Police Dogs Work and so many more!

  • Listen here
  • Most episodes are about an hour long.
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3. The New Yorker Fiction

To be honest, I haven’t tuned in to the New Yorker in a while (since my latest road trip!), but The New Yorker Fiction is my classic go-to podcast. I’ve heard some stories that made me meh but also many I will never forget, like the one where Coyote sues Acme. Debra, the podcast’s host, invites writers to chose other writers’ stories from the New Yorker archives, read them and then discuss them. 

  • Listen here 
  • Episodes vary in length anywhere from 25 minutes to over an hour.

4. Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night Vale is not for everybody. You have to be open minded and like things that don’t make sense, but do make sense.. somehow. It’s science fiction mixed in with reality. I am not at all a fan of science fiction, but I am addicted to this podcast. The person that recommended it to me described it saying, “it’s about…it’s like… I cannot even describe it.” Well, my dear reader, I throw the same description at you! Night Vale is a parallel universe. Their website reads: Welcome to Night Vale is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events. Turn on your radio and hide.  

  • Listen Here
  • Episodes are roughly 20 minutes long. You should start at episode 1.
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5. Freakonomics Radio

Enough literature? Ok, Freakonomics Radio is a little something closer in format and topic to Stuff You Should Know. This is the podcast that explores the hidden side of everything and is hosted by the two writers who wrote the worldwide bestseller titled... you guessed it, Freakonomics. Some of their most listen episodes include: How to Be More Productive, Bad Medicine, Part 2: (Drug) Trials and Tribulations, How to Make a Bad Decision, Trust Me and Why Are We Still Using Cash?

  • Listen here
  • Episodes vary in length anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour.

6. Too Hot For Radio

Too Hot For Radio is a spinoff from Selected Shorts and involves celebrities like Josh Radnor, Kirsten Vangsness or Alec Baldwin reading short stories live on stage from a New York City venue. As the podcast name indicates, these stories have some sort of R rated content. 

  • Listen here
  • Episodes run for about half an hour.
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7. Radiolab

Radiolab's sound design and content have revolutionized podcasting, and it is amongst my faves. Promise me you’ll listen to it, and promise me you’ll start way back, with episodes from 2014. Oh, what is it about? It’s like… scientific/journalistic investigations about anything. Examples include tracking the very first AIDS patient, studying subcultures like The Frikis, a discussing a chunk of history, what happens to donated organs, the Galapagos islands and more. So much more!

  • Listen here
  • Episodes lenght between 30mn to 1 hour. 

8. S-Town

If you haven’t yet binge-listened to S-Town, you’re probably living either under a rock or in some remote internetless island nation where podcasts haven’t been invented yet. Considering there were 10 million downloads of this podcast in four days, there’s a good chance you’ve heard it and think about John B. McLemore on the daily now. It’s tough to describe this seven-episode podcast without giving away too much, but suffice to say that it’s a roller coaster of expectations and emotions, twists and turns, all built around a random guy from a tiny town in Alabama. If you’ve got a long road trip or flight, or if you’re fine with dropping everything for the next seven hours, get on this one ASAP and then immediately call the friends who told you to get into this a year ago.

  • Listen here
  • Episodes run for an hour.
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9. Heavyweight

Heavyweight looks at those life-altering moments that stick with us forever--the moments where you could have done one thing but chose another, or where you were left wondering what exactly just happened and why. Canadian host Jonathan Goldstein walks people back through these moments and tries to gather some closure, maybe by way of explanation or resolution or just good ol’ fashioned new perspective. Start with the award-winning episode “Gregor” to get yourself hooked (while learning a bit more about a certain bald, vegan mega-DJ).

  • Liten here
  • Episodes can last from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

10. Ear Hustle

Freshly back for a second season, Ear Hustle is hosted and produced by inmates inside a prison in California, with the assistance of an artist who volunteers there. On each of the episodes, the inmates share stories and chat about everyday life in prison and all the philosophical, emotional and sometimes political tangents that spawn from there. There are stories and music and probably a ton more insight into what life is all about, on the inside and the outside, than you might expect. 

  • Listen here
  • Episodes can last from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
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11. Road Trip Radio

Built with the whole family in mind, Road Trip Radio, a Canadian podcast, is great for anyone who loves the open road and learning a thing or two about this great country while also enjoying some good tunes and big laughs. Created in part by the team behind the satirical news show This is That, Road Trip Radio broke down it’s first season’s 13 episodes by province, each one covering some local music, fun facts and stories from that part of the country.

  • Listen here
  • Episodes last 30 minutes.

12. Canadianity: Taggart and Torrens

If you want to immerse yourself in Canadianness without just learning the facts, download a few episodes of the Taggart and Torrens podcast and you’ll be talking like a Canadian about Canadian things in no time. Jeremy Taggart (ex-drummer of 90s Canadian band Our Lady Peace) and Jonathan Torrens (known as Jonovision to older Millennials and as J-Roc on Trailer Park Boys to everyone else), team up for a weekly podcast that is mostly them, well, just talking. They cover a bit of what’s happening in the news and their lives, create weirdly specific music playlists (featuring CanCon and the 80s heavily) and play stupid but hilarious games. Tune into a few episodes and you’ll be telling your "bahds" all about it in no time.

  • Listen here
  • Episodes run for an hour.
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13. Call Your Girlfriend

Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman met at a Gossip Girl viewing party in Washington, DC, back in 2014 and hit it off right away. The only problem was that Aminatou lived in New York while Ann was based in Los Angeles. Inspired by long-distance friendships, Call Your Girlfriend is a phone conversation between the co-hosts each week, where they discuss everything from pop culture and politics to personal finance and workplace drama—all with a feminist slant. The podcast is a testament to the importance of female friendships and will make you want to call your bestie the first chance you get.

  • Listen here
  • Episodes can last from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

14. WTF with Marc Maron

Stand-up comedian Marc Maron started his podcast WTF with marc Maron 10 years ago, where he has honest, intimate conversations with some of the most famous people in the world. From celebrities like Conan O'Brien and Ben Stiller, to musician Keith Richards and even U.S. President Barack Obama, Maron manages to make every interview sound like a chat over beers with a close friend. 

  • Listen here
  • Episodes lenght between 1h to 1h30.

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15. Personal Best

Some accomplishments in life are big: graduating from college, landing a new job, saving up enough money to buy a home—the list goes on. But what about those seemingly small tasks that seem impossible to complete, or the bad habits you can't seem to break? Enter: the Personal Best podcast, where two self-proclaimed average guys help strangers tackle life's tiny problems. There's the chronic snoozer, the bad texter and the person who hates cooking at home. Can these people be saved from themselves? Listen to Personal Best and feel inspired to celebrate the small stuff.

  • Listen here
  • Episodes run for half an hour.

So there you have it. Pack a full iPod or MP3 player or whatever it is you use to listen to stuff and hit the road!

This article is part of the
Issue 2


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