Sometimes the quickest way from point A to point B isn’t all that quick. There are just some stretches of road that are so long, and so boring, they test your ability to keep your sanity. That’s why Rochelle and I load up our iPhones with a wealth of podcasts before we hit the road. With a nearly unlimited number of subjects, produced by some incredibly bright and creative minds, podcasts can entertain you, help you learn new things and keep that mind of yours occupied as you barrel down the highway.
But with hundreds of thousands of podcasts available today, which ones should you listen to? Well, I have my choices, which I’ll tell you about in a minute, and I’m sure you have some specific interests of your own. But I’m willing to bet that no matter what strikes your fancy, there’s a podcast out there talking about it right now.
First, some instructions for those of you who might be new to the concept of podcasts. Go ahead and skip down to my recommendations if you know this stuff already. Don’t worry; I won’t test you to see if you’re read the whole story.
So, the first thing you’ll need to do is download a podcast app on your smartphone. If you own an iPhone, or iPad, Apple’s own Podcast app works fine. Though some people prefer third-party apps such as Pocket Cast or TuneIn Radio. If you’re an Android user, take a look on Google Play for Podcast Addict or Podcast Republic.
Once you’ve got yourself a podcast app you’re happy with, you can take a look at their recommended podcasts, or perhaps the podcasts that are topping the charts. You can also search using a keyword or two. Another way to source potential additions to your podcast collection is to do an internet search, such as “Best Photography Podcasts”, or “Asian Cooking Podcasts” or whatever matches your personal interests. I like to have a nice, wide mix of subjects.
Good podcast apps will let you subscribe to podcasts so new episodes will be automatically downloaded to your device. You can, of course, change the settings so podcasts will only download per your specific instructions, such as only downloading via wireless or only at a time you specify.
Listening to your podcasts while you’re travelling is amazing easy. Or at least it is in our 2013 Roadtrek Agile with its Bluetooth stereo. Just turn on Bluetooth in your phone settings and match up your phone with your stereo and you’re good to go. Some older model stereos may have a wired attachment, instead of a Bluetooth connection. It’s a little more cumbersome, but it works just as well. If you’re travelling without an AUX connection on your car stereo, you can use an FM Modulator. It’s a device that connects to your car’s 12-volt power outlet and the headphone jack on your phone. It will connect to your car stereo through an FM station.
Okay, enough instructions. Let’s get right to our favorite podcasts. For more information on a specific podcast, just click on its logo.
Do you have the kind of mind that is always wondering how stuff works? If so, you’ll love BrainStuff. It’s an oddball collection of very short descriptions of the science behind, well, just about anything. Make sure to download a ton of these as they go fast, and they’re rather addictive.
Martin Bailey Photography Podcasts
Rochelle and I are kind of obsessed with photography. And photography is one of those subjects that, no matter how much you think you might know, always surprises you with things you don’t. Martin Bailey was one of the very first photography podcasters, and his wealth of knowledge and his calm, focused style has kept him on the top of the list for a number of years.
If your technology interests realm further than just photography, you might want to give This Week in Tech “TWIT” a try. Hosted by the technology guru Leo Laporte, TWIT covers all of the news happening in the technology sector week by week. I like this podcast, but I do have to give you a warning. The panel of guest commentators changes every week and some of them are much more interesting than others, and the show can occasionally get bogged down in techno babble. But that’s what’s great about podcasts. You can stop them in midstream and move on to something else.
If you’re a news freak, or just want a more complete picture of the events going on around the world, I strongly suggest you add BackStory to your podcast playlist. The BackStory team puts the stories that everybody is talking about into perspective by giving you the entire history behind them.
All Songs Considered
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in a music rut for years. I seem to keep going back to the artists and songs I grew up with in the 70’s and early 80’s. It’s easy to think that the songs today just aren’t as good as the classics, but I now believe that’s because we only hear the chart toppers. Listening to NPR’s All Songs Considered” podcast has exposed me to numerous bands and artists that, surprisingly, I like a lot. Be prepared to listen to music that might be outside of your “comfort” zone, but also be prepared to find songs you won’t want to stop listening too.
Another great photography-centered podcast is Jim Harmer’s Improve Photography. Jim takes photography questions from listeners and explains them in easy-to-understand, yet fully reasoned answers. I like his no-nonsense approach and his wealth of technical knowledge is impressive.
Are movies and TV your thing? If so, you’ll have a fun time listening to the Rotten Tomatoes Podcast. Rotten Tomatoes is famous for assigning a percentage number to movies reviews, helping you decide if a movie is worth watching or not. In the podcast, the team uses panel discussions, interviews and news stories to give you the story behind those percentages.
I’m not sure why I started listening to the 99% Invisible podcast, but I’m sure glad I did. You wouldn’t think a podcast devoted to design and architecture would be so amazingly fun, but it is. This podcasts gets great reviews for originality and creativity. This is one podcast you really should check out.
Another social news podcast I like a lot is Freakonomics Radio. With stories like, “What’s more dangerous, marijuana or alcohol?” you’ll enjoy an experience that will open your mind to “other” ways of looking at things.
The Loh Life
And finally, my favorite podcaster of all time, Sandra Tsing Loh who is the star and creator of The Loh Life. Hearing the everyday stories of a single mom, living in the craziness that is Los Angeles, might not sound appealing at first glance, but after you’ve heard one of her 200-mile-a-minute rants, you’ll wish you had an entire iPhone full of episodes. My favorite way to enjoy The Loh Life is to horde up 10 to 12 episodes (they’re very short) and play them all at once. Just make sure to keep your eyes on the road and pull over if you can’t stop yourself from laughing.
So that’s what Rochelle and I are listening to on the road. How about you? If you’re already a podcast aficionado, tell us some of your favorites. And if you’re new to the game – welcome aboard. It’s a long, but very interesting ride.