16 Podcasts For Road Trips

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When you've got a long drive ahead of you, music isn't always enough. Podcasts are a road trip's best friend, and for good reason: a really well-done podcast can distract you for hours on end, keeping you engaged and simultaneously allowing you to drive safely for hundreds of miles. The only challenge, then, is finding enough quality podcast content so that you don't run out before you finish the drive.

The trick to most great podcasts is a compelling premise. Whether it's debunking theories around an unsolved murder, or exploring what goes on behind closed doors in another relationship, a good podcast helps you get closer to answering a question you've always wondered  — or maybe one that's never even occurred to you to begin with.

It can also help to have some variation with your listening content. If you enjoy true crime, you might want to add a helping of cultural analysis to your plate, or perhaps add some fiction to the docket as well. The more varied your podcast arsenal is, the more entertained you're guaranteed to be. You might enjoy yourself so much that you end up driving past your destination, just to get to the end of an episode. Crazier things have happened, after all — and you'll know this for certain once you get into some of these road trip-friendly podcasts.

1. 'The Dropout'

The Dropout is a six-episode podcast about the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of medical technology company Theranos who now faces criminal charges for allegedly lying about the capacities of the company's health care technology. The podcast is the result of a three-year investigation by ABC News, and tracks Holmes' growth from early childhood to her years at Stanford to the stratospheric rise and downfall of Theranos. And yes, it also addresses all that controversy about Holmes' voice, too.

2. 'Gay Future'

Gay Future asks you to consider a specific premise in the very first episode:

The year is 2062 and everyone is gay. A totalitarian government rules over what's left of North America to spread its insidious gay agenda. Humanity's only hope for a rebellion rests on the shoulders of a precocious teenage boy who harbors a dark secret: He's straight.

The self-proclaimed narrative sci-fi comedy series is fiction, but it'll pull you in so quickly that you might start to forget what's real and what's imagined. Throughout the six-episode first season, you'll travel along with characters in search of the Lost City of Straight, making intrepid trips through places like the Chloe Sevigny forest and more. And if you're not convinced yet, consider this: The podcast claims to be an adaptation of a "recently discovered, never released YA novel by Mike Pence."

3. '1619'

1619 is an audio series by The New York Times that commemorates the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of a slave ship to America. The five-part series is at once wide-reaching and specific, deploying first-person and familial stories to depict the history and legacy of slavery in America. From the "birth of American music" to the longstanding, embedded racism in American medical institutions, this podcast serves as a groundbreaking education on the history of race in America.

4. 'Bear Brook'

Bear Brook is a "podcast about a cold case that's changing how murders will be investigated forever." Specifically, the podcast unpacks the famous Bear Brook murders, also known as the Allenstown Four, in which two female bodies were found at Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, New Hampshire, in 1985, and another two female bodies were found in 2000, though all four women are believed to have died around 1980. Fans of true crime will definitely find a home with this story — and for those who finish and want more, they can listen to Stranglehold, a podcast made by the producers of Bear Brook about the true stories behind the New Hampshire Primary.

5. 'Julie: The Unwinding Of The Miracle'

What does it feel like to die? This podcast answers that question. Told from the perspective of the late Julie Yip-Williams as a companion to her posthumously released memoir, The Unwinding of the Miracle, this podcast gives readers an insight into the conversations, emotions, fears, and more that took place while Yip-Williams "watched herself die from Stage IV colon cancer."

For those who are a little afraid of such heavy subject matter, you might want to scroll through the reviews for the podcast before you opt out. One reviewer called the series "brilliant, funny, [and profound]," explaining, "[The podcast is] more inspiring than sad: how a creative mind documented and approached this challenge and left us all a gift."

6. 'Serial'

Most podcast aficionados have, at the very least, heard of Serial, and just as many have likely argued about the subject of the first season for the podcast. But what others might not know is that there are two additional seasons after the one that tackled the case of Adnan Syed, and each of them are every bit as engrossing as the first.

Season 2 of Serial covers the story of Bowe Bergdahl, a soldier who was captured by a Taliban group after he deserted his post in 2009. Season 3 of the show takes a different narrative approach, eschewing one long story for many: It covers the "extraordinary stories of ordinary [courthouse] cases," all from one court in Ohio. All three seasons are narrated by Sarah Koenig.

7. 'In The Dark'

The first season of In the Dark chronicles the 1989 abduction and murder of a child named Jacob Wetterling in Minnesota, which would soon become one of the "most notorious child abductions in the country." The second season of the podcast covers a different aspect of apparent criminal injustice: It tells the story of Curtis Flowers, a man on death row who has "maintained his innocence" for 20 years, won "appeal after appeal, but every time, the prosecutor just tries the case again." The show asks, "Why does the justice system ignore the prosecutor's record and keep Flowers on death row?" You'll have to listen to learn the answer.

8. 'Last Seen'

Last Seen explores the mystery behind the largest unsolved art heist in human history. The 1990 disappearance of 13 pieces of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston has still never been solved, but that doesn't make this story any less juicy to absorb. Like all good crime podcasts, you'll be given multiple theories and suspects to keep you entertained for hours.

9. 'Where Should We Begin?'

If you like listening to couples argue (or make up) at the table next to you at your local coffee shop, then Where Should We Begin? is the podcast for you. Narrated by world-renowned couples therapist Esther Perel, the three-season podcast offers up dozens of different real-life relationships for you to dissect, with each episode featuring a new couple who attend a recorded therapy session with Perel.

10. 'Happy Face'

Ever wondered how the family members of famous criminals feel about that criminal activity? Wonder no longer. Happy Face chronicles the many crimes of serial killer Keith Hunter Jesperson, as analyzed by his own daughter, Melissa Moore.

In addition to breaking down the details around Jesperson's murders and behavior, Moore takes the reader along a more internal journey, too, by asking a central question: "When you look like your father, and you share his intelligence and charisma, how do you know you’re not a psychopath, too?"

11. 'Moonface'

Moonface is a fictional podcast about a gay Korean American man who wants to come out to his mother but can't because they don't speak the same language. The debut season of the podcast was widely considered one of the best new podcasts of 2019, and is described by Vulture as the "kind of podcast that stays with you."

12. 'Sincerely, X'

Sincerely, X is a podcast that features anonymous TED Talks — i.e., talks about ideas that "can't be shared in the open," which often include stories that are "too risky, painful, or controversial" for an open stage. The podcast describes its own content as "stories that deserve to be heard, from people who deserve to be hidden." Talk about enticing.

13. 'The Only One In The Room'

The Only One in the Room was inspired by a singular moment: host Laura Cathcart Robbins attended a famous writer's retreat and realized she was the only black woman in the room. This experience led to an article in HuffPost, which led to an outpouring of messages to Robbins from people who had shared similar experiences. This podcast explores those experiences, as shared by "people from all races, ethnicities, creeds, and nationalities who had felt 'othered.'"

14. 'The No Sleep Podcast'

The No Sleep Podcast is a horror fiction anthology series of stories so scary they'll keep you wide awake, even on the 13th hour of your road trip in the middle of the night. Even better, the famous podcast has racked up a whopping 13 seasons, each of which have 25 episodes. All the better to scare you with.

15. 'My Favorite Murder'

My Favorite Murder is kind of like Serial in that it's slowly garnered a cult-like following of support. The show bills itself as a "true crime comedy podcast," in which hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark dissect a new murder mystery, crime, or similar topic each week. The difference between this show and every other true crime podcast you've listened to is one single factor: humor. The whole purpose of the podcast is how these hosts approach a true crime analysis with a complete sense of humor, making each story exponentially more interesting along the way.

16. 'Homecoming'

Homecoming is a fiction podcast about a caseworker at an experimental facility. The show features a number of famous voices, including Oscar Isaac and David Schwimmer, and was so successful that it generated a television series of the same name on Amazon Prime, which premiered in November 2018, helmed by Julia Roberts.

The best part about podcasts is they're the gift that keeps on giving; even after you're done listening to a really good one, you get the benefit of hours of conversation with friends and family, not to mention a few friendly arguments. So the next time you get into the car for a long haul, you can plug in your phone, turn up the volume, and buckle up for one fantastic ride after another.