Culture

The Best Podcasts To Listen To On Roadtrips

You'll never have to play 'I Spy' again.

Brought to you by Avis

We’ve teamed up with AVIS to bring you a series of amazing tried-and-tested roadtrips around Australia and the world.

We’ve partnered with Avis to bring you a series of tales from the road. This time we’re offering up a selection of amazing podcasts to keep your brain ticking during those long distance journeys.

Picking a travel companion can be a tricky prospect. Driving across America with your Mum sounds cool, but she might very well put a dampener on your trip by the time you get to Vegas. Similarly, the chance to catch up on old times with your high school crew is sweet, but maybe taking in the culturally delicate ruins of Eastern Europe is not the place to do so. The perfect podcast then solves all your woes. It’s great company for when you’re lonely, and you can use it tune out your buddy when his commentary on the scenery gets a little much. The recent rapid growth in podcasting popularity means you’ve got plenty of options to choose from – there’s a perfect podcast for every journey. From scientific inquiry to comedic ruminations, heartfelt chitchat to historical storytelling, we’ve got you aurally covered as you go forth on that wide open road.

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For the LOLs

A lot of things translate from one culture to the next. Coffee, art, the awe-inspiring transcendence of the natural world – almost everywhere you go you can absorb your share of the above and more. Comedy, however, can be a little tricky. The differences between what Australians and British people find funny can be huge, let alone once language barriers and more extreme cultural differences are brought into the fold. It makes sense that you might want to wallow in some familiar laffs while exploring the unknown.

If you’re after some distinctly Australian flavoured joking, I recommend Free To A Good Home. Alongside ABC TV’s Ben Jenkins (Story Club, The Checkout) and Michael Hing (GoodGame, JJJ), rotating comedians employ a giggly curiosity to the strange corners of CraigsList, Ebay, and that endlessly wonderful world of online Australiana, Gumtree. How did this man come to run a party bus/tile grouting business? Why would you sell a haunted sword, instead of just throwing it away? Will the woman who spotted the man eating cat food ever find her soul mate? None of these questions are answered, but the musings between the hosts and their guests, as they attempt to hypothesise answers, are always hilarious.

If it’s your regular schedule of American sitcoms and Hollywood internet goofery that your pining for, Comedy Bang Bang is the remedy. Headed up by comedy god-brother Scott Aukerman, CBB regularly has guests such as Brooklyn Nine Nine’s Andy Samberg, Parks and Recreation’s Amy Poehler, and Community’s Gillian Jacobs, but it’s the roster of goofball impressionists and character comedians who are the show’s true stars. Paul F. Tompkins, Nick Kroll, Lauren Lapkus, and others provide intensely uproarious voice work for the show, playing weirdos and delivering askew takes on unexpected celebrities to perfection.

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The more you know

What? How? Why? Weird! They’re the classic reactions to the world we live in, and they only get louder once you’re out of your comfort zone. Parse through the back catalogues of these podcasts, and you might just find an answer or two to the crazy new experiences you’ve just encountered.

RadioLab is a bit of a gimme when talking podcasts – it’s an obligatory recommendation, but it’s always brought up for a reason. One of the first podcasts to really push audio engineering as part of the story, it’s much more than a radio documentary on science. Instead, hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich explore everyday phenomena through layered storytelling and aural metaphor – check them out as they explain a shrimp’s eyesight via the use of a Hallelujah Chorus, or short term memory loss through trippyly looping the show’s own audio.

If you want to dig deeper into the minutiae of the everyday then the design podcast 99% Invisible is for you. After all, sometimes something as simple as a paperclip can be a comforting sight when you’re far from home. Hosted by Roman Mars, each episode takes a deep dive look at how the world we live in has come to be – from techno gadgetry to modern day landmarks. This episode through your car speakers might just be the perfect synchronistic soundtrack to being stuck behind a slow moving tractor in rural Australia.

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Back and forths

You’ll be collecting your fair share of yarns on your travels, but it’s good to get out of your own head every now and again. Get into someone else’s with some interview and storytelling podcasts – living with someone else’s point of view piped directly into your brain can be as eye opening as the new sights that will surround you. Different perspectives from inside and outside your head all at once – you’re practically in Inception.

It’s only in its early days, but Crybabies brings a welcome new tone to the interview format. Journalist and author Susan Orlean and Sarah Thyre ask guests to bring in a scrapbook of past tearjerkers – songs, movie clips, memories and more, which they then discuss and dissect. It’s a loose wheeling conversation that often taps into deep sadness, and also the freeing joy that comes with a good weep. If you’re feeling a little blue all alone in your car, tune into Crybabies for a communal therapeutic teary or two.

Working takes you out of the entertainment and journalism groove that a lot of podcasts exist in, and shines a spotlight on how regular joes get the job done. Principals, coders, farmers, writers, nurses, perfumers and cartoonists all explain just how they spend the day-to-day, with Slate website contributor David Plotz. Plotz is curious about seemingly everything, making him the perfect host, and his political journalism background often brings a complex, social and economic skew to the conversation, elevating it above a primary school careers day speech. Yes, you’re exploring the wild blue yonder, but a few everyday details might help keep you grounded.


The (his)tory so far

You can’t help but absorb the history of the places you travel to – it’s in the architecture, the people, the food and the culture. While you might not always be able to sync up the stories in these podcasts to the places you’re visiting, hearing the old tales of time gone by and the explanations for things we take for granted can put you in the perfect mindset for soaking up everything you’ll soon discover.

The Memory Palace takes the storytelling methods utilised by This American Life to tackle small and personal moments from the past. Host Nate DiMeo is a humorist alongside a historian, and knows just which facts in a tale are the most interesting. With it’s off kilter subject manner and calm and jazzy investigations, The Memory Palace is packed with just the sort of stories you’d want to hear while on your holiday.

Stuff You Missed in History Class takes a different note – it’s a casual conversation between friendly enthusiasts, and you wander along with the hosts as they investigate the past. Hosts Holly Frey and Tracy Wilson are the kind of personable nerds who you’d want in your tour group – they’ve watched all the docos and remembered the best bits. Recent eps have covered an all-female Soviet bombing regiment, the Codex Giga (aka the Devil’s Bible), and the history of narcolepsy. Perfect info if your jetlag is hitting you particularly hard.

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One bonus oddity

It’s always the surprises that stick – the things we least expected that become our fondest memories, or most thrilling take always from holidays we’ve had. You know what to expect when you tune into This American Life or WTF with Marc Maron, so dispose of the tried and true and trusty and take a walk on the wild side with these strange audio samples. When you go off the beaten track, take your podcast choice with you.

A comedy improv podcast with a difference, With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus is a different show each week with a different host, and the consistent factor is Lauren Lapkus (Orange is the New Black), in character, appearing as a guest. Got that? She’s kind of the host, but each week the guest plays the host and she plays the guest. As much a comment about the rise of niche podcasting as it is a showcase for Lapkus’ character work, so far the fictional podcasts that we’ve peeked into include T.G.I.G.O.T.G.OST (Thank God It’s the Guardians of the Galaxy Original Soundtrack) and The Rad Dad podcast. Never the same but always familiar, follow Lapkus through an invented podcasting universe as you journey into uncharted territories.

Avis car hire is the perfect way to make more of your holiday. Roadtrips give you the opportunity to see different sides of your destination. With such freedom, the possibilities are truly limitless. Stay tuned for more stories from the road.