As advocates of the old-fashioned road trip, we feel like we’re pretty experienced at in-car-entertainment but it’s changed dramatically since we were kids – podcasts and Audible are the new i-spy.
As someone who’s worked in the automotive industry most of my career, I’ve witnessed a switch from elasticated net back-of-seat pouches for your wet wipes and sweaty jam sandwiches to independent headrest gaming systems and 27 inch drop down movie screens for rear passenger entertainment.
It doesn’t stop there. The navigator seat (front passenger for those not fluent in road trip lingo) used to come with responsibilities. DJ, tuck shop and the reader of something they called ‘a map’. Now our phones can read us incoming emails and text messages and that role is near enough redundant as voice activated controls negate the need for irritating passengers completely. This is marvellous for those wanting to travel solo but, in this modern world where we are only a few steps away from truly automated driving, have we completely lost the multi-participant road trip activities?
Hopefully not but, i-spy requires far too much attention-retention and without the instant gratification of your entire Facebook community knowing that you were the winner in just 4 guesses, i-spy just doesn’t have quite the same buzz as nailing Candy Crush level 4907.
So maybe Pub Cricket and Registration Bingo have seen their best days. Yellow Car still holds it’s own – although this car games has probably been the cause of more rows in my life than any other single topic.
So for those of us who get a little queasy looking at miniature screens or are simply looking to utilise our travel time in a more productive way than propelling ourselves up the Farmville career ladder, there are two simply brilliant alternatives. Podcasts and Audible.
We are without doubt in the top 10 of world experts on podcasts*. Fact. We love them. Fortunately for us James and I share similar interests and expectations of podcasts so this makes for harmonious long-stint travel.
*this may not be based on any credible research
5 REASONS WHY PODCASTS ARE A ROAD TRIP ESSENTIAL
- They don’t rely on data use or internet availability (if you plan ahead)
- The are mostly episodic so fit neatly into the road trip format of needing toilet stops and DVT avoiding leg stretches
- There are so many genres and topics that if you can’t find something to suit everyone onboard, you probably shouldn’t be travelling together anyway
- They present excellent opportunities to expand your horizons and knowledge base without a huge time, attention and cash commitment (very millennial)
- They’re mostly free
BUT WHAT ABOUT AUDIO BOOKS?
We think that audio books are the perfect road trip companion, offering some significant benefits over podcasts. They take a little more concentration no doubt, but we should probably all be working on that anyway – hey if you can manage 10 back-to-back episodes of Game of Thrones without so much as a wee-stop, you can manage an audio book. Plus, you don’t have to shout ‘spoiler alert’ at anyone who might accidentally be about to ruin the punch line.
Without teaching Grandma to suck eggs, and for those of you, like us, who are a little out of practice when it comes to reading books, we’ll break down what we think are the distinct benefits of audio books – particularly for road trips – some of which they share with podcasts.
The benefits start with barriers to entry. Any plonker can make a podcast and whilst we are all in support of anyone flexing their creative muscles, much like YouTube these days, as time passes, it makes it harder and harder to discover quality content. You don’t have to worry about that with BBC drama now do you?! Don’t get us wrong, there are some terrible books on the market but you’ll find the quality of production is always good on Audible – it has to pass muster and they’re more expensive and time consuming to produce, so you can pretty much guarantee studio quality audio.
The joys of variable speed control! Back in the day when you took your French lessons on cassette tape, you certainly didn’t have the option of speeding up the audio in any way that left the narration still decipherable! This means you can whizz through Pride and prejudice (because you always thought you should read it but reckon that life is too short) told by your choice of three narrators, from the time it’ll take you to get from Dunkirk to Morzine. Culture points ✅, bucket list read ✅, smug ✅.
SUGGESTED FOR YOU
This is one of my favourite features of Audible. My mother, the best read person on the planet, is not always available to provide instant suggestions as to good reads at the specific time I demand them, so by the power of modern technology and scary preference based algorithms, Audible has a stack of suggested listens for me that make my increasing pile of actual books look rather pathetic.
CREDITS PILE UP
If you’re in one of those months where you simply don’t have the time to chose something let alone listen to an audio book, then your credits roll and rack-up – perfect if you’re planning some long journeys.
Downsides of Audible:
We wouldn’t be offering a balanced view if we didn’t highlight a few downsides to Audible so are a few to consider.
- Whilst you can grab a free 90 day trial, normal monthly membership is £7.99. However, I’ve been a member for years and I never even notice it coming out of my account – I used to spend more than that in Starbucks everyday.
- Not all titles are available although the number that I’ve looked for that I can’t find is topping 3 in the last few years
- Takes up space on your device if you download them to your library rather than stream them
So if you’re taking a road trip any time soon and you’ve been thinking about investing in Audible, we are full advocates and always keen to hear the recommendations of other snowmads. Please leave your suggestions in the comments below!
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(There are also links to the book/Kindle version for each of these if you prefer the old fashioned way!)
Stuffocation: Living More with Less, James Wallman
If you go back to the very first on our blogs, 38 TEASPOONS, 5 QUICHE DISHES AND THE £10K SKIP, we make reference to James’s book. Life changing stuff for us. I digitally thrust it into the hands of almost everyone who shows a vague interest in the topic because it really is an interesting read, and not at all weird hippy minimalist tripe.
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The Penguin Lessons, Tom Mitchell
It’s about a penguin and a bloke. Partly set where I was brought up in Uruguay, it’s a true story and brilliant.
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Not Ready to Adult Yet: A Totally Ill-informed Guide to Life, Iain Stirling
This was the soundtrack to cleaning out the chicken run and shovelling paths through the snow last winter, high in the Pyrenees. Tells a very millennial story which will certainly tickle you if you’re a Gen X.
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Birds, Beasts and Relatives, Gerald Durrell
The sequel to My Family and Other Animals, this just good old fashioned story telling and as one of the first authors I read of my own free will, there’s always going to be a soft spot for this type of book in my travel collection.
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The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain
This guy is familiar to you – Huckleberry Finn, Tow Sawyer….once you start reading Mark Twain, you’ll find yourself with a lifetime of brilliant reads.
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Every Tool’s a Hammer: Life Is What You Make It, Adam Savage
This is downloading right now but we couldn’t leave it out because Adam Savage is a hero to both of us for different reasons – James because he blows stuff up and makes epic nerf gun modifications and me because he’s the perfect balance philosophical and handy chap.
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Try those on for size.
Podcasts and Audible serve different purposes –here’s how we use them in different situations
Podcasts are best suited to commutes and day to day life. We have a stack in reserve in the event of unexpected traffic jams, waiting for stuff and making dinner for example. They’ve largely taken the place of radio in our house and that makes me a little sad as a wireless geek but nothing will gazump live breakfast radio – not ever.
Audible is a different sport. Perfect for those of us who don’t seem to have the eyes-down hours in the day for reading anymore but more importantly, the most incredible road trip tool in the entertainment arsenal. We even have a wish list that we update when thinking about what we’ll listen to on our travels and coupled with Spotify, this becomes part of the sound track to each trip.
If you want to have a free trial (and you haven’t taken advantage in the last year), you can click the audible banner below and now’s a good time as there are 2-for-1 downloads available only to members until June 2nd 2019.