I don’t know about you, but I love a good road trip. Commercial air travel is such a huge hassle that I relish any opportunity to jump in my car instead of on a plane. Unless it’s a cross-country trip, in which case it obviously makes zero sense to drive if you’re in any kind of hurry, it often takes as long to fly as it would to drive when you factor in travel to/from the airport and all the waiting around. Plus, the FLEXIBILITY you get from having your own car and unlimited luggage space is fab. And finally, and maybe most importantly, you have an excuse to eat fast food and not feel (too) guilty about it. Yes, flying is safer and there are no traffic jams in the sky, but I don’t mind taking my chances every now and then if it means I get a Chik-fil-A spicy chicken sandwich and a sweet tea.
As an aside, a big regret I have is that I’ve never taken a true cross-country road trip. I had several chances when I lived in California and was traveling or moving back East, but I always seemed to be in such a hurry to get to where I was going. It was all destination and no journey. Huge miss. But it’s on the bucket list.
For the past three years, the bank that I work for has sent me to an Executive Banking School program. It ran for three summers for ten days each summer. Now, I never knew such a thing existed, but it’s about as strange as it sounds. A bunch of mostly middle-aged bank employees from all over the country descending upon a college campus, sleeping in dorms (complete with roommates!), listening to academic lectures, and generally acting like they are at some kind of adult sleep-away camp that happens to have really good food, drinks, and entertainment. In reality, it was actually pretty fun. I met some awesome people (shout-out to my roomies if they’re reading this!), learned a few things about banking and the finance industry, and got to spend time on a really nice campus (Furman) in a really nice city (Greenville).
But back to the road trip part!
Greenville isn’t exactly a casual car ride away from New Orleans. It’s a 9-hour haul — and minus a little Atlanta road rage to keep you on your toes, it’s relatively boring. I knew I needed a couple of safe distractions to occupy me during the drive, so figured it was the perfect chance to listen to an audiobook and make a dent in my endless podcast episode queue. The trip also gave me a chance to add to my Waze score (explained below) and test out a new Google Maps feature (explained below too). So off I went!
(1) Podcasts (via the Pocket Casts app)
I love listening to content. Reading is still my #1, and video is great too if you can dedicate your eyes to it, but listening to someone else read content to me is strangely captivating and soothing all at the same time. I listened to my first podcast about four years ago and never looked back. As a poor cord-cutting (no cable TV) business school student, podcasts became a free way to listen to the news. From there I branched out into “shows” like Serial, and other podcasts like NPR’s “How To Do Everything” and “Planet Money”. There’s a podcast about everything from how to start a side-hustle to why shoes are bad for your feet. It’s amazing. And maybe just a little overwhelming. But mostly amazing!
I’ve mentioned Game of Thrones in a few of my previous posts, but let’s just say, I’m a big fan. I won’t go as far as to say I’m a fangirl, but that’s mostly because I oftentimes can’t follow the plotline and have no idea what the hell is going on in the show. So when a friend recommended a podcast called Binge Mode: Game of Thrones, I jumped all over it. The gist of Binge Mode is that two hilarious hosts deep-dive into and recap every single GOT episode. It’s perfection. A few observations after listening to three seasons: 1) The hosts have put more thought into this TV show than I have put into almost anything in my entire life, 2) I’ve missed many, many, many things; not for lack of paying attention; chalk it up to being slow, 3) Reading the books clearly helps (the hosts read them and bring in additional context/insight), 4) I literally know like four of the characters’ names; this has been the most difficult thing about listening to this podcast; even Googling is hard because I don’t know how to SPELL any of them either. Thankfully this chart helped.
Overall the podcast is really well done, highly entertaining, and has immensely helped my comprehension of the show. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones and feel like you’re even the slightest bit lost at times, check it out. The episodes are ~30-40 minutes and I tore through about two seasons during my drive. Dracarys!
While I’m raving about podcasts, I have to also rave about my favorite podcast app — Pocket Casts. Sure, your iPhone (or Android) comes with a pre-loaded podcast app, but it stinks. Pocket Casts is $3.99, but worth every penny. Here’s the quick and dirty on why I love (and highly recommend it):
(2) Audiobooks (via Audible)
I was on the fence about audiobooks for a long time, and even though I took the plunge and joined Audible, I think I still am. I’ll tell you why, but first a little bit about the service:
- Audible is owned by Amazon. Besides audiobooks, it also sells radio and TV programs, audio versions of magazines and newspapers, and even produces some of its own content.
- Audible uses a subscription model; you pay $15/month and receive a “credit” in return. That credit can be immediately redeemed for a book of your choice or saved for a later date. The only catch is that you can only hold onto 6 credits at a time before they start to roll off. So no hoarding of credits.
- As an Audible subscriber, you can also buy additional audiobooks without a credit at a 30% discount. There’s a good amount of free content available as well (tends to be more radio shows and shorter-form content).
- You get a free book with a 30-day trial (you can cancel anytime).
- Audible will often do 2-for-1 sales where you can grab some great books for cheap.
- The mobile/tablet apps are great, and the website is nice as well (you’ll need to use the desktop or mobile site to actually view your credits and buy books). And because it’s owned by Amazon, anytime you’re browsing books on Amazon you have the option to buy the audiobook version and the two sites are magically connected and the purchase + download process is totally seamless.
As I mentioned above, podcasts are my new jam. I listen to them in the car, when I’m exercising, when I’m making dinner, and when I’m cleaning. I still carry my Kindle with me almost everywhere I go, but it’s just so darn easy to pop in my Airpods and press play. It seemed that the next natural extension of my newfound obsession was audiobooks. I was wrong. Kind of.
I’ve downloaded 12 audiobooks, and I’ve enjoyed almost all of them. But the truth is I just don’t think I love audiobooks as a medium. At least not for all genres of books. The way I sum it up: a book that would be considered an “easy read” is also going to be an “easy listen”. Books that require deeper thought and analysis to comprehend don’t work for me as audiobooks. In those cases, I prefer a Kindle book or paperback book that allows me to flip back, pause to think, and re-read.
The other issue is my attention span. That was a test, and you failed if you clicked on the hyperlink. But it also proves my point. When I’m dialed in and paying attention (like on a plane for instance), audiobooks are great. But the truth is I am almost always a tiny bit distracted. That’s my fault, I know. But it’s just the way my brain works. Even when listening to a really interesting book or podcast, something I hear will trigger a thought and my mind is off and racing. With podcasts, that’s ok. I don’t have to be 100% focused on every word, and the content tends to be broken up into more digestible chunks. But audiobooks command your complete attention unless you want to finish a book and have no idea what happened.
So those are my two biggest gripes, and what has almost convinced me to cancel my Audible subscription on several occasions. On the flip side, my two favorite things about audiobooks are 1) When they are read by the actual author or by anyone with a British accent, and 2) How captivating they are if you CAN focus and give the book your full attention. Audio is such a cool hybrid between the written word and visual stimulation — so it’s worth a try to see if it works for you!
(3) Navigation (via Waze and Google Maps)
I have a terrible sense of direction AND I’m habitually late. Not sure there’s a worse combo. So for as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with plotting out my route and knowing EXACTLY when I’ll arrive at my destination (which is almost always after I’m supposed to be there). It started with printing out MapQuests maps and has evolved into daily Google Maps and/or Waze usage. Waze deserves its own post so I won’t go into too much detail about it here. Maybe I’ll do a Google Maps vs. Apple Maps vs. Waze post at some point. But for now, I do want to share a neat little feature in Google Maps that was helpful while driving solo. It’s called “Location Sharing”, and it’s super simple to set up. It allows you to share your real-time GPS location with friends and family so they can track your whereabouts within Google Maps. I know everyone craves privacy, but there ARE times where letting people know where you are is beneficial. In this case, Cody could make sure I didn’t stop for Chik-fil-A too many times.
So that’s it. The drive was easy, the Chik-fil-A was delicious, and I chipped away at my backlog of podcast episodes. All-in-all, a successful road trip. If you want to see a few more photos from Bank School, keep scrolling. And I’ve left the name of a few podcasts and audiobooks that I recommend as well!
PODCASTS I LIKE
- Hidden Brain — I’m a very curious person. This podcast combines science and storytelling to help you understand human behavior and what drives us to make certain choices.
- The Daily (New York Times) — keeps you updated on the latest news and current events in 30 min or less; good way to start or end your day.
- Stuff You Should Know — teaches you about common things and how they work; it makes you realize you don’t know nearly as much as you think you do!
- Freakonomics — covers the whole gamut of topics, but always focusing on the weirder aspects of human nature.
- Malcolm Gladwell: Revisionist History — goes back and reinterprets something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.
- Binge Mode: Game of Thrones — covered above.
- Serial — true-life murder mystery/documentaries; two seasons; digs deeper into big stories that were in the news.
- Planet Money (NPR)— helps you understand economics (and our economy) and actually makes it fun and interesting.
- This American Life — this one is hard to describe but it’s one of the most popular podcasts ever; covers a variety of topics, mostly in journalistic form.
- The Talk Show (John Gruber) — one of my favorite tech podcasts; long episodes but covers all things Apple + the latest and greatest in the tech world overall; deep dives and a unique perspective; tons of interesting interviews with some of the biggest names in tech.
- How To Do Everything — fun and quirky; ended last year, but there are plenty of old episodes for you to enjoy.
- Modern Love — features letters written and submitted for the NYT column, and then read by popular personalities; every now and then they’ll get updates from the essayists too.
AUDIOBOOKS I LIKE
Book preferences tend to be a little more personal, but if you’re looking for something that is great in audiobook form, I would recommend any autobiography read by the author. There’s just something about an author reading a story about themselves in their own voice. Novels (aka easy reads) work well, as well as personal development books. In fact, if you lay down on your couch while you’re listening it’s almost like you’re in a therapist’s office!