A Road Trip Guide

Road Trips.JPG

Road Trip Guide

One of the things I’ve learned since moving to Omaha is the art of the long car ride. Arriving in the Midwest after a year in Ireland, I was shocked to remember how expensive it is to fly in the States. I couldn’t believe that it cost €75 to fly roundtrip from Dublin to Paris, but somehow it was over $400 to visit family in Detroit for a weekend. While I previously wasn’t confident on solo long drives, after a few months in the Midwest, I’ve become a master at long stretches of highway and how to fill those lonely hours.

I need a combo of music, audiobooks, and podcasts to survive any drive longer than three hours. And luckily, between the popularity of podcasts, the easy playlist making abilities of Spotify, and audiobooks from my local library – it doesn’t cost anything to have enough entertainment to get me through a long day’s drive.

Public Domain Audiobooks
There is nothing I love more than free literature. There are various places to find public domain books online, such as through LibreVox or on YouTube. Driving can be a great time to take in a classic that you might have missed. And well, if it’s boring, there is no escaping it. It’s just you, the book, and the open road. Audiobooks are a great way to force yourself to read something you might not normally be interested in. Here are my favorites:

  1. Persuasion by Jane Austen – Persuasionis one of my “go-tos” for a road trip. It’s short enough that it can be read in eight hours, so it can take up a day’s worth of driving. Between the cute seaside setting, the absolute wonder that is Anne Eliot, and the will-they-won’t-they romance with Captain Wentworth, this novel is the perfect companion for a long trip.
  2. Middlemarch by George Eliot – If, however, you need a book to occupy 30 hours of driving (or several months worth of short drives), I wholeheartedly recommend Middlemarch. With so many characters, subplots, and philosophical tangents, this book gives you a whole town’s worth of characters to explore.
  3. Villette by Charlotte Bronte – I love using audiobooks to read some classics that I typically wouldn’t make time to read. Villettehas been a recent listen that has boarding schools, travel, and a hint of the gothic – so everything you need for an enjoyable afternoon.

New Audiobooks
Contemporary books are a great way to keep up that Goodreads goal even if you are behind the wheel for a day. You can find them at your local library (for free via the Libby app), or invest in them on your own.

  1. My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan – Nothing like a grad school abroad romance to have you swooning all the way to your destination. If you are in the mood for a lighter love story with a bit of academic flair, this book is ideal. Best of all, the book is read by its author, Julia Whelan, who is an acclaimed audiobook narrator.
  2. The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel – I’m not sure I would have loved this book if I read it ordinarily, but it made a perfect audiobook to occupy a very long drive. A historical fiction set during the French Resistance, it’s full of drama and a (slightly cheesy) love story. The narration by Madeleine Maby made me feel like I was really back in WWII era.
  3. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney – Written with a smooth style and with a haunting emotional realness, it tells the story of an Irish college student who begins to have an affair with an older man. It felt like slipping into the thoughts of a friend who is making disastrous decisions. While I read this book and didn’t listen to it on audio, from the samples I’ve heard, Aoife Mahanon does a great job bringing these conversations to life.

Like most of the world, I’ve gotten addicted to podcasts. I now look forward to long car trips just to get some quality podcast time. There are several lifestyle and literary podcasts that I adore, here they are:

  1. Tea and Tattle by Miranda Mills – I can’t rave enough about this podcast! London-based Miranda and her best friend Sophie chat about their favorite books, travels, fashion, and cultural activities. There are also frequent interviews with interesting, creative women. It often reminds me a lot of The Attic, so I think it would definitely be enjoyed by most readers. They have a few episodes on travel and travel journaling, which make for a perfect road trip listen.
  2. Freedom, Books, Flowers, and the Moon by the Times Literary Supplement – If you want a very smart, literary podcast, this is ideal. I am always impressed and intrigued by the conversations about literature. There are frequent interviews with authors and discussions of contemporary fiction. I always finish an episode somehow more obsessed with books than I already am.
  3. Hashtag Authentic by Sara Tasker – As someone a bit obsessed with Instagram, I love Sara’s podcast. She interviews various Instagrammers about their stories, inspiration, and techniques. A recent episode, “49: Building a Business from the Ashes of your Old Life,” tells a beautiful story of love, trauma, and hope.

Nothing says roadtrip like some tunes. The Attic Playlists are one of my favorite ways to find new music. Diverse yet bopping, I can’t recommend them enough. 

  1. Fall into the Attic – A little haunting, good for late night drives.
  2. Feel Something with the Attic – An all around excellent playlist, full of emotional songs
  3. Springtime with the Attic – Adorable and dreamy playlist for pensive afternoon drives

I like to balance thinking time and listening time while driving, so I tend to switch back and forth between mediums throughout a long drive. Obviously, these selections work well for flights, commutes on public transport, or just long days when you want to close your eyes. I’m heading off to Chicago tomorrow and I’m looking forward to indulging in my own road trip selections.

M. A. McCuen is a secondary English literature teacher and grad student in Omaha, Nebraska. Originally from Michigan, she graduated with a BA in English and French from University of Notre Dame in 2016 where she spent a semester studying at the University of Paris Diderot and interning in Ireland. After graduation, she spent a year teaching abroad on Wexford, Ireland, before beginning her M.Ed at Creighton University.