Every truly great odyssey deserves an equally epic soundtrack. Together we, Mattie and Peter, have cruised thousands of miles of highways and interstates across the United States of America. Driving through the Great Plains of the Midwest, climbing up the mountains of the San Joaquin Valley, or seeing all there is to see in our home Portland, Oregon, we never leave the house without a stacked playlist of our favorite jams.
Creating a mix with your adventure partner is just as important as deciding which highway to take on your way from Wichita, Kansas, to Roswell, New Mexico. Together, we came up with hints for compiling the best playlist after we returned from a trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks this August.
Tip #1: Collaborate before even getting in the car.
There are dozens of ways to put a roadtrip mix together: create a Spotify or iTunes playlist, share music on SoundCloud, or burn a CD the old-fashioned way. Point being: Take the time to do some planning, because any 400-plus-mile trip is going to need some thought. One way to kill the vibe of the open road is to have to scroll through an endless playlist. With a collaboration, you’ll both have a general idea of what’s coming up in the next hour or so. Just press play and let it run!
Tip #2: Keep your cool.
An adventure mobile can feel like a prison on wheels when you’re stuck listening to the greatest hits album of a band you didn’t even know existed. You and your adventure partner are bound to have some differences in musical taste, and like clockwork, they’ll be rudely exposed when it’s 103 degrees outside and you’re in the panhandle of Oklahoma in the middle of an eight-hour jaunt. In those trying times, it’s important to be level-headed and not shout, “I don’t want to fucking listen to Fall Out Boy anymore!” Be honest, but calm, and simply ask to change the music. You can come back to FOB later in the trip when you’re both in the mood to wax nostalgic about your preteen years.
Tip #3: Podcasts!
For us, podcasts are a must. The amount of eye-opening, entertaining, and educational content available is staggering. Some of our faves are Radiolab, Criminal, This American Life, Serial, 99% Invisible, and occasionally Freakonomics. A podcast doesn’t require much commitment beyond, “Does this sound interesting?” Once you settle on an episode, just press play and learn something new and interesting.
Tip #4: The co-pilot calls the shots.
Keep your eyes on the road and your hands at ten and two. The co-pilot navigates the atlas and the playlist. This is especially true when you’re on a roadtrip with more than one person. Whomever rides shotty picks the jams. However, as DJ, it’s polite to take requests and fit them into your “set.” Don’t be a D about it.
Tip #5: It’s only music, relax.
It can feel like serendipity when the music is shuffled at the perfect time, like it’s creating an even more vivid and textured memory of your travels. Never try to force a moment like that; it won’t work. Remember that you’re on the open highway because you’re a vagabond, dammit. The soundtrack is important, but never forget why you’re really out there. Now, go, the road is waiting.