If you commute to work every day—whether it's a 20 minute trip or an hour and a half—that adds up to a lot of time cut out of your life. In fact, Americans spent an incredible 5.5 billion hours sitting in traffic in 2011, according to a recently released report by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. But there's no need to let that time go to waste! We recommend making the most of the tedious sitting in traffic by firing up your brain and learning something new... or at least keeping yourself entertained without engaging in risky behavior like texting while driving. Here are some great options that will make your daily commute fly by using your mobile device. Who knows, you might even start looking forward to driving in to work!
Keep up with the latest news
If you want to stay informed and up to date, news podcasts downloaded to your phone or MP3 player are a great way to stay informed on the run. If you're not sure what a podcast is, it's simple: it's a video or audio file that you can download to your mobile device for listening (or watching) on the go. You can subscribe through iTunes, if you're an iOS user, or search in an app like Podkicker or OneCast, if you're an Android user. The only real trick with adding podcasts to your commute is remembering to download them and load them on your mobile device before you head out for the day.
After that, it's as simple as looking up your favorite news network or show—most will have one—to see if they have a podcast, or start by browsing our favorites below.
- NPR podcasts
- CNN's podcasts
- CBS News podcasts
- Fox News podcasts
- BBC News podcasts
- Wall Street Journal podcasts
- ABC News podcasts
- NBC News podcasts
If the national news isn't your idea of entertainment, then there may still be a podcast that will deliver the news you're interested in. If you have an iPhone, we recommend browsing iTunes, which has top 10 lists for every category of podcasts. Unfortunately, there's no equivalent list of podcasts readily available for Android devices. You'll need to stick with the two Android apps listed above.
Listen to a book on the go
Yes, it's possible to enjoy a book without ever cracking one open through the magic of audiobooks. While you can buy audiobooks on CD at wherever you prefer to buy books, we're fans of Amazon-owned Audible, which offers audiobooks as digital downloads. And if you go through a lot of audiobooks in a month, you can sign up for a subscription which will give you one or two books every month—for substantially less than cover price. And if you're already a fan of Amazon's digital Kindle books, Audible has an added bonus: their Whispersync for Voice feature allows you to seamlessly switch from reading an ebook to listening to the audiobook, without missing a single word. It will remember where you left off on one and pick it up at the same spot with the other.
If you'd rather not shell out to buy a library's worth of books, you can take advantage of the completely free public domain catalog. LibriVox and Project Gutenberg both offer audio readings of books in the public domain that you can download in MP3 format, which will be recognized by any media player you have.
Learn a new language
You might think learning a new language is hard, but in reality, all it takes is time. And if you're commuting to work every day, you have time to spare. So if you've ever wanted to learn a language, don't wait! These programs are our favorites.
The Pimsleur Approach
This audio-only language learning program promises you'll be speaking conversationally within 10 days or your money back. A 30-day course is available for only $9.95 and comes in 29 different languages, including French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.
The Living Language course combines audio with books and software to tackle language-learning from every angle. Available in Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, French, Mandarin, German, and Portuguese, their Essential-level courses (which include 1 book, 3 CDs, and access to online learning) start at around $20 while their Complete-level courses (which include 3 books, 9 CDs, and access to online learning) start at around $50—which isn't much money for a lot of learning material.
If you're looking for a lower cost alternative, check out Open Culture, which indexes a lot of free language resources, many in easy to download podcast form. Because they come from a number of different sources, their quality will vary, you can't beat the price. Check if the language you want to learn is on offer, and get learning!
Attend a college-level lecture course
Many universities offer educational lectures (most of them for free) in podcast form, letting you learn about any topic that strikes your fancy.
iTunes U, a must for Apple users, indexed a huge amount of education content. It features lectures in podcast format as well as additional learning material, from books to lecture notes. Most of the podcasts are free, though additional material will sometimes cost you. iTunes U has a broad selection of content from numerous universities, from Cambridge to Yale.
You've probably heard of TED Talks, lectures by smart folks on smart subjects. While you can listen to them while you're driving or watch the videos if you commute by public transportation. Head to the official YouTube channel from your mobile device or you can also play them via the TED app for iOS (free on iTunes) and Android (free on Google Play) or download their lectures as podcasts. Apple users can subscribe to podcasts through iTunes while Android users can pick and choose what to download on the TED Blog.
If you're not an Apple user but are still interested in finding some great college-level lectures, Open Culture has a large index of universities that offer courses online.
There are many more great resources on the internet to find audio to make your daily commute more enjoyable. If you know of any we missed, let us know in the comments.