3 Soul-Feeding Podcasts for Surviving Mind-Numbing Manila Traffic

Manila traffic is not going away anytime soon and it is slowly killing us. Like every species that's been faced with such threats to our existence, there are only two options: adapt or die.

I am only slightly exaggerating.

When we chose to live further away from the city center, we did not anticipate that traffic could get any worse than it already was in 2013. At the time, it used took us about 45 minutes to get from our home in the east of Manila to the Pasig Central Business District, where we worked back then. On Tuesday last week, we left the house before 8 a.m. and arrived at our destination at 11:25. This is becoming the norm.

Sometimes I joke that if we were to die on the road, we'd have a lot of unconfessed sins we'd have to answer for. My daughter is 3, and she already knows to ask me, "Mommy, are you frustrated?" Dear soul, she has actually prayed for me in the car on more than one occasion: "Dear God, please tell this traffic to stop making my Mommy mad." And since there is nothing we can do about traffic, God has wisely decided to work on Mommy's temper instead—by leading me to some new podcasts.

I like to think of listening to podcasts in traffic as being on a road trip with your wittiest, funniest, most intelligent friends. Podcasts are the only reason why, in a road packed bumper-to-bumper with angry drivers, I'm now one of the few who you see laughing. Or crying, depending on the subject. I welcome any emotion other than rage and hopelessness. (Note to self: Get darker window tint.)

Podcasts have been around since the advent of the iPod, and were once thought to be the next big thing. If you've never heard of them (or are my mom), a podcast is basically a radio show that you can listen to on-demand. There are podcasts for every subject imaginable, for every mood, for every person. Here are the ones that I personally enjoy:

I'd never heard about The Academy of Achievement until I chanced upon this podcast a month ago. Established in 1961, this non-profit organization exists to honor and celebrate the greats of the previous generation—think Oprah Winfrey, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Tony Faddell—and allow the younger generation to learn from them. The treasury of knowledge and experience that was once only available to the privileged invitees at the academy's annual banquet has now been digested, reformatted, and made public through the academy's podcast, named What It Takes. I've just started listening to these hour-long broadcasts, but my current favorite is the program about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. What an extraordinary human!

The Dinner Party Download (Listen via browser)

Do you love trivia as much as I do? This podcast will arm you with some fun facts and stories "designed to help you dazzle your friends at this weekend's get-together." Sit at the table with some interesting strangers (a recent episode featured Saturday Night Live's Seth Meyers) who can lift your mood. Great for when lighter fare is needed for a particularly enraging evening commute.

If you're not already listening to the Moth, do yourself a favor and subscribe to the feed now. The Moth organization encourages people to share their stories, and helps those who have stories craft them for maximum audience engagement and appeal. The podcast started in 2008, but it also features stories that go back to Moth live sessions from 1997 onwards. This podcast really awakens you to the beauty of the human experience, from parenthood to prison life to the prison you feel you're in when you feel like your body is not your own, or you're trapped in a relationship with a person you no longer recognize. Hearing from so many different individuals also helps take you out of the prison on wheels you're trapped in for the next hour or so (and might even make you a little more gracious to the driver next to you—who knows what he's been going through).
The Life Enthusiast Tip: If you're worried about data limits or don't have 3G, you can download them over a WI-FI connection to listen to later, offline. Load up! I like to check Waze before I leave to see what my drive will be like (plus at least 30 minutes) and to see how many episodes I'll need.
I've scarcely scratched the surface of what's out there! I'd love to hear what you listen to so I can add them to my queue. I have many more hours of commuting ahead of me, so I'll need them. Do share!

P.S. Cup of Jo has a pretty excellent list, too.