“Did I see you on Loucks last week?” “Is something wrong with your car?” “Do you need a ride?”

After living in walking meccas for the better part of the last decade, I am a walker. When I moved back to Sheridan in the summer of 2018, my driver’s license had been long expired. When I legally could be behind the wheel again, I vowed only to drive when it would take more than 30 minutes to walk somewhere (barring illness, dangerous weather and complicated logistics). Of course, I’ve broken that vow, but it has been a helpful rule of thumb.

And I love it. Beyond the proven health benefits, walking connects me to the streets of my town. I have time to reflect. On the coldest winter days, I breathe in the sunlight and fresh — albeit frozen — air. (As I’ve written in these pages before, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.)

It must be said: I’m lucky. My commute is only a 15-minute stroll. I know not everyone can swing a walk: They have errands to run, kids to wrangle and more miles to cover. But for me, my winter commute ends up being the same length whether walking or driving, considering the time it takes to scrape the windows and warm up the car. (Sorry, environment.) I would much rather spend that time moving outside.

But occasionally, these joys of walking are hard to remember. On days that are especially cold and windy, when lethargy strikes or I don’t want to be alone with my thoughts, I am tempted to hop in the car.

When that happens, I turn to podcasts.

Podcasts are pre-recorded audio shows covering anything you can imagine: politics, literature, comedy, true crime and beyond. While some critics say the golden age of podcasts has passed, I disagree. If anything, the craze is just hitting Wyoming.

I have been impressed by regional podcasts, such as Women in Wyoming, featuring interviews by Lindsay Linton Buk; Wyld West with Sheridan’s own Shawn Parker and Justin Stroup; and Blazing Trails by professional rodeo cowboy Devan Reilly.

If you are new to podcasts,* I recommend my longtime favorites: This American Life, a radio program with weekly themed episodes; Radiolab, a playful science show; and The Moth, which airs people sharing true stories told live without notes. (Honorable mention: Check out 2 Dope Queens, a comedy show that is no longer airing but made me laugh out loud multiple times in a quiet but packed subway car.)

Recently, my queue has included Dolly Parton’s America, an excellent nine-episode series that reveals how the country-western star and businesswoman unites our divided nation; On the Media, which reveals how the media shapes our worldview (and perhaps should be required listening today); and The Paris Review, “the best literature you can put in your ears.”

And there are thousands more to fit any interest.

You can listen to podcasts when you are at the gym, getting ready for work, walking, driving, folding laundry or just lounging. They can be addictive, so I try to limit how often I listen. As my dad says, we do not need to be entertained all the time. The mind should be encouraged to wander. But if popping on headphones can help maintain healthy habits — while broadening horizons — go for it.

And who knows? One day, a podcast from your hometown newspaper may appear in your queue.

 

*If you are brand-new to podcasts, visit Google Play or the App Store, and download a free podcast app (e.g., Stitcher, Spotify, Apple Podcasts and more) to your smartphone or tablet. Search for any of the above titles, subscribe and start listening.