I will readily admit — the first time I told someone about my habit of watching “YouTube drives,” they stopped listening a minute into the monologue and asked if I was okay.
I am okay. But I’m sometimes better when I’m out for an hour-plus joyride in Norway’s Lofoten Islands. Believe it or not, there is an entire corner of YouTube dedicated to relaxing drives (or strolls) in places like Scandinavia, British Columbia and Japan.
These videos are usually set to binaural beats, or tones known to massage the brain. They induce relaxation, and have been shown to increase “theta activity,” a positive association with cognitive creativity.
More than anything, though, YouTube drives are a visual feast. They depict endless highways and alleyways in all their 4K glory, affording you a rare chance to mentally check out and go along for the ride.
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How We Use “YouTube Drives”
I originally stumbled into this admittedly bizarre online subculture over the holidays. Crank up enough “10 Hour Crackling Fireplace Loop” videos for dinner parties or hunker-down date nights, and your algorithm will start to assume you’re a pretty mellow guy. All of a sudden, “Heavy Thunderstorm in Krabi, Thailand” was at the top of my suggested list.
Over time, I’ve leaned into these videos, which are typically posted by channels like Relaxation Film, or Nomadic Ambience, or Rain Everyday. They have a pretty dedicated following (some have millions of views), and the testimonials are genuine, from people thanking the creators for keeping the content free, to reminiscing on a time they performed the exact same drive, years before.
On one video I watched recently, a user simply wrote: “A lot is going on in my life and I really needed this right now. Thank you for posting and making these beautiful videos. It’s been hard to get a good night of sleep, but tonight I think I’ll be okay.”
The Internet Has Its Moments
In our collective, day-to-day struggle with screen-time and social media addiction, the conventional wisdom is that technology is bad and we need to detox as much as possible. If you want to get your heart rate down, and all your happy metrics trending in the right direction, you should read a book, go for a walk, cook a meal, find zen somewhere green.
All good advice, and all true — to an extent. But the online world is also unavoidable at times. I’ve found that it helps to craft a careful truce with it, by identifying tiny tools here and there that align with a peaceful or inspired routine.
YouTube drives are one of my favorites. They might sound a little silly at first, but surely they aren’t so foreign to you. Have you ever stared mindlessly at a screensaver? Or out the window? Has it helped give you a sense of pause or repose? Bottle that feeling when you can. It’s no silver bullet, but it’s better than nothing. Put it on while you’re working, or reading, or cleaning. Whatever. You’ll learn to know when you need it.
A great place to start: this truck drive through the mountains of Austria.