Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen Talk Road Trips and the American Dream on New Podcast

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to attendees at the second Obama Foundation summit

This week, Spotify and Higher Ground debuted the latest episode of its new podcast, Renegades: Born in the USA, featuring candid conversations between Bruce Springsteen and former president Barack Obama. In this episode, titled Born to Run: The Loss of Innocence, the two men discuss the loss of American innocence in the 1970s, the romance of the open road, and the former president's first trip to the U.S. mainland. They also ditch the president's secret service detail for a joyride in a vintage Corvette.

"So, for me, part of the essential aspect of being an American is getting out of where you are," Obama says early on in the episode, reminiscing on how he felt the call to travel and hit the open road, while also realizing that the roads could only take him so far while living on an island.

He goes on to describe the first time that his mother and grandmother traveled to the mainland with him and his younger sister, who was only two years old at the time (Obama was about 11). They started the trip in Seattle, where his mother grew up, before hopping on a Greyhound bus to San Francisco and L.A., and then catching a train to Arizona. The journey continued on to Kansas City, then Chicago. Eventually, the family rented a car and made their way to Yellowstone National Park.

Recalling how he felt witnessing how vast the U.S. mainland truly was, Obama says there were "just miles of corn, or miles of desert, or miles of forest, or miles of mountains." He remembers thinking, "'Man, imagine where you can go. You can go anywhere, and by implication, you can do anything and be anybody.'"

Reflecting on the pros and cons of the road, Obama says, "You get on the road, and then at a certain point what you realize is that, yes, you can remake yourself. Yes, you can find yourself. But at the end of the day, you still have this longing for home and a place. And the tension of America is this sense that we want to remake ourselves and reinvent ourselves and be free, but we also want a neighborhood, and there's a loneliness to the road."

Springsteen and Obama also discuss masculinity and male icons of their formative years, the turmoil of the 1970s, and the Vietnam War, along with iconic moments like the musician remembering where he was performing when the moon landing occurred.

To listen to the full conversation, as well as other episodes of Renegades: Born in the USA, head to Spotify.

Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but she's always on the lookout for her next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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