Sometimes I divide people up into just two categories: those who live close to their work and do little to no commuting, and those who have to commute.
Way too often in life, I have fallen in the latter category. At its worst, my commute has been 33 miles each way. At its best, it was a walk down a hill (and up on the way home).
Since moving back to California, I was lucky enough to live just 5 miles from a couple of different project offices, and with my new job, I live 18 miles from my office. An 18-mile commute is not the end of the world for me: I know it’s popular to lament how gray and dull it is to get in your car and drive to work everyday, but frankly, I love my work and I love where I live, and the two happen to be 18 miles apart. I simply cannot zipline across 18 miles of Southern California suburbs, and so I make the best of my commute. Here are a few tips that have helped me enjoy the ride:
I have made a few great friends through carpooling to work. There’s nothing like a car ride to make people open up to each other- and luckily that’s always been a good thing. Carpooling is tricky since you don’t always know when you need to stay late, and there have been times when I have walked out to the parking lot for lunch only to remember I didn’t drive that day-but the benefits are immense. You spend less on gas or share the cost, you make the drive interesting, and you reduce your carbon footprint. Win/win/win.
2. Borrow Books on Tape from the Library.
Here are the books I have “read” on tape: Brideshead Revisited (an all-time favorite), A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I’ve also got “Learning Chinese” although I will admit that I can only do a few lessons at a time since Chinese requires a lot of mental effort on my part.
3. Download an online course or series.
If you don’t feel like listening to one book, try a course, from MIT OpenCourseware or other free platforms, and download the lectures for listening on your drive.
4. Beat the morning rush.
If you’re lucky enough to have a gym on-site or on your way to the office, try getting up early to work out before work. You can avoid the morning traffic and get your heart pumping. I admit that I used to think this was impossible because everyone knows the best sleep is achieved from 5:45 to 6:30 in the morning. But after a couple weeks of morning workouts, I now love the morning routine. It’s great knowing my workout is done and going home in the evening without feeling like I have to exercise and can just take the dogs for a long walk.
5. Get a wireless headset and make your daily calls.
I love my Bluetooth, even if it makes me feel like a cheesy mortgage broker sometimes. I can make all my calls on the drive home, some obligatory and some to just catch up with friends and family.
If you can take public transportation or ride a vanpool, even better. These options also allow you to catch up on emails, read or listen to music. I like the transition period from home to work, and while short commutes are better, there are always to make a longer commute more enjoyable and sustainable.