While some people in the world can wake up, open their laptop in the living room, and to get to work, most people don’t have that luxury. Instead, they have a commute.
Commutes can come in all shapes and sizes. Some are two long hours in traffic in the Los Angeles area. Some are thirty minutes on the train in Chicago. Some are an hours-long suburb commuter train into Manhattan.
Whatever your pilgrimage to work looks like, it can get to be pretty miserable day after day. So how do you make it more fun? Or at least less miserable?
Stop staring at your phone
When I take the train during rush hour (my daily thirty-minute daily commute before I went freelance), I notice pretty much everyone staying at their phones. There are sometimes stragglers who still love to read a physical book, or those who are napping. But, most are encapsulated with small, lit-up screens.
It can make the commute go faster, I admit. You play the daily crossword, a word game, or scroll through Instagram, and boom! Your stop is being announced over the loudspeaker.
But is this really making your commute better? Just distracting yourself until it ends?
I say, improve your commute by making it more interesting. Enjoy your time commuting instead of just wishing it would end. Pay attention to people--trains are the perfect place to people watch. Or, listen to music and lose yourself to thoughts you’ve been avoiding.
Listen to the news or the radio or a podcast while you watch the world go by. Engaging with your environment will open you up to new experiences, new people, and you’ll learn a heck of a lot more than looking at your friends’ pretty beach pics or gender reveal party videos.
Catch up on those podcasts
There are so many podcasts that are high-quality, interesting, engaging, fun, wonderful, hilarious, amazing (ok sorry, I love podcasts). These gems are being released all the time. Accessible right on your smartphone.
If you’re stuck in traffic for long periods, this is a great way to pass the time and learn a lot while you do it. Or just laugh. Or cry. Feel emotion, people!
If you love true crime stories, there are about a bazillion podcasts solely devoted to them. Try My Favorite Murder. If you want an intriguing love story, try Love and Radio. Looking for sass? WTF with Marc Maron. If you want the news, stream All Things Considered, or listen to it in real time on your car’s radio (I know--I’m getting crazy here).
I remember when I would drive to work everyday, I’d be in such a bad mood that I didn’t want to listen to anything. I’d just sit in silence, brooding that I was awake and that all these other idiots were awake and getting in my way.
But what I forgot to realize is that I can get lost in a podcast or news story. I can learn something while making the drive go faster, and it ends up putting me in a really good mood.
Get a coffee or something
Ok, ok. So sometimes we may not feel like smiling at people early in the morning or listening intently to the news or reading a good book. So why not get your coffee before work and drink it on the train?
I’ve found this to be a nice, relaxing activity. I feel like I’m actually doing something to improve my mood and my fatigue instead of just being bummed about it and hating everyone around me. And, coffee just usually puts me in a good mood.
If coffee isn’t your thing, brew tea to bring with you, or make your favorite smoothie drink. Or, if you feel like getting really weird, bring along some flavored sparkling water.
The bottom line: spruce up your commute however you think you will feel joy rather than hatred. Be creative. Think up strategies in advance, because you probably won’t want to do it in the morning. Especially think of ways you can use your commute to learn something.
Don’t become a robot who goes to work, works, and comes home from work. Make your commute interesting, and your overall day will be improved.
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By Meredith Boe
Meredith Boe is a freelance writer and editor living in Chicago. Aside from contributing to InHerSight with insights about women in the workplace, she regularly writes literary criticism, nature articles, poetry, and creative prose.