Last Wednesday evening, I had a miraculous commute home from work.
I left work at 4:50pm and crossed the street. There was my bus, stopped at the light, not moving an inch, as if it was just waiting for my arrival.
Then, as soon as I got onto the subway platform, my train pulled right into the station.
I got into the subway car, and yet another rarity. I somehow found an empty seat.
I must have entered the twilight zone or something because there wasn’t a single delay at any of the stops during the entire ride. I didn’t even hear my favourite subway speaker buddy come on and apologize for the delay caused by the fire at so and so station.
I looked at my watch and I was home in 35 minutes.
Those tiny miracles shaved 15 minutes off of my commute.
“Okay universe, I’m not sure what is happening but thank you!”
That was a commute for the books. But my average commute is far from glorious. Usually, there are tons of delays and I’m pressed up so close to the lady beside me that I can smell her takeout dinner (bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers).
According to the Waze, the worst city in the world to commute is Villavicencio, Colombia with a whopping 192.1-minute daily commute. For my fellow Torontonians, we have the honour of having the longest commute times in the province of Ontario (65.6 minutes a day). And the worst part is, the trend is that our commutes are getting longer and longer.
I recently moved to a condo closer to work. Before this, I was spending about 1.25 hours on public transit each way.
Yes, that’s 2.5 hours of daily commuting. The equivalent of 2 rom coms featuring Matthew McConaughey. But way less sexy.
Although the commute can be draining, there are ways to make it easier and, dare I say it, enjoyable.
If you’ve ever felt “commuters-rage” (i.e., given dagger eyes to the “gentleman” who is manspreading beside you), check out my tips on how I survive the daily commuting grind.
Tip #1: Prepping the night before
“Where’s my lunch bag?
Have you seen my wallet?
Where did I leave my black blazer?
Where is my metropass????”
Since I am not a morning person, I try to prep everything the night before.
There’s nothing worse than spending precious minutes in the morning searching frantically for something, especially if it’s first thing Monday morning.
Call me Inspector Gadget because all my items are easily located and within reach.
And I no longer need to dig deep into the depths of the dark hole that is my bag and accidentally pull out a chopped baggie of mouldy carrots when I need to badge in at work.
Tip #2: Tweak your work hours
I used to work 9-5pm every day, like everyone else in the city.
Now that I’ve made the switch to working from just 9-1pm, I get to spend the afternoon watching movies and relaxing at the spa.
I’ve actually made a simple switch to 8:45-4:45 pm, which I know, does not sound like a change at all.
But this small tweak now guarantees me a seat on the subway and more room on the bus.
I’m not the first one to think of this. Countries like Singapore offer free fares for commuters who travel before 7:45 am on weekdays to spread out demand.
See if your work will allow you to start work a bit earlier or later. It could make all the difference.
Tip #3: Switching to a backpack
As with most people, when I got my first “real” job, I switched from a backpack to a gorgeous leather black purse. One that looks big enough to fit a glass Tupperware, snacks, a thermos of coffee, wallet, a book, gym clothes and the list goes on.
But my, oh my, the shoulder pain was real.
I switched back to a backpack about six months ago to help with the pain. It has been seriously life changing.
There has also been one bonus that I was not expecting from the switch:
“Excuse me, miss? I need to see some ID!”
A stern looking cashier asked me this when I had made a quick stop to buy a bottle of wine for a friend’s birthday.
Backpack for the win!
Tip #4: Incorporate physical activity into your commute.
Ever since I got an activity tracker, I’ve become one of those annoying people obsessed with their step count.
“Do you mind if I pace side to side while we talk? I’m way behind on my steps today.”
For this reason, I’ve cut out an extra bus ride on my commute and I walk it instead.
Incorporating some physical activity into the commute makes me feel better if I don’t make it to the gym after work.
Brownie points if you beat Cousin Sally in the family Fitbit Challenge.
If walking isn’t feasible and you’re not terrified of biking like me (a story for another day), you could try biking to work!
Tip #5: Using my time wisely
Your commute can be “me time”. Time to think and be alone (either in the physical sense or just mentally!). You have control over how you view this time.
Want to learn about finance? Listen to a finance podcast.
Want to finally start that book you got for Christmas (2015)? No one’s stopping you.
Whatever it is that you need to do, your commute is your time!
For example, I’ve always loved reading as a child but as an adult, I noticed that I didn’t prioritize it enough. However, now that I’m at a stage in my life when I’m not poring over organic chemistry reactions or memorizing the conjugation of French verbs on the subway, I can use this time to read books that I truly enjoy.
Let’s help each other out by sharing our commuting tips in the comments below!