How to Survive a Long Commute

A long commute can really drain you.  If your commute is over an hour each way, you are losing precious time. Combine that with the amount of gas you are spending each week, and it can really weaken a young professional.

I had a difficult decision when I got offered my first job.  The office location was over an hour away from my house, and I would have to take toll roads every day.  However, this was the only offer I had on the table, and I needed to start earning money.  I decided to take the job regardless of the long commute.  Please note this was about 10 years ago! I stayed with that job for a little over a year and this is how I survived:

Music

I listened to thousands and thousands of songs on my iPod.  I had an FM transmitter so that I could play my iPod in my car, it also charged my iPod while I drove.  Every couple of months, I would add new music to my iPod.  The benefit of a long commute is that you have a big chunk of uninterrupted time to yourself, which is perfect for listening to an entire album.  Sometimes, I even anticipated my commute so that I could listen to a new album I just got.

Radio

Although I did not listen to the radio nearly as much as my iPod, I still enjoyed it from time to time.  I was able to follow two radio shows in the morning, and two in the evening.  It feels nice to consistently follow a radio program, and you build a connection with the broadcaster.   You listen to them, they keep you entertained, and you form your own opinions about them.  You can also use the radio to listen to music, of course.  However, I find most stations repeat the same songs and the advertisements can be annoying.

Audiobooks

Audiobooks are a completely different form of auditory entertainment.  If you have never listened to an audiobook on your commute, I highly recommend it.  Not to say that it is superior to music, but I think it stimulates a different part of your mind.  There are so many categories of audiobooks available, you can effectively turn your car into a mobile library.  I enjoy self help books, fiction, and am interested in any book that has been rated highly.

My favorite experience with an audiobook was listening to War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (Read by Alexander Scourby).  I had never read War and Peace, but I decided to look into it when I read that it was “regarded as one of the most important works of world literature” (Wikipedia).  I don’t think I would have spent the time to read it in text version but this unabridged version of War and Peace had me hooked!  I recommend it to anyone interested in a life-changing book.  I could not stop listening to it, I would sometimes finish chapters of the book at my job.

Gas Expenses

Gas expenses take a toll on your bottom line.  I reduced them by getting a cash back credit card.  I would average about $250/month in gas so the cash back card helped me a lot.

Tolls

Tolls also hurt your paycheck.  I used to take a toll road and would spend $5.50 a day.  It may not sound like a lot but it adds up.  At 5x a week and 52 weeks, it comes to $1430 a year.  This will hurt you if you just got out of college and aren’t making a lot of money.  You should try to take an alternate route or wake up earlier to beat traffic on the non-toll roads.

The commute to my job irritated me sometimes, but I never let it get to me.  If you have a long commute, you should consider moving closer or change your jobs.   Ultimately, I changed my job after a year and I would not have wanted to continue the commute for more than 3 years.  However, I used the strategies above to fight the driving blues and I would consider a long commute later in life.

Readers, have you ever had a long commute?  How long is your commute and how do you do it (train, car, bus)?  How did you manage to pass the time?