Since I’ve now been commuting to and from uni for a semester and 1/3 (not that I’m counting), I have a few pearls of wisdom for those of you who are either looking to improve your journey, or are considering trying commuting for the first time.
My journey takes me just over an hour to get there and the same to get home (not including the time it takes to get to and from the station, either by foot or by car). That amounts up to a fairly large portion of my day, so when I first started I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope. However, a few months down the line, my commutes are some of my favourite parts of the day (sad, but true) and so I want to help all you fellow travelers with a few easy tips to improve your productivity and prevent losing momentum on your journey.
- Get the bus. I know, it’s tempting to jump in the car and drive. In theory, it’s cheaper and it’s easier. However, getting the bus gives you a whole new world of possibilities. You now have a free hour where you can work, relax or get some small daily tasks out of the way. For example, you could spend that time to check your emails, return a few phone calls, plan your to-do list. Or, you could be getting through some of your course reading (providing you don’t get car sick). My top tip for getting the bus is to prepare for the worst. I always get the bus before the bus I need. For example, if I have a lecture at noon, and there’s a bus that’ll have me there by 11:45 and one for 11:15, I always get the one for 11:15. That way, if the bus is full, no worries, if the bus is late, no stress, or (worst of all) if the bus breaks down, I have a little bit of buffer time before my day is completely shot to hell. This technique takes a heap of stress out of commuting and gives me peace of mind. (Not to mention the fact that taking the bus means you don’t have to park – an activity I avoid wherever possible)
- Check the weather in the morning, just before you leave. I just use the weather app on my iPhone. That way, if the sky is due to be clear, I’ll bring my sunnies. If the temperature is due to drop, I’ll pack a pair of gloves. This way, you don’t end up carrying equipment for every type of weather imaginable. Note to self: even if it’s only a 10% chance of rain, I’d bring your brolly – better safe than sorry.
- Pack your bag like a pro. Speaking of packing, commuting is a delicate balance between bringing everything you need and not as much to break your back. Here are a few ideas to lighten your load:
- Bring your papers in a plastic folder or document wallet rather than a file, that way you only bring the stuff you really need and you don’t end up lugging around a kilogram of unneeded paperwork.
- Invest in a portable phone charger – especially if you have longer days.
- Have a small make-up bag for all your ‘just in case’ items (plasters, lip balm, a tampon or 2). If it doesn’t fit in the bag, it doesn’t come.
- Ditch the headphones. I used to listen to music on the bus, but I’ve found it much more productive to get out my laptop and reread lecture slides, or do some reading, or write an assignment, or even just listen to an audiobook. Filling that time with productive activities rather than filler activities will change your commute for the better and will give you extra time in the evenings to do the things you want to do.
- In bus wifi – great for assignments and notes. Downloading your lecture notes, uploading assignments, check your emails… whatever! Just take advantage if you have it! This will give you a whole load of new time in your day that you didn’t know you had, and will allow you to work while the sound of your lecturer is still fresh in your head. I know it’s hard, but stay away from Facebook if you can!
- Walk to the bus/train station – it’s great exercise. I’ve always found that sitting on a bus for an hour makes me feel super groggy and lethargic. By walking from the station to my uni (a journey that takes around 10 minutes), I get back into the right mindset, get woken up, and kick my pedometer into gear! What’s not to love?
- Get good shoes -your feet will thank you. I’m not saying you need shape ups or high-end trainers, but a comfortable pair of shoes with some decent support will do wonders for your mood. I bought a pair of boots in October time and have worn them every day at uni since – they’re my life saver. No sore arches, no cracked heels, no toe cramps, or wet feet if you have to walk in the rain – definitely worth a small investment.
- Bring a snack, healthy if possible. Personally, I shy away from fruit for a number of reasons (it’s large, it’s heavy, it could leak, it could get crushed…), instead, I’m a big fan of the cereal bar. Throwing a couple of bars into the front of your bag in the morning will save you a fortune in desperate Starbucks runs, and will prevent cannibalism halfway through your journey. If you do opt for cereal bars, remember to bring some water, those things are nasty by themselves.
- Make sure you’re getting the cheapest ticket. I know this sounds obvious, but I’d been commuting for around 6 weeks before my bus driver finally admitted I could be getting a different ticket that was £3 cheaper! Do your research or ask at the depot – it’ll be worth the savings (I only wish I could get that £27 back)!
- Layer up. Buses can be cold, but lecture theaters can be large saunas. When I head up to uni, I rarely travel with less than 3 layers (4/5 if it’s really chilly). That way, I can do a Goldilocks and get the temperature just right. When you’re putting on your pieces, make sure they’re easy to get off again while you’re walking. Coats/hoodies with zips are great (rather than something you have to pull over your head) and scarves are the best. In the winter, an extra camisole under your top is also a safe bet.
I feel like I just threw a lot of information at you all, so I apologise if it was hard to follow – hopefully it all made sense! If you are considering commuting, or if you’ve been doing it for a long time, good luck – I know you can handle it! Commuters unite and share your own tips in the comments, I’m always looking for ways to improve my own journeys!