On Commuting: Before the Big Move

This post was more accurate three weeks ago, when I started writing it, before we moved. At the time, I was commuting every week. Now, I commute a much shorter distance, on a daily basis. So, I guess the info is still relevant. I plan to write a similar post about daily commuting, but we’ll see how that goes.

As of late, I have become a commuter. Yes, one of those baggy-eyed, wrinkly-clothed, suitcase-lugging, I-wanna-give-up-coffee-but-its-the-only-thing-keeping-me-going commuters. Twice a week, I travel roughly 160km for a grand total of 1280km every month, if I’ve figured out the math and geography correctly. When you add that to a 40-hour work week and the 3-5 day stretches I spend away from home, it seems insane that someone would sign up for such a thing.
Now, technically, it is voluntary. But thankfully, it’s only temporary. When Andrea and I decided to move to the Toronto area, I was able to continue working for the same company I’ve been working for since 2006, but it meant that I had to start working in my new district six weeks before our scheduled moving date. It didn’t sound so terrible at the time. I told myself: “It’s only for a little while“, “It’s not that far to travel and I LOVE riding trains“, “This is a great opportunity to get used to the area before we move” and shit like that. I’m not feeling quite the same as I did in the beginning, but I have learned a few things that help make the whole ordeal more pleasant.

Whether you are already a commuter or are planning on becoming one, here are some things that might help make it bearable.

1. Snacks. It’s a great idea to bring snacks with you to keep you going. Healthy snacks are best because, well, they are healthy. Also, commuting takes a lot of energy out of you and taking care of your body will help fend off gross things like germs and illness. Another perk to bringing your own snacks is that you won’t get stuck paying for the over-priced chocolate bars on the snack cart.

2. Rest. You will be tired. No matter what you tell yourself and no matter how long it takes, it will happen. Sleep will need to be had and it will be had whether you like it or not.

3. Drink water. If the snacks and the rest fail and you do end up getting sick, you will be better able to fight off whatever it is you end up catching.

4. If you get sick, JUST STAY HOME. As someone who has spent an insane amount of time on trains, I can tell you with certainty that no one wants to be sitting next to the jerk who keeps coughing and snotting all over the place.

5. Comfort yourself. If you have a special pillow or a teddy bear or something less embarassing than a teddy bear that helps you sleep, travel with it. Even if it is embarassing, you will sleep better for it and you will thank yourself for not having spent endless nights trying to get comfortable in an unfamiliar bed.

6. Get thrifty. Most train companies and other forms of public transit offer some sort of value package or loyalty discount. For example, Via Rail offers Via Preference, which allows you to earn points on each trip. You can then cash in those points for discounts on future trips. Take the time to look into what is available to you – it could save you a chunk of change. And who doesn’t like saving money?

7. Bring entertainment. Sometimes travelling is just boring, no matter how much you love trains. Sometimes, the person sitting next to you is smelly or rude or you just don’t feel like talking to them. In cases like these, you will have to entertain yourself. Bring a book to read or music to listen to or puzzles to puzzle over. Or, if none of those things appeals to you, bring a pillow and sleep through the ride. When you figure out that you’re travelling and catching up on some sleep, you could even consider that multi-tasking. Give yourself a pat on the back.

As you may have noticed, most of my tips are geared toward resting and being comfortable. And that is because your job is probably pretty important to you. Making sure that you get your rest and take care of yourself will help keep you from getting sick and having to book time off. Or worse, having to commute while you’re sick. Yuck.

Just one last tip, before I sign off. When you can, take the time to enjoy the ride. I know it sounds corny, but take in the scenery. Enjoy the sunrise on those early rides or the sunset on those later rides. Your day might just be brighter for it.

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