Emily Hunter is a freelance writer at Million Ways to Save, a financial blog devoted to finding a million ways to save on items from appliances to water. She currently lives with her boyfriend, a kitten, and a bin filled with over 1,000 pens. To contact Emily, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Commutes are hell. When you’re stuck behind the wheel with thousands of ‘close’ grumpy friends, it can seem like that – absolute hell. Not only can the commute cost precious time, but it costs money, sanity, and more. How much is my commute costing me? teaches us that, but here are some sure-fire ways to fight back. In fact, you can make the commute entertaining, educational, and (maybe even) fun.
While you are keeping both hands on the wheel, you can exercise your stomach. Suck in your tummy muscles, hold it for as long as possible, then release, repeating as necessary. Another exercise option is to sit up very straight and do leg lifts, flexing and moving them as best as possible. Of course, keep an eye on the road and make sure that you’re not overexerting yourself with the exercise. You can also use your one handed driving tactics and lift your arm above your head or to the side. This helps desk workers keep the blood flowing.
2. Books on tape
Audiobooks are awesome. While on the long commute, you can listen to a chapter or three of your favorite novel, political diatribe, and more. There are Librivox and Books Should Be Free, offering public domain audio books. For those who adore college lectures, you can pick up an entire library of great lectures (almost every liberal arts subject under the sun) at The Teaching Company (not for free).
Quick! Name 5 National Public Radio hosts without going to their website. NPR offers classical music for much of the day (in most cities), but during the morning and evening commute there are wonderful shows like All Things Considered and Morning Edition. They are thorough about their reporting, and will offer stories that are not generally heard on the standard 30-second-sound-bite mainstream media stations. If you’re commuting at other times, keep an ear out for Fresh Air (with Terry Gross).
The commute is the perfect time for firing up your favorite podcasts. They are generally in a short enough format so that you can hear one on your way to work, and one on your way from work. Get a few podcasts from your favorite people and start listening and catching up on all of the news and information that you might have missed during the week (or during your commuting time). The Library of Congress offers informative podcasts about all manner of subjects.
5. Talk Radio
You can get your share of oddity, political commentary, and sports just by tuning in the AM dial. One of the great things about talk radio is the opportunity to yell back at the radio and at the people who don’t sound rational. You can often score great deals on local events by listening to community talk radio. The commentary is usually more inspired and spirited there, and you run a higher chance of hearing someone whom you personally know. (Marissa’s Note: I wonder if talking to my radio counts as the same thing?)
6. Stop at Odd Shops
For those who have long surface-street commutes, it can feel like you’re traveling through different countries on your way to work. There are plenty of shops and restaurants along the way, each of them wanting your hard-earned money. As someone interested in personal finance and saving money, you have probably already mastered the art of window shopping, so break up the drive a little bit to stop in some of the odd shops along the way. You might find a bead shop, delightful multicultural grocery store, or even a mysterious martial arts studio. Splitting up the drive will (of course) add time to the commute, but it will save you in sanity.
If you have a tiny recorder, take advantage of it by dictating your thoughts, dreams, and ideas. If your muse is anything like mine, it strikes at odd times when you are incredibly underprepared. Set the device on record on the seat next to you and begin talking like you are talking with an old friend. When you get home, you’ll find that you have plenty of blog fodder to use, perhaps snippets of song, and important reminders of your to-do list. You can even make some podcasts for others to listen to on their commutes. (Marissa’s note: I dictate the changes I want to make to my blog, and all my other to-do items)
8. The Poetry Game
Poetry is everywhere, especially when you’re trapped in a car. Play the poetry game by talking about any subject, and see if you are able to make rhymes. Discover how many words end in the ‘tion. Maybe start putting your life’s history in iambic pentameter. This game is best played alone in the car if you want to be completely silly about your rhyme scheme. An alternate to this would be to filk song lyrics – making up new words to already existing tunes (think Weird Al).
9. The Association Game
How is a raven like a writing desk? How is your boss like a three-toed sloth? How is that blue car like the sun? Play the association game by asking yourself how one random object is like another one, then extrapolate. This is a great method for bloggers to get ideas about their writing craft, and it can provide excellent entertainment for your friends once you get home.
Your commute doesn’t have to be hell! Not only can you be productive, but you can learn more about the ways of the world and discover new places. All it takes is a little observation and the willingness to let your brain freely travel with your vehicle.