How to have a meaningful commute

I work about an hour away from our home. I commute every day. And, I like it.

I’ve been driving this route for about six months now, ever since we moved from a condo 10 minutes from our work to a house one hour away. This move was an attempt to live more affordably and be closer to friends, family and job opportunities. Admittedly the plan was never to stay in my position for long. But, I love my job and I love my home, and after creating intentional habits around driving it became tolerable and even enjoyable.

Carbon Neutral

I realize that commuting an hour is not environmentally friendly. And, I think acknowledging this is an important part of a meaningful commute.

There are steps you can make to offset the carbon emitted on your ride. These efforts include carpooling, taking public transportation when possible, purchasing carbon offsets, and decreasing your footprint in other areas of your daily life. To learn about your carbon footprint, use this EPA calculator.

When I calculated my family’s footprint I found that due to my commute, our transportation carbon footprint is over the national average and that puts us over the national average for overall emissions as well. So, stay tuned for how I address that.

Take in the views

My commute views include interstate highway, large-scale farming operations, and the mountains of Appalachia. I’ve made a point to notice what I can (safety) while I drive. I’ve picked out so many spots that I thought would make great photos. So, on my way home last night I stopped to take just a few.

There is a house that must have also been a store or restaurant. The lower level has the look of store windows. It is beautiful, and I have imagined the life people lead in and around it once upon a time.

There is a milling operation, a large-scale dairy farm (with calves just a few months old) , and of course the Appalachian mountains that grow taller as I approach work and shrink in my rear view mirror as I head home.

Take advantage of silence

I am working on being more comfortable with silence. I try to sit in silence for the first few minutes of my drive and just settle in. I check on my posture, which is horrible, sip my coffee or smoothie and let myself think.

Sometimes my best ideas and inspiration from this time of silence. Sometimes I find myself slipping into auto-pilot mode, just letting myself drive and letting my thoughts grow quiet. Other times I get annoyed, anxious or even lonely so I turn on music or a podcast.

Find something worth listening to

I like news podcasts, technology podcasts, and pop culture/ funny podcasts. But, I always want to learn something. I look at these podcasts as a way to use my time in the car for productivity.

My favorite podcasts are:

  • 1A – “With a name inspired by the First Amendment, 1A explores important issues such as policy, politics, technology, and what connects us across the fissures that divide the country.”
  • The Read – A show that explores pop culture and the experience of people of color in America with lots of humor and insight.
  • Global News Podcast – A summary of world news put out twice daily by the BBC News Service.
  • Oprah Super Soul – Oprah interviewing amazing people and talking about religion, spirituality and being your best self.
  • Embedded – An NPR program that takes an entire season to explore one area of a topic of interest
  • Make Me Smart – Molly Wood and Kai Ryssdal offering a candid discussion on the economy produced by Marketplace
  • Reply All – A show about the internet with two hilarious hosts and amazing original story telling.
  • 99% Invisible – “99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.”

If you get tired of podcasts, listen to your favorite music. I find it therapeutic to sing in the car, and I do it at least once a week.

And, if you’re over it all, call up a friend or family member you haven’t talked with in a while. If you’re like me, sometimes starting a phone call can be intimidating, but it is so worth it. Your life is busy, so use this time when you’re forced to sit down to give valuable relationships the nurturing they deserve.

Make it worth your while

Whatever you do, make the most of your time. For me, the best thing I can do on my commute it to decompress and process. And, these steps help me do that. Don’t let the time go to waste, whether you’re commuting for 20 minutes or two hours a day.