The Benefits of Commuting

It’s an odd title, particularly from someone who has been bragging about how he gave up commuting 2-3 hours a day for a short walk from home to the office. But 9 months on from that move, with the clear benefits of gaining of an extra couple of hours a day, more time with family and at work, not having to battle with tens of thousands of other drivers on Leeds’ roads, all vying to get where they’re going, and a sense that my footprint on the environment has reduced significantly, there are also some things that I miss about the daily journey to work, that I’ve realised were actually quite valuable.

Little did I know it at the time, but the hour or so commuting to work was a great opportunity for some headspace. It was just the right amount of time to come down from the rush of getting out of the house on time, having time to process any overbearing or stray thoughts and feelings, and then, in the last 15 minutes or so, look forward to the day ahead, ensuring that I arrived at work with a clear, focussed mind and completely ready to go.

Once I’d got through Leeds city centre in the morning, I had the fortune of a rather pleasant drive out to work, first on a nearly empty motorway, and then on some scenic country roads. Around late autumn and early spring, I was treated to some absolutely spectacular sunrises over the Vale of York and I’d usually have the camera in the back of the car ‘just in case’.

The time in the car was a great opportunity to indulge in new music and blast up the radio when my mood and the song were appropriate. I’ve barely listened to music at all since I stopped commuting.

I do miss my ‘me’ time in the mornings and I have had to try to find other ways to create it. It’s an effort now though to choose to find that time – before it was simply a consequence of doing something that was a chore.

I appreciate that not all commutes are the same, and some are incredibly stressful, leaving you arriving in work as a bundle of nerves, but for those out there who do feel a little schadenfreude for actually enjoying some aspects of the commuting ‘chore’ – well, don’t – getting some mandatory 'headspace' is what can help keep you sane in our busy lives.

So, would I go back to commuting to get all the benefits again? Absolutely not – as relatively pleasant as the drive to work could be, the journey home was a different story. I’d always hit Leeds in the middle of rush hour and have to drive from one side to the other, which believe me, is far worse than just trying to 'get out' of the centre. When you finish work, you just want to be home. Like most things in life though (here is the BA lesson!), lots of things perceived as disadvantages can have some valuable benefits too, and lots of things perceived as benefits can have their drawbacks. Just be mindful of making a balanced decision, taking into account everything you’ll gain and everything you’ll lose, so you’re not surprised when you lose something you actually value as a side-effect of improving something else.

The daily "hack"... more photos on  Alamy

The daily "hack"... more photos on Alamy