The Pros and Cons of Life as a Commuter

Yes, there are pros…

There’s nothing quite like the open road. Windows down, radio up and nothing but long stretches of striped asphalt ahead of you. You can go anywhere.

But there is something like a jam-packed freeway in rush hour — that something is hell.

For some, commuting is 30 minutes, others it’s an hour. For a few of us, commuting can be upwards of two hours or more — one way.

For a year and a half I commuted two and a half hours to and from work, totaling five hours a day in my car, on the road, in traffic, 25 hours a week.

Understand, I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t have to. I imagine that’s the case for most commuters. After college, I moved back home with my parents to our small desert town, but my job was in the metro area where I went to school. To save money on rent and bills, I decided commuting was a viable option.

But what I saved in money, I paid for in sanity, in time and in car repairs. Commuting as far as I did for as long as I did took it’s toll, but surprisingly there were some positives that came out of it, too.

Here are the pros and cons of commuting.

Waking up early

Con: Every morning, Monday through Friday, I woke up at 4:20 a.m., got ready for work and made breakfast to go. I left my house no later than 4:50 a.m. every morning to get to work by 7:30 a.m. I usually made it to work by 7 a.m., but found if I left any later than 4:50 a.m. I would end up late.

Most commuters have to wake up extra early to make up for the distance. This cuts into some much needed sleep during the week.

Pro: Before 5 a.m. there’s no one on the road. As I mentioned before, there’s nothing like the open road. Watching the sunrise every morning was always a treat.

While you might miss out on some sleep, getting a quiet road almost entirely to yourself is a great way to prepare for the day.

Basically living in your car

Con: You basically live in your car. I’m not sure this needs much more of an explanation, but let me explain anyway. I spent five hours every weekday in my car (sometimes more if traffic was particularly bad, or I took any kind of detour). That’s more than half a full work day and more than half the recommended amount of sleep you should be getting every night.

Spending so much time on the road left little to no time for friends, family or other activities or hobbies.

I typically got off work at 4:30 p.m. and wouldn’t get home until 7 or 7:30 p.m. This gave me enough time to eat dinner and shower before heading off to bed by 9:30 p.m. to get a full night’s rest.

Pro: Because you’re basically living in your car — and you’re probably alone (otherwise you’d be in the carpool lane and wouldn’t be spending so much time in your car) — you have a ton of time to think.

Some people might consider this a con, but for me having time to think helped me work through problems, brainstorm ideas for work and even plan trips or hang outs with friends. We’re often so distracted with everyday tasks, or social media that we don’t have time to just take a few minutes to clear our heads. Driving gives you plenty of time for that.

Being on the road

Con: Sitting for so long in your car really does a number on your body. Not only did I put on some weight, because I was barely active the year and a half I was commuting, but my back hurt all the time, and I had headaches and other body aches constantly.

Our bodies aren’t made to sit for 13 hours a day. I tried taking walks during my breaks at work, but this still wasn’t enough to combat a 5+ hour commute.

Pro: While commuting was a killer on my body, it did help me get to know the roads and surrounding cities better.

Before commuting I had a general idea about how to get from one place to another in Southern California, but without GPS, I was lost. Now, I know two or three alternate routes to get home and have a better sense of the area I grew up in.

Media

Con: I knew every song on the radio; good and bad. Mostly bad.

Pro: I discovered and had time to listen to so many amazing podcasts! If you’re a history buff like I am, try Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History or The Washington Post’s Presidential. If you’re into horror or suspense, take a listen to The Black Tapes or Unexplained. News or science? Try NPR’s Embedded or Scientific America’s 60-Second Science. I could go on, but part of the fun is discovering your own podcasts and interests — and there’s no shortage of great podcasts out there right now.

Your car

Commuting is a hard life, but more than any of the pros and cons mentioned above, the most important to consider are the ones affecting your car.

Con: The biggest con of them all is the toll it takes on your motor vehicle. In the year and a half I was commuting, I had to replace my windshield twice, replace my transmission, get all new tires, I had countless oil changes, new brakes, and seemingly endless maintenance issues. Who knows, I might have actually saved money if I just paid rent and avoided the commute.

Pro: But it wasn’t all bad. Spending time in your car really makes you appreciate its usefulness, and how difficult life would be without it.

But for now, I’m happy to be spending less time in my car and more time enjoying life with my new 10 minute commute.

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