A Commuter’s Guide to London – How to Thrive, Not Just Survive

As someone who commutes an hour to uni whenever I have class and has spent two years travelling into the City during peak rush hour for work, I’ve picked up a thing or two about fine-tuning my journeys. I know there are plenty of you who do the same on a daily basis, and for those of you who are new to London, with Christmas on the way, public transport is about to get a little bit more rammed, which can be daunting. Last minute shopping, Christmas parties and heading home for Christmas can make your commute more hellish than ever before.

But it doesn’t have to be.

For me, the commute is a peaceful opportunity to mentally get ready for the day, make to-do lists, catch up on my favourite TV shows, read (both last minute uni reading or for fun) or, my personal favourite, nap. Here I thought I’d share with you some of my top tips for making the most of your commute and maybe even learning to love it eventually.

Chill out

It’s all about your mindset. If you start to see your commute as a positive experience, that’s exactly what it’ll become. Sure, some journeys will be worse than usual. You’ll be squashed into spaces you didn’t think possible, but then you’ll walk out of the other side knowing you can survive it. It’s not easy, but us Londoners are made of strong stuff and it’s a great reminder of what we can endure. As someone with anxiety, being late has always been daunting. It’s taken me years to realise it doesn’t have to be. I’m not saying it’s okay to be late – it totally isn’t. But the chances are, if you get anxious about it, you’re not one of those people who are always guilty of it. Just think, “what is the worst that will happen?” Being late happens to everyone. Relax, because stressing out about it won’t make you get there any quicker.

Invest

For a comfortable commute, you might need to invest in a few essentials. There are some days where I have class in the morning, work at the office in the afternoon and gym in the evening. My backpack has to fit all my books, module packs, a laptop, water and my gym kit. Maybe some food and an umbrella. It’s not easy to find the right one, but it’s worth it once you do. Also, backpacks distribute the weight more evenly, making it better for your back than most types of bags. I use one from Knomo which has the perfect amount of space, but they’re pretty pricey for our student budgets. Having a high-quality pair of headphones is also important, you can create your own little bubble and ignore the world around you (if you like that kind of thing). I never commute without music, it just makes the whole experience more relaxing and means I can get some much-needed shut-eye. Definitely buy a portable charger – Amazon sell them for as little as £10 and they’re a lifesaver. You might want to buy a decent water bottle, but I prefer to have one I can throw away if I suddenly need the extra space.

Photo Credit: Ali Bahcaci

Bring entertainment

There are so many things you can do to make your commute a productive use of your time, and I don’t mean scrolling through social media (or you can, if that’s what makes you happy). If you’ve got a pretty relaxed commute (i.e: you can sit down) then bring a book or do some uni work – it’s a great time saver. If not, apps are your friend. You can have the Kindle app on your phone and read wherever you are, get writing in your Notes (guess where this was written) or download new TV shows to try. Netflix, Amazon Prime, All 4, BBC iPlayer and plenty of others all have shows you can download for the Tube ride – probably best to keep it PG and spoiler-free though, not everyone will appreciate you watching Game of Thrones next to them.

Plan ahead

London transport can be unpredictable. You want to leave with plenty of time in case the worst happens. At the same time, you don’t want to be too early. Planning your journey in advance is key. I find Google Maps to be the best travel planner, but there are plenty out there including City Mapper and Bus Times (TFL’s own app). If you grab an Overground train, bookmark the Live Departures page so you can quickly check your platform before you get there. Knowing where the exits to the platform are and what carriages will be closer can save you a lot of time. Buses are probably the most unpredictable because they depend on traffic. If you’re travelling at school times or rush hour, avoid buses if you can, particularly in central London.

Go alone or socialise

This one is definitely personal preference: you can either get home quickly or socialise along the way. You won’t be able to do both. No matter how quickly you and your friends walk, it still won’t be quicker than commuting alone. If you’re on your own, there’s no stress about whether you can all get on a carriage at a busy platform or leaving someone behind. It’s all entirely up to you. If you’re late, it’s only you that’s late and you’re not responsible for anyone else. Of course, if you travel with someone, the journey may be longer, but it’ll feel shorter as time flies when you’re having fun.

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