The question I get asked the most is, “How do you handle commuting to class every day?”
A bit of background: I live 50+ miles away from my college and I’m enrolled as a full-time student. What this means is that I had two choices: live in Boston or commute. Boston is one of the cities with the biggest living expenses in the United States. In an economic study, it was determined that a person must make $17/hr at a full-time job MINIMUM in order to afford a basic-living apartment in Boston. I definitely couldn’t meet that while attending college full-time. I tried to balance a couple small jobs by only working weekends, but it gave me no time to be creative or finish assignments, so I had to make an executive decision to live solely off of scholarship money. I don’t recommend this for everyone. If you can balance homework, a job, and college classes, then absolutely go for it! I wanted to focus on my studies and I was lucky enough to have a sustainable amount of money to go off of.
Now, to the advice stuff! If you’re like me, you’re going to be spending up to 5 hours in the car per day. It doesn’t seem like much, but it can start making you go crazy. You’re stuck with your own thoughts and nowhere to escape to, especially if there’s traffic. So what can you do? Here’s what I do when I’m stuck in traffic or have a long drive ahead of me.
It’s EXTREMELY important that you remember to bring the same essentials that you would need for a road trip. It may sound obvious, but forgetting a snack or the AUX cord to your car can seriously ruin your day. I always make sure I have the following with me: a water bottle, a couple snacks, a phone charger, chapstick, ibuprofen, a backup water to leave in the car, sunglasses, and my phone. It’s easy to forget these important items when you have to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn, so pack your bag the night before you leave with this list in mind.
Find a Podcast or Audiobook
The first year I commuted, I thought I’d be fine just listening to music. But, even for an avid music lover like me, listening to music first thing in the morning can get repetitive and start your day wrong. It’s relaxing to listen to a podcast or an audiobook because it can take your mind off of the driving ahead of you. Podcasts through iTunes are free and there are thousands to choose from. Some of my favorites are Off Topic, Heroes & Halfwits, Serial, Song Exploder, and Coffee with Chrachel. Podcasts make it feel like there’s someone else in the car with you and that makes the ride a little bit easier. I personally haven’t tried audiobooks with my commute, but that’s because I have had a lot of podcasts to catch up on, but the idea is similar. Find a book and dive in, it’ll make the time fly!
Always Be Cautious
One thing I learned the hard way is that commuting means there will be good drivers AND bad drivers. I average 1-2 accidents a year and not one has been my fault. There’s nothing you can do to prevent this, but being prepared will make any situation easier. Always have your car/s documentation on you, as well as your license and a smile. Remember, if it’s not your fault, you’ll most likely get insurance money. Getting money makes a good day.
Prepare Yourself Financially
One common misconception is that commuting is cheap. Whether you’re driving or taking the train, there are little costs that add up. Figure out how much it’ll cost you monthly to commute and see how much it costs to park at your school/work. If you’re going to college in the city, it’ll be pricey but remember that you could be spending $2k a month on a studio apartment. TIP: If you’re taking the train, avoid buying tickets before boarding the train. When the train gets too full, staff won’t check tickets and you can get a free ride.
You may want to lose your mind once you start, but commuting isn’t that bad. Just remember, there’s thousands of other people that have to do it, too. You’re not alone!