Help me get the most out of my commute
August 31, 2012 1:19 AM   Subscribe

My commute is now me driving alone - what can I do to stay "busy" in the car?

Since high school, my commute has involved mass transit, which means I've been able to indulge in some version of reading + listening to music for the past, oh, 15 years. Now, my commute is me, alone, in a car, and I'm feeling like the time is essentially wasted. 45 mins, twice a day that i feel I'm not getting much out of.

Help me, please!
posted by lieberschnitzel to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
The classic answer to this is audiobooks.

I also suggest podcasts, and there are lots of AskMes to help you find ones that might interest you.
posted by Mizu at 1:29 AM on August 31, 2012 [8 favorites]

Big fan of Nerdist podcasts, they have a big network that has lots of comedy, but also 'casts on writing, productivity, music, and more. There are a million podcasts, many of which will take you through a round-trip.

Audiobooks are the other obvious solution.
posted by 6 of 1 at 2:18 AM on August 31, 2012

Yes, good listening material is the go-to answer this type of question. Also check out iTunesU where you can find university lectures.

When you get bored of listening all the time, you can make phone calls. Get a head set if you don't have one already, and call those people you haven't talked to in a while. This is something that should be done in moderation.
posted by hoca efendi at 2:45 AM on August 31, 2012

Oh yes, I drive two hours total each day for my commute and I love, love, love I pick meaty novels that are at least 30 hours long and it has turned my commute time into "me" time. In general, it's some of the only time I actually have alone, and a fun book I can really get into makes my commute an actual pleasure.

I also have a friend in Oregon who I catch up with one afternoon a week (hands free of course).
posted by Kimberly at 4:13 AM on August 31, 2012

ive had an hour commute each way for about three years now. two things have saved me:

- XM or Sirius radio. I cannot live without this. Normal radio with commercials drives me bat shit crazy.

- a decent bluetooth headset. I typically spend my drive home on the phone catching up with my friends and family. Holding a phone up to my ear that long with fry your brain. this is a great opportunity to stay close to the people you care about.
posted by deeman at 4:15 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I drive by myself, I sing. If/when I start commuting by car, I'll use the time to work on my singing and speaking voice. It's the one place practically no one can hear you!
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:17 AM on August 31, 2012

I'm with everyone on the audiobooks. When I drove to work everyday (there was a time when I would work for over 100 days consecutively) and it made the drive go quickly. I was so addicted that I even listened to children's books. I think it made me read books to my daughter in an interesting way. I make voices for each character. Anyway, audiobooks, podcasts, even a good talk radio program!
posted by Yellow at 4:20 AM on August 31, 2012

Sometimes I borrow a car from my parents when they're travelling, and I always rock the audio books. Audible and possibly your local library are the ways to go for starters. Also, Audible will sponsor the heck out of various podcasts (mainly literate ones, anything that's there to read a story-- Escape Pod and its offshoots comes to mind) so with very little searching you should find a free-30-days (new accounts) coupon code. Heck, the might just offer it on their front page, but if you can make the effort to encourage their sponsorship of a good podcast...

Nerdist podcast is what I listen to when walking/busing. I only listen to the core podcast, because it's 3 hours/week, and that's all I can take in addition to the rest of my podcast load. My sampling of the rest of the network was a good experience, though, so I can second both of 6 of 1's suggestions. 6 of 1's handle identifies that person as a fan of "The Prisoner," and thus a person of sophisticated and refined taste.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:06 AM on August 31, 2012

Learn a language! My husband and I spend our (separate) commute time with language CDs before we travel.
posted by ersatzkat at 5:07 AM on August 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

Definitely podcasts...they make time alone in the car enjoyable.
posted by mmascolino at 6:07 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I learned to speak Japanese, initially by listening to Pimsleur's audio courses as I drove to and from work each day. Each lesson was 30 minutes, my drive was slightly longer. Perfect!
posted by Vorteks at 6:40 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I sing along to songs in my car a lot, it's really fun and there's not a lot of times where I feel comfortable doing it. Also if you're interested in karaoke at all, it's really helpful to have a set of songs you want to learn on an audio player or CD so that you can practice them in your car. Also participate in the next MeFi mixtape swap and listen to the mixes you get in your car.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:15 AM on August 31, 2012

I don't own a car, but I've been doing Pimsleur Russian lessons while walking/running.
posted by Cygnet at 7:21 AM on August 31, 2012

Podcasts are my husbands go to. Libraries can have a lot of books on tape/CD depending on the library and your cars sound system I guess.

Or you can do what I do which is listen NPR or talk radio and yell at everyone that says something I think is stupid, and get funny looks at traffic lights. NPR also has lots of Podcasts for weekend shows I like to listen to during the week which are funny.
posted by wwax at 7:32 AM on August 31, 2012

If you have a smartphone, there's also lots of great free streaming internet radio options. I have a 45 minute commute each way 4 days a week, and variously listen to shoutcast stations with TuneIn, or various stations on Pandora and Spotify
on my Android phone. Headphone cord/aux input + a car charger = unlimited music on my drive.

As far as podcasts go, Escape Pod has some great sci-fi short stories (most are 30-60 mins), and there's a nice mix of sci-fi, fantasy and horror on the sadly no longer updated Transmissions from Beyond podcast.
posted by reptile at 7:47 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to spend 2-4 hours a day in the car commuting and working, and I listened to music, but it was boring. When I started getting books on tape out of the library, it made the drive so much more enjoyable. If traffic was bad and it took 15 minutes longer than usual, well, so much the better. It helped that the libraries where I lived and worked (DC, Montgomery County, MD, and Albany, NY) had many branches and awesome audio collections. Now my daily commute is 20 minutes one-way, and I don't get to 'read' as much.
And if you want to learn/improve a language, Pimsleur is perfect for driving alone in the car.
posted by MtDewd at 7:51 AM on August 31, 2012

I actually found that spending the time listening to classical music was the best way to spend my commute. Especially on the way home, it allowed me to do some thinking, have some peace and quiet, and decompress a bit before getting home. I really did look forward to those hours when my life was so busy I didn't get much time to just reflect any other time.

Of course now, I spend my commute listening to the BBC world service. It is the only way I keep reasonably current on global events.
posted by gilsonal at 8:22 AM on August 31, 2012

I'm with deeman; get yourself the SiriusXM roadie and start listening to commercial free everything. In addition to music, narrated books, old time radio shows, and music from the movies, they've got the NPR, the MSNBC, the BBC etc, and my favorites, the O&A and the R&F. Can't live without it.
posted by henry scobie at 9:07 AM on August 31, 2012

Your local library might also have downloadable audio books to lend, in addition to the traditional book on CD format.
posted by carolinecrane at 11:24 AM on August 31, 2012

I fortunately don't commute very often right now, but it takes me about an hour to drive to see my parents, and I hate long drives! I am enjoying the world of podcasts. I particularly like Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me because they're funny but also (sorta) informative, and I keep my brain active trying to play the games myself. I also have listened to a couple of episodes of WTF - I am not crazy about the host but he has some good guests.

Also, of course, audiobooks. Although a lot of the enjoyment of audiobooks depends on the reader. My fiance and I tried to listen to Packing for Mars on a cross-country trip, but it weirded us out listening to a book written in the first person but not read by the author. Conversely, David Sedaris's audiobooks are hilarious and I highly recommend them. Oh also on that trip we listened to a couple of comedy recordings and those were fun.
posted by radioamy at 2:12 PM on August 31, 2012

One time I put the entire run of "Friends" and "Seinfeld" on my PSP (a few episodes at a time) and listened to them while I drove. Since I knew each character's voice, I didn't really need to see anything to enjoy them.
posted by tacodave at 2:43 PM on August 31, 2012

I second XM or Sirius radio. I don't own a car, or have a driving commute, but my sister and her husband do, and they love it.

Audiobooks, of course, but finding the right type for you can take some time via trial and error. Many books probably wouldn't work.

The Great Courses lectures could give you a real education in that "down time."

In that same expanding-your-horizons vein, try the TED talks podcasts.

The only regular podcast I have consistently listened to and enjoyed in recent months is HOW DID THIS GET MADE? about mindbogglingly bad movies. I really love two of the comedy improvisers who are mainstays on the show (Paul Scheer & Jason Mantzoukas), and they always make me laugh. But I freely admit it might not be to everyone's taste.
posted by diabolik at 7:28 PM on August 31, 2012

Back when I was driving a lot, my harmonica skills saw a lot of improvement.
posted by doctord at 4:11 PM on September 6, 2012

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