What are the benefits of a short commute that aren't readily apparent?
April 27, 2019 7:01 AM   Subscribe

I'm doing it! I've had a long work commute for the past 1.5 years and am finally trading that in for an extremely short one. Aside from the obvious benefits, I'm wondering in what ways I may not have thought of that I'll appreciate it.

I'm excited. I've been commuting over an hour each way on the bus for the past 1.5 years and will soon have a 1.0 mile walk to work. Obviously being able to walk to work is different from even a short commute, but I'm wondering what benefits you saw when making this change, how you used your extra free time, how it improved your quality of life, etc.

To describe my situation, I live in a city that's easy to get by without a car, and I am car free. I also live in my city's most walkable area. But, I commute to a neighboring city on the second-busiest bus route, thus the 60+ min bus ride. In the mornings, it takes just over an hour to get there, but the trip home can be as long as 90 mins. I've been doing this for so long because I liked where I work and the opportunity to get a job close to home with similar pay/benefits/workplace culture just wasn't there. Now I have that opportunity. Things have also gone sour at my job the last few months, so I will also be going to what looks like a job that will make me happier. There are some drawbacks in terms of pay/benefits with the new job, but it's minimal and getting rid of this commute outweighs that in the thinking I did. On my commute now I do things on my phone and have gotten used to the long bus ride, so it's not as torturous as it sounds, but it's not something to volunteer for either.

I think the immediate benefits are obvious. My therapist says this will free up my afternoons more. I also think being able to arrive at home shortly after clocking out will feel amazing. Or go straight from work to an appointment or activity nearby, where as before that wouldn't be able to happen until a few hours after I got off work. My 10-15 minute walk to work will also be very scenic.

As I alluded to in the beginning, I know that even just a 10 minute drive can seem like a long commute compared to being able to walk to work, but for the purposes of this question I am just talking about short commutes in general, but feel free to chime in on your experiences with that too.

I'm sure that I'm going to appreciate this in ways I hadn't thought of, so I'd like your thoughts! Other than the things I've listed, I'm drawing a blank as to what are those things. So, what are the little details of how a short commute made your life better?
posted by signondiego to Grab Bag (42 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You can go home at lunch and let out/play with a puppy. I can't get a dog for this very reason.
posted by raccoon409 at 7:05 AM on April 27, 2019 [18 favorites]

When I was able to walk to work last, it was a really nice way to stay grounded in my community. I would routinely see the same people doing their thing around the hood, just going about their business. It gave a really nice sense of rooted-ness kind of knowing who all was around. Even if I didn't formally meet someone, once we were introduced it was really nice to be like 'oh yeah, I've seen you in the neighborhood!'

Its pretty much the best, and I'm intensely jealous of/happy for you!
posted by furnace.heart at 7:16 AM on April 27, 2019 [15 favorites]

Studies indicate that a short commute is one of the best ways to become healthier and happier.
posted by mono blanco at 7:17 AM on April 27, 2019 [11 favorites]

You’ll be more a part of your neighborhood. People will see you each day, and think oh there’s signondiego. Some of the other walkers and cyclists may wave or smile, you can do the same. You may even make new friends who live nearby that you’d never met before.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:22 AM on April 27, 2019 [5 favorites]

You could combine it with BookCrossing and release a book on your walking route every day (or as often as you feel like).
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:22 AM on April 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

Because I'm not spending my time commuting, I can do things in the morning. One thing I can do is sleep a little longer, but I've also found that I can be productive in the mornings. I've taken some college classes recently, and I find that I get a lot of my studying done in the mornings before work. I'm not taking a class this semester, and I often work out in the morning, which would be a lot harder if my commute were 40 minutes, rather than 10.

It's way easier to make a decent dinner when I get home before I'm starving.

Because I can walk home, I can go out for drinks after work without stressing out about how I'm going to get home.

Honestly, having a short commute is a huge boon to my quality of life.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:26 AM on April 27, 2019 [11 favorites]

YMMV, but I have a hard time getting out of the house again once I've gotten home. Extending the walk home to go exploring or visiting has been my main way to get around that.
posted by trig at 7:30 AM on April 27, 2019 [4 favorites]

You can get an appropriate amount of sleep and still have time for leisure activities. You're getting an entire work day off each week compared to your previous situation.

Things like cooking meals or other daily tasks (or even a new hobby!) may well seem a lot more doable for you with less time wasted commuting, also.
posted by wierdo at 7:36 AM on April 27, 2019 [5 favorites]

You can eat healthier food from your home fridge without having to deal with the nastiness of office kitchens, or even the hassle of pre-making your lunch if you dont want to. And i you have some level flexibility in your job, it's a lot easier to run home to let in the cable guy or whatever vs taking off an entire afternoon. And depending on whats on the route of your walk home, it's a lot easier to just pop into a store on the way home and grab dinner when walking than get off the bus, do your thing, get a new bus, etc.
posted by cgg at 7:53 AM on April 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

You can actually use the ~5:30-7 time block for something meaningful and fulfilling. Yes, relaxing after work is nice, but you could also join a theater company or a pick-up sports league. Or you could take a class at a nearby community college. These are the things I miss SO much having given up my short commute.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 8:06 AM on April 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

For me a shorter commute also meant commuting through an area that had more 'places'. I used to have a long commute that was mostly highway, and therefore I had to at least get off the highway to go to a 'place'. My commute now is local streets with places on them so now I can make stops on the way home that are actually 'on the way'. And so, I'm a lot more likely to combine my commute with other trips!
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:15 AM on April 27, 2019 [5 favorites]

You can support your hyper-local economy! Carrying pet food half a mile is not super terrible. The organic grocery store near your home might be very friendly and stock interesting products. There might be a stationer where you can stock up on silly greeting cards. There might be a sandwich shop you love to stop in at for an early dinner before book club.

You could start a weekly social event in your home. Board game Wednesday’s. Book club once a month. Getting home at 5:30 means you have time to open some bags of chips and find all your wine glass charms before people arrive at 7.

Chores are easier to do in small increments every day instead of long weekend slogs.

You can be available for a close neighbor emergency school pickup if your job is extremely flexible that way.

You can find all the nature in your neighborhood.

You can vary your commute by several blocks in any direction and pick the most interesting route.

You can make field notes if the wildlife on your commute.
posted by bilabial at 8:52 AM on April 27, 2019 [4 favorites]

Being able to pop into work on the weekend is great. I had something vital to do Friday that only took 30 minutes but I forgot to do it. Instead of staying late and screwing up my post-work plans, or rushing on Monday to get it done before my meeting, I just shrugged and decided I’d come in for a bit on Saturday and get it done. Friday was great, Monday will be low-stress, and forgetting something vital became a total non-issue.

Also you never have to worry about forgetting tampons or hair ties again.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:09 AM on April 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

You could have a social life, or even volunteer, or both.
posted by amtho at 9:20 AM on April 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've somewhat recently gone in the opposite direction (easy 5 minute drive to half-hour public transit commute, but I've walked to other jobs in the past) and honestly public transit takes a lot out of me after a day of work. I'm not exhausted when I'm walking to the train station but I'm exhausted when I get home.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:21 AM on April 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

I go between bike commute and public transport, and the money I save not taking the bus - even commuting only 2ish days a week!- is not to be sneezed at.

I’m considerably happier not having to cram onto overcrowded buses, too. Like, really noticeably more mentally healthy, and I have more energy when I get home, even after 35 mins on a bike.
posted by kalimac at 9:26 AM on April 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

My anxiety levels are so different with a sub ten minute commute . There is just not alot that can go wrong between point A and B even in bad weather, when I'm running late, whatever. My job is just right there. And if something did go wrong, it's not like I have to do much to actually get to work.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:27 AM on April 27, 2019 [5 favorites]

Your mindset when getting ready in the morning might be less stressful, because you don’t need to remember to bring everything you need. Forgot your lunch? You can walk home. Meant to pay an important bill today but forgot it? Walk home. Spilled coffee on your shirt? You can go home to change.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:28 AM on April 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

I cook more and more extensively than I ever have before. I don’t love cooking at all but I am not exhausted or starving when I get home so it’s easy to do something simple.

I live too close to work for this to matter, but don’t underestimate the value of being able to take an affordable and quick cab/Lyft home if you need to. I broke a heel once and I was back at work with two functional shoes in about 20 minutes.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:29 AM on April 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Home-based errands don't need to be scheduled around work. Need to let the maintenance guy in? Expecting a bulky package from Amazon? Friend is staying over and you need to hand off keys?

Those go from "Let me ask if I can take an afternoon off" to "I have to step out for twenty minutes, be right back".
posted by galleta monster at 10:12 AM on April 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Congrats! I have a short bus commute and giving up the bus is going to give you a lot more flexibility. Not being beholden to bus schedule timing, means more flexible start and end times to your work day if you need that, without it becoming an exercise in logistics. If you are a few minutes late out the door in the morning, you've not missed a bus making yourself exponentially later, or your not hanging around waiting for one at the end of the day.
posted by coevals at 10:22 AM on April 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have had a short commute since January and it is amazing. One (possibly obvious) thing that I like is that I can run errands on my way home without feeling like "OMG I need to get home ASAP to eat dinner because I'm so hungry" and then being too tired to do anything else the rest of the night, which lets me knock out some chores during the week and frees up weekend time for stuff.
posted by quaking fajita at 10:40 AM on April 27, 2019 [4 favorites]

If you can bicycle, you can make that 1-mile commute into a 5-7 minute trip. That makes it easy to dash home if you have a wardrobe malfunction, or if you forget something important.

My commute is about 10-20 minutes depending on whether I drive or bike. I'm more likely to exercise than if I had a long commute.
posted by brianogilvie at 10:53 AM on April 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

You can zip home, take off all your clothes, get into your own comfy bed, and take a 20-minute nap in the middle of your work day. Then zip back. Spend the rest of the day smiling pityingly at all your coworkers.
posted by Don Pepino at 12:06 PM on April 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

To elaborate on AlexiaSky's answer:

A walking commute is particularly low variance. There is no fear that the train will get a red signal or be rerouted, that the bus will not show up, that the car will break down or get stuck in traffic. If you unexpectedly become unable to walk, well, you'll have problems, but they won't exactly be commuting problems.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 12:38 PM on April 27, 2019 [4 favorites]

It makes shopping much easier, since you can pop into stores on your way home without worrying about parking. I also find that walking to and from work really clears my head - I arrive refreshed and ready to get stuff done, and at he end of the day I leave my work worries behind during the walk home. It's particularly nice when the weather is good and I find pretty things to take pictures of and add to my instagram. And, you'll get less colds and flu when you're not regularly packed into a bus with a lot of people.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:42 PM on April 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Walking the same route every day really puts you in touch with the changing seasons, if you pay attention. You notice a new flower or bud, a new red leaf each day. You notice the first puddles after weeks of ice, or the first flakes that stick.
posted by Ausamor at 1:59 PM on April 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

you can start your morning with a quick run; it's great for mental health.

you could swim after work or take a dance class.

you could join a book club or other reading challenge and actually have time to read for it.

you can see if there are any classes at the local JC or community center that sound interesting and learn something new. I'm looking at Photoshop classes.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:56 PM on April 27, 2019

I've been doing this for about 6 years and the best part for me was feeling more connected to the landscape around me and watching, no feeling, how everything changes throughout the year.

vehicles of all types are insulating you from the world around you. Being mobile under your own volition and power brings the world so much more closer to your senses.

I love it.
posted by nikaspark at 5:58 PM on April 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

You can change a lot of things about a job, but the number one thing that will improve your life and satisfaction is shortening your commute.

This bonus time could be use for anything! Start a new hobby, read more books, sleep longer during the week. The only downside I see is option paralysis.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:36 PM on April 27, 2019

I predict you will catch a lot fewer colds, not being exposed to all those viruses in an enclosed space for 150 minutes per day.
posted by oxisos at 8:32 PM on April 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is less about the benefits of the time you will gain, and more about the experience of the new commute itself. I moved from a 2-hour commute to one that is less than 20 minutes a few years ago.

What's worked for me:
a. picking out the songs I will listen to en route. This gives me so much pleasure. In the old days, the music was a way to reduce the pain of the journey. Now it's something that makes it even better.
b. not getting to used to it. I try to appreciate - every single day - that this new routine is a billion times better than the old one. I don't want to lose sight of that - ever.
c. trying to find reasons to smile. Oh hey, that garden's flowers are about to bloom; this house has has its door repainted; that guy looks ever-so-marginally like my friend Dave (poor guy).

The benefits I've gained from the shorter trip into work are too many to list, but I urge you to appreciate the journey itself, and work on not letting it become the new normal.
posted by Calvin and the Duplicators at 8:43 PM on April 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

You might not concider this a benefit , but I found that I wasn't rushed to leave work as much and didn't mind a little time socializing. I also don't time projects around leaving before or after rush hour.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:01 PM on April 27, 2019

At my previous job I was driving an hour and a half each way. Almost five years ago I finally managed to get a local job and it's been life changing!

When I get home now I actually have energy to want to do things whereas before I only wanted to vegetate in front of the TV and then sleep. Now I can do hobbies I enjoy, take classes at night, or just go do things. Friends and family can meet me for lunch or dinner. I can get to local doctor appointments without having to take half a day off. I can go back and forth to home any old time.

I do computer work, so I can work wherever I happen to be. My work schedule is flexible so sometimes I'll just start working at home in the early morning and then wander in to work whenever convenient because there isn't that long gap when I'm offline while driving.

I'm generally happier and less stressed. When I get home I'm not all keyed up and irritable from fighting traffic.

I would take a substantial pay cut to continue working locally. It's well worth it. Besides the emotional costs of commuting, the financial costs can be substantial too especially if you're using your own car. Besides the cost of gas, there's maintenance on the car, tires, brakes, and extra insurance costs. And the added dangers inherent in traveling those miles every day.

Congrats on getting rid of the commute! I hope it's good for you as it has been for me.
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 10:02 PM on April 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have had a commute of 1 mile or less since 2007. Prior to that I had a long (60 min) commute, in crappy traffic via congested highway. I’m absolutely happier now.

The only downside I see is that it’s much harder to call in and skip work due to weather. A foot of snow overnight? Drat, I’m still going to work. It’s a small price to pay!
posted by caution live frogs at 10:29 PM on April 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

You can zip home, take off all your clothes, get into your own comfy bed, and take a 20-minute nap have a lot of sex in the middle of your work day. Welcome to the world of nooners!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:41 PM on April 27, 2019 [5 favorites]

Items of note: I don't have a car and England is very walk-able.

For me, it means I can decompress all the work stuff on the walk home. It's also easier to pick stuff up on the way to / from work.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 5:10 AM on April 28, 2019

Extra time in the morning, to me, is golden. Whether you devote it to a projects (exercise, etc) or just relax a bit more, read the paper a little longer, etc. It makes for a better mood entering the day.
posted by LonnieK at 11:39 AM on April 28, 2019

If you leave five minutes after you meant to, you're five minutes later getting to work in the morning or home in the evening - that's it. Your lateness is not compounded by missing a bus or getting caught in rush hour.

It's glorious.
posted by solotoro at 12:54 PM on April 28, 2019

If you live in a place that has winter, a walking commute means you may actually get to be outside while there is still a bit of sunshine, which is good for the soul.
posted by TheLittlestRobot at 4:16 PM on April 28, 2019

On my walk there are several "free libraries", interesting gardens and of course neighbors to chat with. Also, people often put out old furniture or other items they no longer want. This past week I picked up two free softballs for the kids by walking past a house that was giving them away. I often get lemonade, Girl Scout cookies, and school raffle tickets from neighborhood kids who set up outside their house. I use this time to call businesses I need to follow up with or family members I need to chat with. I also report trash and graffiti to the city, which helps make my neighborhood nicer overall. And because I get little exercise otherwise, the walk is really nice.
posted by Toddles at 9:46 PM on April 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Late reply but thanks everyone so much! All great answers, so many things I hadn't thought of. A week into the new commute and it's great.
posted by signondiego at 2:35 PM on May 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

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