- Spencer Platt / Getty Images
Until this May, my husband and I were living in a 650-square-foot apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. We loved it! It was charming, convenient, and three miles from my office.
But earlier this spring, we decided it was time to move on.
When we told our friends we were thinking about buy a home in the suburbs (gasp!) they all warily asked the same thing: “You really want to do that commute?”
Sure, that was on our “cons” list. But the pros outweighed the few negatives we thought up, so we moved forward with our search.
A few weeks later, we found our would-be home on Long Island – about 35 miles from New York City. In late May, after securing a mortgage, we closed and moved in.
Of course being a homeowner isn’t all fun and games: There are more bills to pay, things to fix, rooms to clean, and grass to cut. But for us, there are also a lot of benefits: We have more space, we’re not “throwing away money” on rent, we have a real, full-size, grown-up refrigerator, and we have a longer commute.
Yes, you heard me correctly. We have a longer commute – about three times as long as it was when we lived in the city – and I love it.
Barring any subway delays or bad weather, my commute to work was typically about 20 minutes when we lived in Manhattan. Now it’s closer to an hour. We take a 45-minute Long Island Rail Road train to Penn Station, then I walk another 12-15 minutes to work.
Sure, my adoration for the longer commute will likely wear off as time goes on (or after we experience our first major train delay). In fact, I’m almost certain that once we have children and I want – or need – to get home quickly to see them, the hour-long train ride won’t be something I appreciate. Or, when we have events in the city that end late at night and I remember I can’t just hop in a cab and be home in 10 minutes, I will be pretty disappointed.
But for now, the longer commute is something I actually look forward to most days. Here’s why:
- Andrew Burton / Getty Images
1. The quiet, ‘alone’ time gives me the energy I need to get my day going and a chance to decompress in the afternoon
I’m an introvert, so I get my energy from within. Extroverts recharge their batteries “by removing or reducing external stimulation and by nurturing their own thoughts and feelings,” explains Ellen Vrana on Quora.
I am the type of person who needs to start and end the workday with some quiet time.
Of course my commute is not completely silent, and I’m certainly not alone on the train, but the LIRR, the commuter train I take to and from work and home each day, is much quieter and a lot less crowded than the subway I used to take to work. (The LIRR train ride is also far less stimulating!)
This much-needed quiet time each morning gives me the energy I need to get through the day.
I should note: From what I hear, my train is unusually empty. Some LIRR trains get packed during peak rush hours.
2. It’s my time to read (or listen to music, or podcasts)
Sure, you can argue that those 40 extra minutes I’m spending on my commute could have been dedicated to reading anyway, but the truth is, I am not the type of person who comes home from work, sits on the couch, and picks up a book. No. When I get home, I do errands, go to the gym, cook dinner, etc. I almost never read at home.
The commute is forced down-time, and the perfect opportunity to get lost in a good book or podcast. In fact, I sometimes look forward to getting on the train after work just to pick up where I left off in the morning.
- Chris Hondros / Getty Images
3. Though longer, it’s a far more pleasant experience than my old commute
I don’t want to bash the New York City subway system. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and for years it was my sole (and mostly trusty) means of transportation. But now that I get to take a nearly empty, above-ground, air-conditioned train to and from work each day, the thought of getting on a subway has become far less appealing.
My old morning commute consisted of me trying to aggressively push my way on to the smelly 2 or 3 train at 72nd Street, only to have the doors close on my purse, or my foot, or my ponytail. Commuters would yell. Strangers would fight. Most people huffed and puffed and donned dirty looks on their face. It was often hot (don’t even get me started on the subway in the summer!), and I’d be pressed up against strangers … practically “upright spooning them,” as a colleague so accurately put it.
During rush hour, it was almost impossible to read a book, or move, or breathe. (Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic.) It wasn’t the most pleasant way to start or end the day.
Now, I have my own seat (sometimes my own row) on the train. I don’t have to touch, or be touched by strangers, and there’s no distinct “LIRR smell.” I’ve said it to a few people now: I’d much rather spend 45 minutes on this train than 15 on the alternative.
Again, it could just be that I’m fortunate enough to be on a train list that isn’t too busy. Another colleague, who also takes the LIRR to and from work on a different line, says she almost never gets a seat.
4. It forces me to wake up earlier
Okay, so maybe this one is a bit of a stretch (because obviously I’d love to sleep later every day) – but research does show that waking up earlier is good for us and can make us more successful.
Since I moved, I’ve been waking up about an hour earlier than I used to. No, I don’t love it – but I’m trying to be positive.
- Phalinn Ooi/flickr
5. I now have a routine
You can argue that taking a commuter train is a pain because they don’t run as frequently as the subway (that’s true!) – but because I know I have to be at the station by 7:53 each morning, I’m now on a more stringent schedule.
I wake up at 7, brush my teeth, shower, get dressed, grab breakfast, and head out the door by 7:45.
Before, I would sometimes leave my apartment at 8:15 … sometimes it would be 8:25 … sometimes it would be 8:50. I knew a subway train would arrive every few minutes, so I was pretty laid back about when I woke up and left my apartment. But that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. I wasn’t on a consistent schedule (I’d try, but it was hard to stick to it since there weren’t any real consequences (like missing the train) for leaving my apartment just a few minutes later). I would get to work at a different time every day, and I wasn’t in any sort of routine.
Now, I also leave work at the same time every day. I take the 5:59 p.m. train home, so I leave the office by 5:40. Of course, if I am having a particularly busy day or have something going on, I can stay later and catch the next train. But because I’ve created this routine and plan to catch that 5:59,, I am much better about leaving when I say I will – which is great for my productivity (I’ve gotten better about prioritizing tasks and working more efficiently) and my work-life balance.
6. I get to spend some uninterrupted quality time with my husband
I know, I know … but it’s true.
When we get home from work, we often do our own thing: One goes to the gym while the other run errands. One does laundry while the other cooks dinner. But for about 45 minutes each morning, and 45 minutes each evening, we sit next to each other and catch up on our days.
Sometimes we only say a few words to one another on the train before diverting our attention to our books or magazines or emails. But we thoroughly enjoy that uninterrupted time together.
7. I’m above ground, so I have service on my phone
While I try to use this time to relax, or read, or sleep, or talk to my husband – it’s nice to have the option to do some work, send emails, get on the internet, or catch up on personal correspondence should I choose to.
The subway line I previously rode to work was entirely below ground, so I had no cell phone service. My train now is above ground (except for the last five or so minutes, as we approach Penn Station).
8. It’s the ideal time to take a nap
If I was out late the night before (rarely happens – I’m not that cool), or I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, I can use my commute to catch a few extra z’s.
- Spencer Platt / Getty Images
9. It’s a good excuse for getting out of plans or turning down invitations
I know I shouldn’t turn down every invitation to social or networking events, and I don’t, but if and when I do need an excuse, I can easily say, “Well, I’ve got a long commute home so I won’t be able to make it. Sorry!”
10. It allows me to get in some extra exercise
The distance to and from Penn Station and my office is walkable (a mile each way). I can take a subway or bus if the weather is bad, but most days I travel by foot.
It takes about 15 minutes – which isn’t bad – and I’m getting an extra two miles of walking in each day.