I spend a lot of time behind the wheel, but I can’t blame it all on my job. I’m not the kind of person to stay put at the weekend and I’m sure the travel blog would have gave it away already. All in all, I gather between 1500 – 2500 miles (4000 km) per month and that means a LOT of hours in the car. If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel that you’re wasting valuable time by “just” driving, so I thought to share some tips as to what I do, to feel that I use that time.
Planning is essential. Especially if you live or need to get to notoriously bad traffic areas. I live in London and believe me that M25, London’s ring road, was not nicknamed Europe’s largest parking lot for nothing.
I’ve once managed to spend 5 hours doing 1.5 miles, trying to get on M25. I’m sure some of you might have had it even worse, but I do not want to go through that ever again. So I plan.
For me, it basically means leaving the house at around 6AM, to beat traffic. Most of my journeys are no longer than 2-3 hours maximum, so that works well for me. Coming back home is always the tricky bit as it’s quite hard to avoid the afternoon traffic, but trying to finish my working day at 3:30 – 4 PM usually does it.
If you are going to be stuck in a car for a few hours, might as well get comfortable. My standard car fitting in the morning includes: coffee, water and snacks. I go for either a banana, some cereal bars, pretzels or bread sticks, but it’s up to you what you prefer. Make sure you place it in a very easily reachable place and open the bag/peal the banana in advance, so that it doesn’t distract you from driving.
Having this around allows me to enjoy my mornings in the car a lot more. It makes all the difference!
Engage with PEOPLE
If you drive alone, as I normally do, you might want to use the time to connect with people. The days are so packed that you might not get the time to give your mom a call or to talk to a friend that you haven’t seen in ages, but sitting in the car gives you that nice opportunity. Make sure to use the hands free function, of course, and unless you have Siri or Google to help you out with the calls, best to stop somewhere to manoeuvre your phone. Otherwise, you might end up in trouble…
LEARN something new
Podcasts have been a revelation to me. I realise I sound like a technology retard, but I mean it. I knew about the existence of podcasts, but I was never hooked, until I started driving a lot. It’s impossible to not find something you’re interested in, as the range out there is amazing.
What do I listen to? I really, really enjoy the BBC World Service – The documentary. They approach very different topics, from the Syrian war and impact on the population, to graffiti art in Brazil. Criminal, Ted talks, The Economist Radio, Stuff you should know, Unexplained, My dad wrote a porno are just a few others I’ve listened to and quite enjoyed.
Learning a foreign language while sat in traffic is also entertaining and useful. There are podcast and apps out there for that sole purpose. El menu, por favor! – ready for my trip to Spain now!!
But don’t do ANY of the above if you find them distracting. Although eating or drinking while driving are not illegal in the UK as such, any activity that would result in you being distracted behind the wheel and failing to operate the vehicle correctly, might get you accused of careless driving, which is an offence.
Safety comes first, so keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. As the TFL radio campaign goes, “One risk is one too many!”