the commuters on their journey

The pandemic has opened the eyes of many to the benefits of running or cycling to work – or “active commuting” – and some have kept up the habit.

No longer satisfied with long drives or a boring train ride, commuters are looking for ways to make their journeys more productive and enjoyable.

Six people share how they make the most of their journey to work.

‘I never take the same route two days in a row’

William Macdonald, 51, changes his commute. The Scottish web developer, who has lived in Sweden for 17 years, keeps his journey to his office in Stockholm fresh by “not taking the same method or route two days in a row”.

Whether it’s cycling before boating, running, or even swimming along the way, changing up his journey to work allows MacDonald to feel like he’s getting the most out of his day. “In the summer, I sometimes cycle there and swim in a heated pool on the way to work. I cycle all year round, as long as there are no big snow drifts,” he says.

“I just vary it a bit – sometimes getting on the same train every morning, seeing the same people can be a bit depressing. You can do some adventure, some other focus of the day… It adds dimension to the day. Otherwise the commute is just a small step towards spending the whole day in the office.”

Macdonald’s job gives him the option to work from home some days, which he often spends mountain biking in a nearby forest. “Sometimes, I cross-country ski on my lunch break!”

‘Inline skating is a total body workout’

In New York, Miguel Ramirez, 35, a personal trainer and inline skating instructor, has been skating to work on the city’s streets for the past 12 years.

“Inline skating is a total body workout. It also requires a lot of balance, coordination and flexibility. It is great for short to medium distances. And hybrid commuting is very easy. You can easily jump on the train or the bus,” he says.

Ramirez says skating is a more practical option than you might think. “A lot of places allow you to inline skate indoors, so errands like grocery shopping or something from the deli are a lot quicker.”

He wouldn’t recommend that everyone commute on skates, though. “You have to be closer to the intermediate level, because we don’t have mechanical brakes like a bike. But it’s manageable.”

So far he has avoided any collisions. “I’m pretty defensive when I skate. I am always looking out. I assume that everyone is going to pass me, so I just keep my distance.”

‘We had a sewing, knitting and needle commuting’

Until she retired in 2020, Angela, 58, used to travel to her engineering job working on craft projects with a colleague.

It started one day when her co-worker went on the train with a crochet project. “This encouraged a sewing, knitting and needlepoint commuting,” said Angela, who lives in Belgium. They kept it up for eight years, until her colleague became successful again and Angela retired soon after.

“The highlight of our days was doing things on the train. We used to laugh – people would come up to us and have a chat. It was a very nice commute – before that, I spent my commute watching reports, which wasn’t nearly as much fun.

“When I was making curtains, I drew on the train piece by piece with hand sewing; another time she changed in the train toilet into a half-finished dress so I could pin it to fit. The whole experience made commuting something we were both looking forward to.”

Since leaving their workplace, the two have kept in touch. “We met on the train but became real friends. The highlight, the great crescendo of our creation together, was making her wedding dress together – not on the train though!”

‘I get an hour and a half of Italian practice in’

Kevin Donnelly, 40, a geneticist in Edinburgh, uses his daily walks to work on his Italian skills – and can be heard repeating key phrases from language learning audio books.

“It’s great,” he says. “People assume I’m on the phone. Pretend to chat in Italian as I push through the boom. Of course, any Italian will understand that I repeatedly ask for directions to the station.

“Cycling in Edinburgh is a painful experience, sometimes literally. Walking clears my head and improves my mood.

“I put in about an hour and a half of practice, and there’s no way I’d get that otherwise. In a little over a month I can now speak more than I can in French – which I apparently studied at school for four years.”

‘Much more efficient than a road bike’

In 2015, Heinrich Neumann from Nordhorn, Germany ditched his electric bike in favor of a velomobile (human powered vehicle). The 63-year-old man has been traveling up to 38km (24 miles) to the hospitals where he has been working as a doctor ever since.

“With your own power and this aerodynamic fairing, it’s much more efficient than a road bike. It’s unbelievable.” When Neumann took the car to work because he was running late – but it took him even longer.

What do his colleagues of the velomobile? “It’s mixed. They are a little jealous, because they don’t get the fitness training that I do. But I did not convince my colleagues [to do it].

“It’s a lot of fun. It has the best weather protection, as long as the roads are not completely covered in ice or snow. And even if you do crash, there’s a structure around you that absorbs a lot of the impact.”

‘Audiobooks increased my stress’

70-year-old Roberta Jones has found that she enjoys traveling with books in recent years. She listened to nearly 1,000 audiobooks after starting with cassette tapes, then CDs, before moving on to Audible in 2005.

“I’ve listened to almost 1,000 audiobooks that I wouldn’t have had time to read otherwise,” says Jones, a self-employed consultant in Sacramento, California. “I really contributed to other planets, expanded my awareness, learned a lot, and explored the classics – while driving to and from work.”

While she is now working from home, she is following her audiobook listening routine. She remembers it helping her de-stress in the car: “It’s a great way to wind down after a stressful day at work – by the time you’re home, you’re calm enough that it doesn’t destroy your evening. “

Her commutes changed over the years but were always over an hour. “At first, the commute was brutal with nothing to focus on but the traffic around you. [Audiobooks] mellowed out my stress tremendously, and they were very entertaining and informative too. It was a win.”

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