Graduate guide to coping with the London commute
You’ve made it. You’ve landed one of the greatest internships in London and you’re taking your first steps towards working life in the big city. Whether you’re commuting from the home counties, you’ve managed to find shelter nearer to town, or you already live here, you’re likely to be faced with the daily torture of commuting. Over the past few weeks I’ve commuted from various locations and distances, from 20 minutes to 2 hours, testing out every possible route, method and mode of transport, all the while subconsciously collating a commuter’s guide to coping just for you.
Transport. Select your route wisely and plan ahead. Utilise the websites that are there to make your journey easier, like Transport for London’s journey planner that will do the hard work calculating the best way of getting you from A to B, including links to ticket prices and relevant travel updates. We all know how temperamental London’s transport links can be, so don’t get caught out! Downloading the trainline and Tube Map apps to your smart phone (for free!) will also give you easy access to suggested routes and live travel updates.
You have an abundance of options for travel around Central London so don’t be as narrow minded as I was when initially considering my route, assuming the train and tube were the only viable options. The bus has firmly existed as an arch enemy of mine since the age of 17 when I was foolishly granted a driving license. But, after much convincing from my colleagues, I decided to give their much-praised method a try. The 243 from directly outside the office to Waterloo turned out to be simple enough and meant I didn’t have to race to the tube, suffer a tight squeeze on the Central Line, battle to change to the Northern Line and get caught in the manic crush at the ticket barriers of Waterloo. So the lesson here is to experiment. Try out your options and see what works best for you. If you’re a fan of exercise and there’s a way of incorporating a workout into your journey then kill two birds with one stone and run some of the distance. If it’s a choice between an extra tube stop and a stroll over the Thames, then settle for the latter. A fresh, brisk walk can only benefit you, giving you the opportunity to stretch your legs, get some fresh air and take in the magical sites of London on a daily basis. Plus you may even find it actually works out quicker. Keen cyclist? Boris and his bikes provide a nifty alternative to getting about. Based along the river? Make like David Beckham and check out the Thames Clipper’s high speed fleet of catamarans with routes running West from Putney all the way to Royal Arsenal Woolwich in the East.
Tunes. One thing the really has transformed my daily commute and general mood is investing in some good quality headphones. Head to John Lewis for a decent range and to benefit from their complimentary two year guarantee. On recommendation from my inspirational, intelligent (not to mention handsome) manager I opted for Sennheiser’s bass-heavy in-ear headphones, with their high reduction of ambient noise sealing the deal. It may seem like a lot of money to part with, especially for fellow graduates, but if you’re as keen on your music as me I can guarantee it will be money well spent. Devote a bit of time to putting together an upbeat playlist to gear you up for the day ahead, or pre-stream some of your favourite mixes (streaming hour-long SoundCloud sets via 3G will rinse your monthly data allowance in half the time) to ensure you’re not listening to the same thing day-in day-out, making your journey more bearable.
Use your time wisely. Your precious minutes and hours spent travelling need not be wasted. Whatever the distance you have to cover, use it to your advantage. Learn. Don’t assume the metro is the only paper within your reach. Feed your brain with things that are relevant to you and the industry you’re starting out in. As a graduate in today’s competitive climate looking for ways to improve your employability should be an on-going focus. Keeping up to date with current affairs and business news will demonstrate that you’re willing to put in the extra time and effort, impressing your employer, which is essentially your main aim when undertaking internships and graduate schemes. It doesn’t have to be the news either, find yourself a book of interest and let it transport your mind somewhere outside of the crammed carriage.
Come prepared. It may seem a hassle carrying a profusion of in-the-event-of items but I always think it’s better than turning up to the office looking like a drowned dog. An umbrella, a warm (advisably waterproof and hooded) jacket, gloves, scarf, bottle of water, lip balm, hand sanitiser and phone charger are my necessities that simultaneously save and burden me on a daily basis.