Mastering the Metro Detroit Commute

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“Commutes are a waste of time,” one of my coworkers said to me today as we looked out the window into the full parking lot of our office building. “[My commute] is the bane of my existence,” another friend told me recently.

It’s interesting how often commutes come up in conversation. Maybe because we live in Michigan where road construction and snow are so persistent. Or because our mass transit options in metro Detroit are limited. When the topic does come up, I usually win the prize for the “longest commute.” (Spoiler alert, the prize is an hour of alone time). I tell people I commute from St. Clair Shores to Plymouth five days a week, and their jaws usually drop. Comments range from…

“You drive how far?”

“There’s no way I could do that!”

“What route do you take?”

“Can’t you find a job closer to home?”

I smile and nod my head, “It’s not that bad.”

commuting to work

The average one-way commute in metro Detroit is 26.8 minutes, just over the national average. I spend about 50 minutes one way to get to and from work. That’s over eight hours per week in my car. Eight hours that I could be spending eating dinner with my husband or at the park with my daughter or putting away the laundry that I manage to fold, but it never quite makes it into the dressers. 

When I first went back to work after maternity leave, I resented my commute. I couldn’t get home quick enough for those sweet baby snuggles. But over time I’ve come to enjoy my commute. Now, depending on the day, I take advantage of my time in the car by either getting something productive done or simply enjoying 50 uninterrupted minutes of listening to what I want to listen to. Here’s how you, too, can master your commute:

Get comfortable

The quickest change you can implement in your commute is to make yourself comfortable. If you wear pumps all day, keep a pair of flats or sandals in your car to drive in. Bring a change of clothes with you and change in the bathroom on your way out the door. Or, dress in layers, so that you can shed some clothes in the car.  

There are also bigger changes you can invest in to make yourself comfortable in your car. I don’t know how I survived these Michigan winters before heated seats and automatic start (first world problems, I know). Because I spend so much time in my car, I will never purchase a car without these things now. Living in the Motor City, there’s no shortage of dealerships or car shops. Consider upgrading your car, whether that means trading in your current vehicle or purchasing after-market accessories. You can even buy things like a heated steering wheel cover or essential oil diffuser vent clips on Amazon. The point is, you spend a lot of time commuting, so you might as well be comfortable doing it. 

the odometer on my car
I hit 100,000 miles in just under four years in my car.

Make the most of your time

Now that you’re comfortable, let’s talk about entertainment. What do you do with all that time during your commute? It’s important to keep your mind active to help you stay alert. I’m personally guilty of listening to channel 95.5, but you can only hear the same song so many times before it makes you crazy.

Instead of listening to the radio, you could make the most of your time by diving into something more productive. This could be listening to a professional development audiobook or knocking out a conference call. You can even schedule an over-the-phone appointment with a therapist! Work out the frustrations of the day and improve your mood by the time you get home. Sign me up!

If podcasts are your thing, here’s are some of Detroit Mom’s favorite locally-produced podcasts: 

Her Best F***ing Life – A writer turned podcast host, this girl keeps it real and wants to help you live your best life.

Armchair Expert – A podcast that “celebrates the messiness of being human,” which we can all relate to. This one isn’t produced here, but it’s hosted by local native, Dax Shepard.

Daily Detroit – Bringing you all things in and around Detroit, this podcast features conversations with locals, events, and top news of the day.

Shattered – By local news station Channel 4, this podcast will soon be bringing you a series all about Hoffa! I know I can’t wait to give this one a listen.

Damsel in Detroit – A podcast all about local Detroit women killing it in their careers. 

Podcast Detroit Network – A network of over 100 locally-produced podcasts, ranging from sports to tech to late-night crazy talk.

Lastly, stay tuned for our very own Detroit Mom podcast coming in 2020! 

Decompress

Once you’re home, don’t jump right into the next task. Take time to decompress from that traffic on I-96. Stop at home for 10 minutes before you pick up the kids, put on a pair of sweatpants, or stop at the grocery store (even if you don’t need to). Get your circulation flowing again by spending a few minutes stretching or challenge yourself to not sit down for the first hour after your long commute.  

I’d love to hear how you make your drive more enjoyable.
Happy commuting! 

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