Surviving the Commute

Surviving the Commute

One of the biggest adjustments around moving to Milton was definitely the commute factor. I opted to keep my job in Toronto for the sake of, well, sanity. Too much change can be a bad thing and the familiarity of my job was comforting. Plus it gave me an excuse to be in Toronto five days a week, keeping the friend comfort zone umbilical cord intact.
Author's rear view mirror looking back on highway.Now if you grew up anything like me, you have thought to yourself at least once in the course of your life – “Who are these crazy people that commute?” and something along the lines of “I could never do that.” Well as my fellow commuters and I have found out, the power of love and for many people the simple fact of affordable housing, combined with job security, benefits and a promising career flip all of those convictions upside down. It could happen to you. The struggle is real folks! Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, and in the end, it is worth it.

So how do you handle it? Do you curse the whole retched way and scorn the lengthy hold ups that crop up at every turn? Do you stress about every little hiccup that is going to delay you even more? Do you lash out at your fellow commuters for “walking too slowly” or, god forbid, not knowing exactly where they are going? The answer is a very emphatic… NO. You’ll drive yourself insane, rather than just to work. Instead, set yourself to a very reasonable standard of time that it may take you to get to work and you find a way to just enjoy the ride.

I have some steps to help you survive your commute; a warning that they are taken from the standpoint of a driver. You may recall from my last post that the cost of taking the GO Train was exorbitant, so I eventually switched to driving. However, in general, most of these steps can be applied to any mode of commute.

5 Steps to Surviving your Commute…

Step 1: Make yourself comfortable. Get your ride looking and feeling the way you want it to. If you are in the market for a new vehicle, keep in mind how much time you will actually be spending in it. If the answer is a lot, the extra money for conveniences and comforts will pay off. For example, I wouldn’t trade my seat warmers for anything, with maybe the exception of the automatic car starter that I didn’t purchase. Hindsight is always 20/20, so try and think what will make a difference to you when you have to get up in the morning to do your daily commute and its -20 degrees Celsius outside. Think of other things too… Do you need back support? Look into your options. Are your hands always cold? Buy driving gloves.

Also, keep your car clean, on the inside at least. It’s not pleasant getting into an odorous car or one so cluttered with junk or garbage (you know who you are) that you can’t find anywhere to put your stuff down.  Clean out your car every day and you won’t have this problem.

Step 2: Leave yourself time. Try to give yourself a reasonable amount of time when you get up in the morning to do everything you need to do, and then some. I know, easier said than done, and I still struggle with this. One way to cope is to find some flexibility. Talk to your boss about your working hours. Do you have to work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.? If your business isn’t dependent upon you working these exact hours, see if you can find something off peak. Maybe you’re a morning person and working 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. would be amazing or if you struggle in the a.m. like me, try working 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. These are off peak hours and yeah traffic will still be busy, but it won’t be at its worst and you will notice a difference most days. If these hours are not an option for you, at the very least speak to your boss about the unpredictability of commuting and come to an understanding so that you are not stressed the entire journey to work.Photo of sunset

Step 3: Calm down! There is no point in spazzing out over delays – especially if you are driving. Yes traffic will slow down for no reason. Yes some $#!^ driver will cut you off, swerve through traffic and ride your butt when highway traffic is flowing at 60 km/hr. But the truth is, you have no control over any of it, so just let it go. The best way to do this is to find something else to focus on (as well as the road), which leads me to…

Step 4: Take the time out for you. The reality is many of us find very little time that we truly have to ourselves. If we are not physically with other people, we are being texted or emailed or pinged by them. We are in a constant state of socializing and for those of us who lean slightly to the introvert side- it is downright exhausting. The commute provides us with an excuse to zone out, the opportunity to just be in our own moment and do something that we enjoy. I fall into this category. If you do too, go straight to Step #5.

For you extroverts out there, try using your commute time to do even more socializing. Catch up with a family member or good friend the old fashion way…over the phone.  Most phones are equipped with bluetooth now, helping us keep it hands free and legal. Many of us carry out some of our most important relationships via the typed word. And these aren’t even high value words like we used to put in emails, or for those of you who can remember, put on paper, with ink and sent via the mail (you know the stuff that goes in those metal boxes on the side of the street). A good person to call is Grandma. She’d love to hear from you and chances are she doesn’t ping or text, so hearing your voice might just be the highlight of her day and I’d be willing to bet – yours too.

Step 5: Listen to something you enjoy. My favourite thing to do during my commute is to icons-847264_960_720just chill out and listen to something awesome. Yeah, every now and again I’ll make a phone call to someone I haven’t talked to in a while and have a good hour long chat, but for the most part my preferred way to survive my commute is to just shut up and listen to pretty much anything. Oh, and occasionally, I’ll talk back to the radio, audiobook or podcast I’m listening to, and the best part is, they don’t argue back!  Next post I’ll get into the listening options out there and give you some specific recommendations. For now, work on steps 1-4.

…Hello Milton

…Hello Milton

I’ll say that my decision to move to Milton to be with Taylor was an easy one, and that is true for the most part. However, if I am honest, it was a big adjustment. Someone that knows me quite well may question this; after all I have moved MANY times and moving from London to Toronto was a gigantic leap into the unknown. But, the truth is I had become very accustomed to my comfort zone of close friends, easy access to work and my small life in the big city.

Living together the past few years, my roommate Kendall and I had blossomed into great friends. I also happened to have many other very good friends living nearby in Toronto. All of my close girlfriends from university days ended up living in various neighborhoods throughout the city. While my network in Milton was expanding and I actually had family here, it wasn’t going to be the same. But there is a bit more to it than that – Milton and Toronto could not be more different!

Some of the reasons my move to Milton was a big deal…

new-car
My new ride! (Nov 2012)

The commute… I kept my job in the city at Yonge and Bloor, so getting to work would now take two hours, rather than ten minutes and cost about $500 a month, instead of zero.  I started off my commuting life by taking the GO train; I hadn’t driven for two years and was nervous to get back on the road. But I was living in Milton! I had to have a car.  My time and money would become precious commodities and I would have to learn to be patient, finding ways to just enjoy the ride.

My new home “at the farm”… At the time of my move Taylor was living in his childhood home, a large 75 acre farm property just five minutes from downtown Milton.  Taylor lived in the farmhouse and worked out of the adjoining property next door. On paper this sounds like striking ‘suburban- living gold’ and in many ways it was, but there are aspects of farmhouse living that challenged the city in me.  Here are a few examples…

The farm ran on well water for plumbing, which could stop running (with very little warning) at any moment. Most often when my hands were good and lathered up with soap.

While relatively cool in the summer, the farmhouse ran on oil for heat, which turns out to be very expensive.  Being economical resulted in some cold mornings during the winter months, and water that felt like liquid ice coming from the taps.

And then there are the bugs. At any given time of year there is inevitably a species of critter that takes over the farmhouse – spiders, ladybugs, ants, bees, but the most annoying of them all were the flies! If you don’t know what a cluster fly is, be grateful. You can check them out here. For the record, in my experience they do not restrict themselves to unused rooms and they will make themselves quite at home in your bedroom.

farm
The Farmhouse

Access to food… Okay, this one might sound a bit dramatic, but I’m serious! If you learn one thing about me from my blog, it should be that I LOVE food. I enjoy cooking and trying out different recipes, but I also really enjoy eating out. Toronto has endless food options and I was coming from a neighborhood with literally hundreds of options to choose from, at any time of the day. You craved it, you got it!  While Milton has some hidden gems that serve up both delicious fast take-away options and quality sit down meals (we’ll get into those later), I discovered quickly that few places in Milton are open past 9 p.m. When you commute, getting home as late as 8 p.m. sometimes, this can be a huge disappointment.

New to town… By the time I moved to Milton I was still getting to know Taylor’s friends and their partners. I definitely had some networking to do.  While I am a people person, this can still be tricky even for the most extreme extrovert. It’s kind of like dating, except that you are dating lots of people and you want to have relationships with them all! It’s difficult to meet people in a new town and I am still working at it. This American Life podcast, Episode 587:The Perils of Intimacy Act Two “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” sums it up well.

Living with a boy… While Taylor and I have some key things in common, we differ as much as we relate. Plus, I had never lived with a boyfriend before and he had never lived with a girlfriend. To add to the mix Taylor is the baby of his family with two older sisters, while I am an only child. This was going to be interesting.

Goodbye Toronto…

Goodbye Toronto…

Before I get into all of the wonderful ways my life has changed after moving to the suburbs, I want to give credit to the move itself, because…well, it was hard. I had to say goodbye to a city and a neighbourhood that I really loved living in.

Just over a year before meeting my partner Taylor, I was living (post university/ post world-travel) in London, Ontario. London is a city of approximately 350,000 people and home to the University of Western Ontario (my undergrad University).  I had just made the rather large decision to move to Toronto to live with my girlfriends from Western. It was a decision that would truly change my life, but in a way I could never have imagined.

My first year in Toronto, I lived with two girls in a large rental house on Ossington Ave. The house and location were great, but within a year one of the girls decided to move on. That left my friend Kendall and I, so we decided to find our own place. We ended up in a gorgeous two bedroom apartment, right

kendallme
Kendall & I in our Toronto, Yonge St. apartment

on Yonge St. We got VERY lucky with this apartment. The owner of the building was an older gentleman, named Joseph. When I say Joseph was a gentleman I really mean that. Our new landlord gave us an amazing rate and promised it would never go up. On the cold February day we moved in, he stood outside the building and made sure we didn’t leave the door open too long, so as not to freeze out the other tenants. That’s the kind of landlord he was.

Not only did we have a great landlord, but our new place was in the prime location of Yonge and Bloor – just five minutes from both of the subway lines in Toronto and a short ten minute walk to work.  We were surrounded by great restaurants, bars, entertainment, yoga studios and shopping. We had struck Toronto renters’ gold!

However, by the time we moved in I had met Taylor. Just three weeks prior in fact. On our second date Taylor helped Kendall and I pick up our new furniture for the apartment and came over to build a set of table and chairs that needed assembling. He was a keeper from the very beginning, and over the course of the next several months I came to realize that he was ‘the one.’ Despite the distance between us, we spent a lot of time together and I was going out to see him in Milton almost every other weekend. The next step was definitely moving in together, and because Taylor worked for his family business in Milton, my moving to Milton was the only choice. I had to say goodbye to Toronto.

7 things I miss about my old ‘hood in Toronto:

  1. IAM Yoga – A beautiful, privately owned Yoga Studio on Yonge at Isabella. The studio was small when Kendall and I lived here, but it has since moved to a larger space (across the street) and now has several rooms and many types of classes. They’ve really made the most of their new space and it’s arguably one of the best studios in Toronto.
  2. Bar VoloBar Volo was a bar on Yonge and Dundonald that served up a large selection of craft beers, alongside delicious food. The bar has since closed, caught up in the mass development along Yonge. But don’t worry, they’ve opened a spin-off called Birreria Volo  on College and are expected to set up a replacement for Bar Volo on Church St. in the future.
  3. Fire on the East Side – This is another Yonge St. gem that has since closed. Unfortunately they don’t seem to have established a new location. This restaurant was directly across from our apartment and served up amazing Southern Comfort food. I remember them best for their sweet potato quesadilla (think puree sweet potato, walnuts, nutmeg and smoked bacon) and their breakfast poutine (this one speaks for itself). Yum!
  4. Bloor/Yorkville Shopping There are shops upon shops on Bloor, just East and West of Yonge St. You can get anything from the GAP to Louis Vuitton and everything in between. Yorkville is another shopping mecca that isn’t too far away. My favourite spots to browse in Yorkville are Anthropologie and Teatro Verde.
  5. Burrito Bandidos – I am very happy to report that Burrito Bandidos on Grosvenor is still open for business and sell (in my opinion) the best burritos in the city. Their fillings are fresh and always delicious and they grill them to perfection. They now have several locations across Toronto, so there may be one close to you. I highly recommend the mix Chicken and Beef.
  6. Queens Park – Queens Park was just around the corner from our old apartment and this is where I found my running legs. Queens Park is a great spot to train yourself to run. If you want to learn to run 5 km, this is the place to do it. The loop works out to be approximately one kilometer, so it’s easy to track your distance without constantly checking your devices. It also makes it easy to get started with the run/walk technique. You can start running by jogging ¼ of the circle and walking ¾, working your way up to to ½ and ½ and reducing your walking distance from there, until you are eventually running the whole loop.
  7. Manulife CentreThere’s nothing like having a gigantic book store (Indigo), a movie theatre, grocery store (Bloorstreet Market), an LCBO and drug store right in your back yard. This plaza really has it all and is very convenient to boot. I miss being able to walk everywhere!