Throughout my career, the vast majority of my roles have been based in London, but with a national reach. This means that whilst I have a pretty ok (if long) commute to the office each day, I’ve spent many a time travelling around the country in a variety of different ways.
And there is nothing more tiring and dull and boring than sitting on trains for hours on end. There is only so much joy a magazine and my iPhone can bring me, and when it is the fourth day in a row that I’ve had to travel to the midlands or somewhere, I start to get the shakes and itchy feet. I mean. When I’m spending so much of my working day travelling, I start to worry about how I will get my actual work done – you know, the one that requires me to be in one spot.
It wasn’t an easy adjustment. Travelling makes me really sleepy, but when you don’t have access to your desk, you start to realise that you have to make these journeys work smarter for you, if you are not going to spend hours “catching up” when you get home. As someone who has spent many a week travelling from York to Essex and back again, I’ve put together some hints and tips on how to get through it, based on my own experience:
If you are going to make the most of a two hour plus journey on a train, you have to up your game on the tech stakes. I take my MacBook everywhere (my work laptop is far too heavy), which is wireless enabled. In the first few journeys I ever made, I used to purchase onboard WiFi, but this is really expensive, so I have since invested in a Three Mobile WiFi which is portable, and means I can use it anywhere, including train station cafes! I also make full use of Dropbox, so I can have all the documents I need on my journey. Finally, I have made sure I can access work emails and calendar through webmail, and my work calendar syncs into iCal on my MacBook and iPhone. Add to this my work phone and personal iPhone and I’m wired up to the max!
I am a food monster, and food on trains can be poor quality and expensive (actually, Virgin Trains do a nice line in sandwiches, but they are still pricey). I make sure I pack ahead for my day with breakfast, lunch and snacks which are easy to carry and eat on the run. I usually have warm leftovers in the office (diet friendly!), but this isn’t good for the train. I make or buy healthy sandwich options, some fruit, WeightWatchers snack bars and I tend to buy the obligatory station coffee to get me started. This is an expense, but carrying a coffee flask in on top of my tech gear is not an option for me! So collect up those station loyalty cards – you’ll find Pumpkin cafe’s as most reagional stations.
Depending on your times of travel, trains can be a really expensive way to get around. Add to this that the last off-peak train back to London is usually packed and you have yourselves an issue! I worked for a charity that used ClickTravel to get charity discounts, but if you don’t have that option then try and use one of the many online sites available to book ahead. This means they are cheaper (especially if you try and travel off-peak), and you can pre-book your seat. I always try and bag a front facing, window, table seat but these are the holy grail on regional train travel!
So there are my tips! If you have any more to add, they would be more than welcome. How do you make long distance travelling work for you?
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