Commute

By New York standards, my daily commute should be a breeze. Two trains, a ten-minute walk, 45 minutes door-to-door. It’s also the reverse commute into Hoboken, and I frequently have train cars to myself once I transfer over to the PATH at 14th Street.

But it’s far from easy. The MTA is having its summer of hell. On a good day, I can squeeze onto the first train that pulls into Delancey. On a bad day, I don’t even make it onto the platform. Signal failures. Sick passengers. Rerouted trains. Not even $100 billion dollars is enough to fix the vast underground network, bursting at its seams as New York’s population continues to boom.

During the work week, I’m stressed before I even walk out of my front door. Will I make it on a train? Will I make my meeting? I tense up as I descend the stairs onto the platform and hope for the best, but expect the worst. It’s déjà vu on the ride home.

Beyond the commute anxiety, there’s the monotony. I see the same gritty stations every morning; the same ads stare down at me under flickering fluorescent lights selling HR software and trade schools.

I arrive at work feeling deflated, and I haven’t even started my day.

Something new

One day after work, I climb down the steep stairwell into the Hoboken PATH station and find a platform overflowing with agitated commuters. The trains are stopped, and the energy is tense.

In over two years of working in Hoboken, I’ve never attempted the commute via the ferry. Without thinking much of it, I turn around, ascend the stairs, and head to the docks next door. I purchase the $7 ticket to Pier 11 and board the empty Manhattan-bound boat.

Almost instantly, my stress begins to float away. We’re chugging along the Hudson, the sun illuminating the Manhattan skyline. For twenty minutes, I think of nothing but the water and the sea breeze. We unload at Pier 11, and feeling energized, I hop on a Citibike and peddle ten minutes up the East River to our place in the Lower East Side.

I arrive home feeling euphoric and refreshed. My fiancé comments that I’m glowing.

I’m hooked.

Switching it up

After that fateful ferry ride home, I ride a Citibike and take the ferry to and from work for over a month. I leave my apartment each morning excited to start my day. I end my day with a mental reset before arriving home.

But a fantastic new commute is not the end of this story.

After a few weeks, I begin to recognize subtle changes at work. I feel more productive, more focused on details, and less overwhelmed with the demands of back-to-back meetings. By consciously avoiding the same old commute, I feel a sense of renewed perspective in other parts of my day.

I now commute by Citibike and ferry whenever the MTA or PATH is forecasting delays, which is often. When I take the trains, I try and switch up my route. I transfer at West 4th instead of 14th, or I walk to and from the station on alternate avenues. I feel a renewed sense of wonderment about the city.

It’s not just the peaceful ferry ride that positively impacted my productivity at work – it’s the proactive tweaks to my routine that keep me off autopilot.

Try it

Whether you have the ability to commute by ferry or not, all of us have the power to keep our routines fresh, even with subtle adjustments. Take the back road to work every few days instead of the turnpike. Go for the scenic walk over the shortest distance home, even if it adds a few extra minutes to your commute. These tweaks help prevent us from getting too comfortable in our environments, and that’s a good thing. I’m not the only one who’s talking about it.

Change your perspective for a month – switch up your commute from time to time. Let me know if you notice the difference.