If you live and work in London, you’ll inevitably find yourself doing the same, or similar journeys most days of the week, often travelling in a glazed zombie autopilot and more than occasionally bashing shoulders with stony-faced commuters. Finding some pleasure and variety in this repetitive action can be a challenge, but there are a few things you can do to take the tedium out the pattern and learn to love your city while you’re on the move. We all spend [insert terrifyingly large number of hours] travelling to and from work in a working lifetime (let’s not alarm ourselves with the actual statistic) – so why not make it a little more about the JOURNEY than the destination?
The tube map is a misleading representation of London, so it’s useful to be aware of exactly where you are when you travel below ground – this way you can add extra interest to your journey when you feel like it. For instance, if you’re travelling north or south of the river on the Northern Line, why not start or end your tube trip on the wrong side so that you can cross the pedestrian bridge and enjoy the view of St. Pauls?
Tube journeys don’t have to be about stress or wasted time. A lot of people meditate on the underground (you can spot meditators by their rather good posture or deliberate placing of their hands on their laps). Meditation is a great way to find breathing space in amongst the chaos of large crowds and the loud and specific whistles, groans, beeps and gap-minding tube noise that we all know and love.
Meditating doesn’t have to be very involved. Simply closing your eyes, being aware of your breathing and trying to focus your mind on a simple mental picture (an orange, for example) is enough. Just try to stop your mind wandering. Every time you do it will be easier than the last. See how much more refreshed you feel when you reach your destination.
Simple meditation is particularly good if you’re prone to panic or claustrophobia.
Why travel overground if you can? Because you can enjoy views of the most famous, scenic and the most intriguing parts of our beautiful city at a more natural pace than that offered by the frantic tube network. Taking the bus can be a fresher, brighter experience than the tube and the East London line links to some of London’s most up-and-coming areas (Rotherhithe, Shoreditch, Hoxton, Dalston), challenging the dominant appeal of the glitzier West End.
90% of Londoners within its 36 boroughs live within 400 metres of a bus stop – so wherever you’re going, you CAN do it at ground level. Head up to the top deck, leave your reading material and mobile in your bag, and dedicate your journey time to voyeurism and watching the world do its thing around you. The bus is an increasingly civilised way to get from A to B, and all buses are wheelchair/buggy accessible now (bus travel is free to wheelchair users).
If the bus isn’t for you, have you tried the Thames River buses? You can choose between the speedy commuter clipper (between Putney and Woolwich) or one of the gentler sightseeing ferries. These will take you through the heart of London – and what better way to connect with our great river?
Whatever mode of transport you prefer, travelling overground can be an immensely positive experience if you allow body and mind to exist in the moment and just BE. For a whole new perspective, why not try the UK’s first urban cable car which runs between North Greenwich and the Royal Docks. You can use your Oyster card for a discount and enjoy the bird’s-eye views over your city.
Who doesn’t enjoy some free Wombling action on a sunny day in the Smoke? Walking is good for every office body everywhere – it’s cheap and a great way to unclutter your mind or reduce the stress of a busy day. You don’t have to walk an entire journey to work, but what about shortening your public transport experience and walking the last couple of stops – or ideally the most attractive stretch of your journey.
Consider giving yourself extra time to walk between London meetings. All those pre-meet footsteps are a good opportunity to mentally prepare yourself and arrive with a genuine smile. Apps such as Walkit allow you to choose options such as ‘direct’ or ‘low pollution’, but if you’re using mobile tech to find your way around, try not to keep your back stooped and your eyes on your phone as it will lessen the positive impact of your walk.
Aim to feel a little bit mindful when you walk. If you can walk through a park, over or along a stretch of the river on your journey to work, so much the better. Use this section of your journey as an opportunity to take in the nature around you. Walk with your head up (if it’s not raining) and allow yourself to feel refreshed and inspired.
If you’re a Womble that prefers to ride a bike, this era is for you. Governmental ambassadors for exercise have been working hard to encourage cycling for some time now, with the Cycle Superhighways and Boris Bike scheme. Map your routes using tfl.gov.uk or the National Cycle Network. If you want a traffic-free ride, take a look at sustrans.org.uk and choose your preferred route.
When cycling, be aware of where you are holding stress in your body. If you spend a lot of time in the office, this will likely be in your shoulders and upper back. Try not to hunch over the handlebars. Avoid cycling when you’re tired, overly stressed or when you’re not nutritionally fuelled. Cycling in London can be a hazardous effort, particularly in areas of dense or fast moving traffic.