Transportation

10 Productive Things to Do on Your Bus/MRT Ride

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Joanne Poh

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Judging by the general level of misery of your fellow commuters on the MRT, no amount of cabin decorations or MRT station busking is going to make public transport pleasant.

But most of you already spend a good 1 to 2 hours per day commuting. That’s at least 20 to 40 hours a month—a hell of a lot of time to spend silently cursing the guy beside you with the smelly armpits or giving the eyeball to the woman hugging the pole like she wants to take it home with her.

While you can’t exactly exercise on public transport unless you’re pole dancing or swinging from the train handles, here are 10 things you actually can do.

 

1. Learn a new language

Picking up the basics of a new language is all about reading, reading and more reading. Sure, you’ll have to get out there and speak with people when you reach a certain stage, but just studying 20 to 40 hours a month will give you a solid foundation in a couple of months.

Learn basic grammar and vocabulary on a mobile app like Duolingo, pore through a foreign language novel while looking up words on a dictionary app or read grammar books from the National Library all while trying not to step on other people’s feet when the MRT lurches.

 

2. Play a “real” video game

God knows there are enough people killing time with games like Candy Crush on public transport. But if you’re a serious gamer, the kind of person who watches YouTube videos of other gamers playing in order to sharpen your skills, you might still be able to continue practising on public transport. Hearthstone is one example of a “serious” game that has a mobile version that’s interchangeable with the PC version. Mobile versions of classics like Final Fantasy have also been released of late. And with an emulator, you can now play Gameboy classics like Pokemon on your phone.

 

3. Learn to code

You no longer need a computer to learn to code. Mobile apps like Pocket Programming help you learn and practise languages like Ruby on your phone. Now that coding is seen as the next must-have skill, it might be a good idea to pick it up on your commute instead of hating on the guy who keeps stepping on your foot.

 

4. Read the news

Assuming you’re not one of those people who get all their news on Facebook, the morning commute is a good time to catch up on what’s going on in the world. Browse your favourite news websites on your phone or, if you’re a subscriber of the real thing, read the physical copy in the MRT cabin. Just try to ignore the three uncles reading over your shoulder.

 

5. Listen to podcasts

If you enjoy listening to podcasts, there’s no better time to do so than on the MRT. When I was a student intern at Raffles Place years and years ago, I used to listen to Chinesepod on the MRT, and I swear I still remember some of the words I learnt to this day. There’s a podcast or radio show for almost any hobby or interest you can think of.

 

6. Plan your menu for the week

If your commute isn’t too long, use one MRT or bus ride a week to plan your menu for the week. This is a little more time consuming than it sounds. You might need to surf recipes on the internet and compile ingredient lists so you can shop efficiently at the supermarket. Better to do it on the public transport than use your precious downtime.

 

7. Listen to some good music

The kind of music you choose to listen to in the morning can really affect your mood. In fact, if you work in an office where people are often heard screaming or you have a particularly naggy boss, you might want to keep those headphones on even after you arrive at work. Your commute is also a good time to sample new albums or delve into new genres of music.

 

8. Knitting, cross-stitch

We wouldn’t have thought about this one if not for that concerned commuter who wrote in to the Straits Times complaining about the dangers of cross-stitching on the MRT. Thanks for that!

 

9. Read books

The average Singaporean isn’t exactly a well-read person, as this study has revealed, and lack of time was cited as a big hindrance. Since you’re already stuck on the bus and/MRT for upwards of 20 hours each month, you have more than enough time to read some actual books instead of scrolling through your Facebook updates for the nth time.

 

10. Watch movies

Those aunties who watch Korean dramas on the train might have something going for them. Thanks to tablets and headphones, you can now enjoy fairly high quality visuals and audio no matter where you are. Whether you’ve always wanted to get into French New Wave or just like watching people blow stuff up, procure a high quality video file beforehand and then enjoy the show on the way to work on your iPad. If you commute 1 hour each way, you can finish one film a day by breaking it up into halves.

What do you do on your commute to work each day? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.