7 things to listen to on your commute

Hannah Sims · 23 Sep

For the many millions of us doing it twice a day – maybe even right now— commuting isn’t a choice. You don’t choose to slog hours up and down and diagonally across the country to get to work.

The average commute in the UK is 55 minutes. 55 big fat minutes. Yes, this varies from place to place: some of us might have the luxury of rolling out of bed whilst others fight the crowds to change three or four times before they even get close. Whatever the distance, one thing’s for sure: the average commute time is increasing – and we’re not getting a say in this.

So let’s have a look at what you can control. Whether you’re driving, walking or travelling wedged into an armpit, with a set of trusty headphones it’s really up to you what you hear.

So listen in, we’ve got some ideas for what to treat your ears to on your commute: top podcasts, the best news sites, even things you can record for yourself. Here goes.


1. BBC News

Listen to BBC business daily, part of their World Service, and arrive at work feeling up to speed, even if your train ran late.

Good for: 18-minute-long topical chat with a worldwide focus. Testing your mind and improving overall intelligence,

Bad for: Can be the All Bran of entertainment. Bland, but fine in the morning and good for you. You just might be left asking, where’s that tasty bias?

The average commute in the UK is 55 minutes.

2. Comedy

The news sometimes – okay usually – isn’t a laugh-fest with knobs on. In fact often it’s all knobs and no fest at all, actually. So almt Christie Minds The Gap or The Pandolly podcast.

Good for: cheering yourself up, starting the day with a splash of funny.

Bad for: that feeling when you know you shouldn’t laugh in the quiet carriage, so you backfire-laugh, resulting in a sinus explosion.

3. Mindfulness

No, not that sort of mindfulness! Not the type that makes you terrifyingly conscious and aware of your mental state in the present moment. No one wants that at 7.30 on a Monday morning.

We looked into self-hypnotism too, but that all seemed a bit alarming.

Instead, we found an app that tells you what ghosts in your area are saying. And not just the ones that stopped talking to you on Tinder. It’s called Spirit Story Box. Two star reviews. Yours for £0.79. A steal.

Good for: realising there are crazier people out there than you.

Bad for: covering up what actual, real-life ghosts are saying.

4. Desert Island Discs

The extensive back-catalogue means that if you like it, there’s a lot to listen to from this long-running show. Great episodes include Tennessee Williams (southern drawl, old school), Simon Cowell (alarming charm)… indeed anyone with a funny voice or a surprising story.

Good for: Interesting lives beyond the dual carriageway.

Bad for: the childhood song that means a lot to celebrity x but really does nothing for you on your car journey in the rain.


5. Audiobook

Yes, yes, we know what you’re thinking. Who even does this? But what about an audiobook read by your favourite celebrity?

The Return of the Native as read by the late Alan Rickman, makes Thomas Hardy’s melodrama yet more moving.

Or, brilliance beyond brilliance Tom Hiddleston is narrating High Rise by J G Ballard- perfect for your dystopian commute among the skyscrapers.

Good for: giving your journey its own narrative. Memories of twisted tape cassettes from the past.

Bad for: having to pause in a weird place, or on a cliff-hanger.

6. Robot-generated playlist

The best streaming services out there, including Spotify and Soundcloud, tailor to your tastes, and don’t just direct you towards established artists (no, Apple music, we don’t always want to listen to Beyoncé). They weirdly nail your taste early on and make a week’s playlist of personalised picks that are oddly accurate. But how did you know, Spotify bot?

Good for: lazy DJs.

Bad for: succumbing to the robot overlords who are going to take over this world.


7. White Noise

It turns out there are apps specially made to help you blot out unwelcome sounds… other commuters’ train conversations or your mum calling to moan about / threatening to kill the neighbour’s cat.

Noisili provides sounds to suit all moods, from white noise to the warm hum of a coffee shop. Else, go one better and record the sound of your favourite café when you’re in it – bit weird, but actually strangely intriguing to listen back to – especially if it’s somewhere you love.

Good for: when there’s a tinny leak out of someone else’s headphones driving you nuts but your angry side-eye’s not working.

Bad for: the quiet threat of white noise might panic people who have watched The Ring and/or the slightly less acclaimed 2005 horror film White Noise.

8. Some bad ideas- what not to listen to:

Crackly World War Two broadcasts

Samuel Beckett play

Sports match with unknown rules

Erotic novel

Beat poetry

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