Skipping the commute? 4 ways to use that time to improve a future trip
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Many of us are working from home right now to help flatten the curve of cases of COVID-19. One benefit of working remotely is avoiding your commute. The U.S. Census Bureau says the average American spends 52.2 minutes per day just commuting to and from work, so if you work from home for the next four weeks, you'll gain an extra 17.4 hours for yourself. Score!
Let’s talk about how you can use that time in ways that will benefit your next trip — whenever that may be.
Take a destination deep-dive
There are so many ways to learn about the world's most exotic destinations. The Great Courses Plus offers a wide range of online travel classes, including a series of Great Tours from National Geographic like safaris to Africa, visits to England, Scotland or Wales, and tours of Washington, D.C. or medieval Europe.
If you take the 12-hour African safaris class, you'll learn about the rise of ecotourism in Africa, as well as the difference between self-drive and guided safaris. Then you'll delve into all the different types of safaris in East Africa, Southern Africa and the desert regions.
Related: How to take your family on an African safari
A free 14-day trial membership to the site is available so you can sample a course or two to see if it makes sense to purchase a subscription. A monthly unlimited streaming plan is $19.99 per month and the quarterly plan is $10 per month.
You can watch the videos on your computer or download an app to watch on the go. Supported apps include Apple TV, Apple Store, Google Play, Roku, Kindle Fire, Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV.
Learn a language
There are some fantastic apps to help us learn a language, or brush up on one. If you're dreaming of a vacation to Paris, Rome or Istanbul, now may be the right time to set aside a few minutes a day to learn the basics of French, Italian or Turkish. In fact, there are so many language-learning apps that you'll likely be able to learn any language you'd like.
It's amazing how knowing even a few words of a language helps you communicate with local residents and gives you a deeper understanding of a destination.
Related: Best translation apps for travel
If you're not sure if you've got an ear for languages, start your exploration into a new language with a free app like Duolingo. It offers classes in Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, French, German, Greek, Hawaiian, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Latin, Navajo, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Scottish Gae, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese and Welsh. You can even learn the fictional languages of High Valyrian and Klingon!
Designers of the language app have "gamified" the learning process by providing immediate grading and virtual "awards" that motivate you to keep up your studies. Duolingo is free but you can pay a fee to remove the ads that are baked into the lessons.
Babbel is another popular language app. You can learn Danish, Dutch, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish or Turkish. Sign up for a subscription at Babbel's website or download the app at the Apple App or Google Play stores. An annual subscription is $83.40, which works out to $6.95/month. (You can also purchase a three-month or six-month subscription.)
When you sign up to learn a language, Babbel unlocks all of its lessons -- from newbie to advanced levels. There are also special modules that cover culture, useful vacation phrases, grammar and more.
You can take the classes on your computer, mobile device or both. Try the first lesson of each language for free by registering with the company.
Related: Best ways to travel without knowing the local language
Try ethnic recipes
Food is such an integral part of any destination. The ethnic cuisines of a region can tell you about an area's history, natural resources and culture. If you've got a stocked pantry -- or can order groceries from a grocery delivery service like Instacart -- why not prepare some recipes from the next place you plan to visit when the threat of coronavirus has passed?
No matter where in the world you're heading, you'll find a blog or website devoted to its cuisine. Pick a recipe and start cooking.
If you need a little hand-holding, Michelin-starred Italian chef Massimo Bottura is hosting a daily "Kitchen Quarantine" live cooking class on Instagram at 3 p.m. EST. If you can't watch live, check out the recordings whenever it's convenient for you.
View this post on Instagram
Tonight 8pm on @instagram TV #staytuned #staysafe #kitchenquarantine with Massimo tonight at 8pm
Gear up for a physically challenging trip
Maybe your next trip will be a physically taxing one -- like hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon or trekking to see mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Even planning an aggressive itinerary to explore a city like Rome can be tough on the body. With the extra time you're saving by skipping the commute right now, why not devote it to your physical -- and mental -- well-being?
There are a ton of interesting workouts from different fitness instructors on YouTube. But, if you're just starting your fitness journey, you may want to begin with a program that eases you into a routine. Try Leslie Sansone's Walk at Home program. The fitness routines blend walking, aerobics, strength training and more.
Sign up for a free seven-day trial of the streaming service that includes unlimited access to every workout in Leslie's library. If you like the workouts, pay $8.25 per month to continue service. There's also a cheaper "Daily Walk" option, where you have access to a different workout each day for $4.99 per month. Note: This streaming service codes as "entertainment" on cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve.
If you'd rather purchase DVD workouts, look for them on Amazon.
Related: The best credit cards for entertainment spending
If you've been following the #TPGLemonade Sessions in the TPG Lounge on Facebook, you know we've been trying to find all the small silver linings we can during these uncertain times. If you've suddenly found yourself working from home, commit to using that time you used to spend commuting to an activity that will benefit a future vacation.
Are you skipping the commute right now? How are you spending that extra time? Tell us in the comments below.