Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
26 Aug

The High Cost of Commuting

commutingBetween gas, car maintenance, bus fare, and train tickets, commuting can get expensive. Driving a mile in the US costs around $0.55, according to the IRS, and some estimates (PDF) even peg this country’s working poor as spending close to 10% of their income on commuting. Financial experts suggest that a one way commute of 20 miles (which is roughly average) will cost you almost $50,000 every ten years. If you’re one of the 600,000 “mega-commuters” who travel at least 90 minutes each direction in the US, your costs skyrocket.

But commuting isn’t just financially costly. It also eats time we could otherwise spend with friends, family, and our children – or getting much-needed sleep. It cuts into leisure time that would be better spent reading, writing, creating, or doing absolutely nothing at all but relaxing and being. It adds constant, chronic stress to our lives. It thrusts us into a daily fight or flight situation with huge metal monsters whizzing by and cutting in front of us. It turns other commuters into our mortal enemies, if only for a minute or two. It makes it harder to prepare and enjoy a healthy home-cooked meal. And it makes us more unhealthy.

In other words, commuting costs us time and money, but it can also cost us life, love, health, sleep, and freedom. Expensive habit, eh?

Let’s take a closer look at the high costs of commuting to see if it’s worth all the trouble.

Commuting makes you unhealthy.

Obviously, time spent in the car is time not spent doing health-promoting things like working out or cooking because you can’t do those while driving (well, maybe you could do kegels or something). The longer your commute, the more it takes away from food preparation (and subsequent consumption of said food), exercising, and other healthy acts. Each minute spent commuting is “associated with a 0.0257 minute exercise time reduction, a 0.0387 minute food preparation time reduction, and a 0.2205 minute sleep time reduction.”

And sure enough, several studies have found strong associations between commute time and poor health. In 2012 (PDF), researchers linked long commutes to less physical activity, lower cardiovascular fitness, larger waists, higher BMIs, and more hypertension in Texas adults. Overall, a long commute predicted poorer metabolic health. Another study found that vehicle miles traveled was the strongest predictor of obesity among Californians. Long commutes may also be more harmful to women than men, with long commuting women dying earlier than short commuting women.

Commuting makes you feel awful.

A recent study shows that with each additional minute of commuting time, we feel worse and worse. Our sense of well-being plummets and our anxiety increases. Oddly, this trend reverses once you hit a three hour commute; people who commute for three hours or more each day report greater life satisfaction. Higher pay (which often accompanies longer commutes) doesn’t seem to make up for the lost happiness, either. According to the study, telecommuters report the greatest satisfaction, lowest stress, and highest sense of well-being.

Commuting is stressful.

The longer the commute, the greater the stress. What’s worse: commuting is a reliable source of stress. You have to do it. It’s always there, lurking in the mind’s periphery. Sunday morning? You’re not focusing on the delicious coffee in front of you. You’re dreading the hour-long drive tomorrow. And the commute itself is fraught with stress, both chronic (the daily grind) and acute (the jerk changing lanes without signaling).

Commuting disrupts your sleep.

Until self-driving cars become available to consumers (a technology I for one eagerly await), commuting necessarily cuts into sleep time. You can’t drive and sleep at the same time, and the longer the commute, the earlier you have to wake up and go to bed if you want good, sufficient sleep. That’s just the morning, though. You also have to consider the commute back home. The more time that takes, the less free time you’ll have at night before you have to hit the hay to get enough sleep. It gets messy fast, particularly because people with long commutes still need to decompress and enjoy themselves at night. They’re not robots who just power down for the night. They’re likely to stay up later and suffer in the morning.

Commuting is lonely.

Even when we’re pushing through the throngs of humanity, we’re alone. No one wants to be there. No one’s cheery enough to chat, except maybe the guy with a quad espresso running through his veins. Most Americans drive to work in single occupancy cars. Millions of us file along the road, isolated and oblivious to the people around us (until they cut us off or drive too close and we yell obscenities). There’s no more robust a predictor of social isolation than a long commute, according to Robert Putnam, a social scientist and expert on the disintegration of American civic life. And social isolation is disastrous for our health and our happiness.

Commuting is the last thing many people want to do.

I mean that literally: a survey (PDF) of women found that commuting, especially in the morning, was the most unpleasant thing they had to do on a regular basis. Unsurprisingly, the women’s favorite acts – sex and socializing after work – are both directly inhibited by a long commute. What makes this even worse is that we have to do this thing we hate more than anything – twice a day, every single day. It’s like a chronic illness that we’ve just learned to accept.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. You can make changes, tweaks to your schedule, your routine, even your career that either mitigate the deleterious effects of the commute or eliminate them altogether.

Telecommute.

People often assume that telecommuting means slacking off or getting nothing done, but that hasn’t been my experience. Several of my employees telecommute, including my general manager who’s currently living in Australia, and it works out great. I’m a big supporter of telecommuting. Research backs me up, with telecommuters experiencing less work-family conflict, a greater sense of autonomy, less stress, and more job satisfaction. The main potential downside is a lack of personal contact with co-workers, which can modestly harm work relationships (but doesn’t have to).

Try active commuting.

If you really have to commute – and let’s face it, most of us do – try incorporating some active movement like biking or walking. Obviously, if you’re driving 60 miles on the interstate each way to work, biking probably isn’t feasible. But if you’re sitting in traffic for 20 or 30 minutes just to go 15 miles, or taking 15 minutes to drive 2 miles, you could easily do that on a bike or on your feet. Research shows that people who walk or bike to work experience less stress as a result of their commute and rate their mode of transportation as more enjoyable, exciting, and relaxing. They’re still commuting and it’s still taking up free time, but at least they’re getting some exercise out of it, avoiding additional stress, and perhaps even reducing their risk of early mortality.

Change your perception – and reception – of commuting.

When it comes to stress, perception is almost everything. Instead of flipping off the guy who cut you off, ignore it and smile. Don’t use the horn vindictively. Use it prophylactically to prevent accidents or warn other drivers. I mean, who really cares that a guy didn’t let you in or forgot to use a blinker or honked at you? Don’t give in to the anger welling up because someone did something in a car near you. It does nothing but make your commute more stressful. You may have to fake it until you make it, but you’ll be reciting zen koans and perceiving the cosmic oneness of all mankind on the commute in no time.

Make your commute enjoyable.

If you’re sitting in traffic, you should try to enjoy yourself. Don’t listen to AM talk radio hosts whose alignments run opposite yours. Don’t wallow in “anger porn.” Heck, I’d avoid politics altogether. Instead, listen to good music. Throw on audiobooks. Subscribe to a podcast or two. Make the most of your situation.

Change jobs.

I know, I know. It’s sacrilege to even suggest this, but switching to a lower-paying job with an easy or nonexistent commute might be worth it. You’ll have more time with your family and friends. You’ll have more time with yourself. You’ll get more sleep. You can finally go take that krav maga or yoga class you’ve been considering. You’ll save on gas and wear-and-tear car repairs. You might actually get a chance to cook a real Primal meal every night rather than pick up something resembling food on the way home. And a new job doesn’t even have to mean lower pay. You might find something closer and better-paying and more interesting if you actually rouse yourself from homeostasis and go look. Pursuing your dream can work.

Since nearly everyone commutes, and most of you are probably reading this at work or en route to work, I hope you’ll really consider the thrust of today’s post. It’s not an easy thing to confront the possibility that we’re actively curtailing our health and happiness on a daily basis, nor is it simple to change gears and make a huge shift, but it might be a good move. Let me know what you guys think in the comment section. Thanks for reading!

You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. I’ve found a few tricks that make my commute more bearable/enjoyable:

    I leave home and work earlier — Allows me to avoid most of the rush hour traffic.

    I can stay in the right lane for 95% of my commute —Minimizes the stress of weaving in and out of traffic. Also less people jumping in front of me.

    The drive to and from work is my personal time where I can listen to the radio or just enjoy some peace and quiet before work/taking care of kids.

    I’ve looked into taking the train but a monthly subscription would cost about as much as gas in the car PLUS I’d have to walk 3 miles in from the train station.

    Jacob wrote on August 26th, 2014
  2. I took a lower paying job and ditched the heinous commute long ago. Now I’m poorer but arguably saner. I listen to Mark’s and Robb Wolf’s podcasts during my easier commute each week so it’s more pleasant and educational. Time passes a lot quicker too. I only occasionally get a tinge of regret because in some ways if felt good having a minor power job in a field I liked whereas now my job is a job and while I’m not unhappy it can be pretty belittling (in many ways) on occasion by comparison.

    Groktimus Primal wrote on August 26th, 2014
  3. I’ve been an “active commuter” for some years now, walking and later cycling. My current job (which I began cycle commuting for) has tasked me with getting a car for some reason. It’s about a 3 mile ride, so it’ll be a short drive but I greatly dislike the idea for many reasons.

    I’m getting the license (never bothered) and the car as they ask, but I’ll probably pretty quickly start looking to work somewhere else in town that doesn’t mind me cycling.

    M.

    MEversbergII wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • Why would they have a problem with your riding your bike? That seems rather odd to me.

      Stacie wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • Unless you’re not showering when you get to work, they really can’t say how you commute.

      Jessica wrote on August 27th, 2014
    • What’s the point? It’s a huge waste of money. Cyclists are more productive and less likely to be ill than non-cyclists. Studies show this. My commute to work via bike is 7mi. One ride to work there was traffic jam, and I bypassed it. With all the traffic lights, going by car isn’t much faster. Google Maps tells me it takes 17min by car. It takes me about 25min by bike. It’s good exercise to boot. Tell them to go to hell.

      Karl wrote on August 27th, 2014
  4. China has 200mph trains and Japan has some beauties too! It’s a crime in this large, wealthy country of the U.S. everyone is driving solo. This is the perfect country for a mass transit system.

    Nocona wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • I’m not sure that addresses most of the concerns laid out about commuting.

      Mark S wrote on August 26th, 2014
      • I’m not sure either…but it did make me feel better to vent a little.

        Nocona wrote on August 26th, 2014
      • It would certainly address some of them.
        In a train, you can do a lot more than just listen to the radio. You can read a book, write, sketch, even knit if that’s your thing, and you can talk to other people.
        You don’t actively have to do anything to get to your destination, so you could take a nap.
        I even know people who work in the train and count that towards their work hours, so basically they are getting paid to commute.
        Also, no road rage.

        I am fortunate enough to live in a country with a great public transport system (it’s definitely cheaper than having car). On top of that, I live close enough to my place of work that I can walk or take the bike, and even if I had to take public transportation, they would reimburse me for at least part of the cost…
        Just reading this article made me feel stressed out and annoyed. I can’t imagine having to go through that every single day. I feel truly sorry for everyone who does.

        Linda wrote on August 27th, 2014
    • I agree. Trains make a big difference, not just because you can forget about the traffic, you can also read a book or talk with people. Not to mention the reduction of pollution of course.

      Alma wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • Won’t happen–not profitable enough, and no political will. Remember when Amtrak used to cross the country? Now it’s down to 2 routes: 1 across the gulf coast, and the other in the DC/Boston area.

      Wenchypoo wrote on August 26th, 2014
      • Amtrack Surfliner goes from Santa Barbara to San Diego with some great views along the way. SoCal residents should look into taking it to and from PrimalCon and extend the party.

        Jack Lea Mason wrote on August 26th, 2014
        • Amtrak is ridiculously subsidized and should be shut down.

          Snake Plissken wrote on August 26th, 2014
      • Main problem is that the U.S. is (ahem) not a perfect country for it. It’s too big.

        Rail is tremendously efficient way to move heavy, dense stuff long distances – coal, sand, etc. Rail is a comparatively inefficient way to move people long distances.

        Japan and Europe have very large, dense metropolitan areas that are close together, thereby supporting the commuting volume that would warrant rail coverage. Compare the distance from Tokyo to Nagoya, or London and Paris, compared to Chicago to New York or LA.

        More generally, I’d rather take Mark’s point as “try to avoid / minimize commuting,” not “take the train instead.”

        James wrote on August 26th, 2014
        • Not only the cities you mention in the US but the suburbs forming a 70 mile radius outside those cities where major populations reside make trains unfeasible. I don’t think that train from Orange,Calif. to Chino Hills is happening.

          victor wrote on August 27th, 2014
      • Disagree. Make gas 8-10 bucks a gallon like it is in Europe…and where it probably should be, and then mass transit becomes viable.

        Nocona wrote on August 27th, 2014
        • Why “should” gas be $8-10 bucks a gallon?

          James wrote on August 27th, 2014
        • People said the same thing when Europe was paying $4+ fifteen years ago and we were paying $1.50. Our response was fuel efficiency, hybrids,etc… Why? Because we love our cars and the independence it gives us among other things.

          victor wrote on August 27th, 2014
    • I agree with you but, as has been pointed out, there is no political will. A discussion of how rail was actively killed in this country is another discussion.

      glorth2 wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • Issues with mass transit- lack of centralized work/living space. Mass transit works well in areas where there is a defined commute- to/from suburbs to central business district. I used to use trains to commute from suburban Chicago to the central business district all the time when I worked there. But it is impractical if you live in one suburb and wish to commute to another. The random nature of this style of commuting all but negates the use of efficient mass transit.

      Distance- Amtrak’s Accela workes well in the Boston-Washington corridor, but it still takes 6 hours to go from Boston to Washington, marginally faster than driving, but way, way slower than flying. For about the same cost. Shorter distances, the time advantage all but disappears (Philly suburbs to New York City area, you’re better off just driving. Faster and cheaper)

      Going longer? Flying or driving is quicker. Once had to look into traveling from Miami to New York City on short notice with two people after a major snowstorm. The longest, most expensive option was Amtrak. Shortest option was close to 30 hours in transit and anywhere from $600-$2400 depending on if we wanted to sit in coach or a sleeper cabin. Renting a car and driving took 19 hours, door to door and cost us a total of $250 for the car and gas.

      There are areas where mass transit works, and works well. Most of the US is not one of them. I think people tend to forget how large the US is at times.

      Mike wrote on August 27th, 2014
  5. My ex was in the military, and his job required us to live about 75 minutes outside of Toronto. Meanwhile, I had a very busy job in the financial district. My commute on the train was incredibly long, and I rapidly became very depressed.

    Now he’s my ex… :P

    My current commute is a 20 minute high speed bike ride along a gorgeous river in Western Canada. Happiness has increased exponentially. I would encourage anyone to avoid a soul-destroying commute at all costs.

    Jillian wrote on August 26th, 2014
  6. “The Tom Woods Show” podcast (~25 minutes) on my daily morning commute plus tunes allows me to tune into sound reasoning, current events, history and logic before work.

    Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on August 26th, 2014
  7. Good post and something everyone should consider. One thing not mentioned was moving closer to work. Check out Mr. Money Mustache’s take on this topic (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/10/06/the-true-cost-of-commuting/) and his positive take on MDA (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/08/07/mr-money-mustache-vs-marks-daily-apple/).

    John wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • You beat me to the MMM links!

      Jarrod wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • That’s what we did, and the commute is STILL a killer as long as you go during normal commute hours. We live about 12 miles from work, yet Hubby works at a military base, and about 10,000 more people share the road with him, everybody having to be there at 7.

      This is why Hubby now gets there by 6, and spends the hour before work in the office gym.

      Coming home, he still sometimes gets caught in the homeward traffic deluge.

      Wenchypoo wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • MMM would say that 10 year cost is more like 80,000 @ 7% over ten years in a Vanguard index fund. That’s THREE additional years to work before retirement. Move closer to work or work closer to home. I can see my fire station out my back door😘

      Snake Plissken wrote on August 26th, 2014
  8. I gave up my 15 year old brick and mortar business for a lower paying gig working from home back in March and couldn’t be happier.

    The commute is pretty tough though. Ran into a traffic jam this morning on the way in… cat was in the hallway.

    Rrrracer wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • :-)

      KariVery wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • Haha!! Entertaining :)

      Kevin Grokman wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • I have more than one cat. I run into that type of traffic on my evening commute quite often. I clock in at 10:00 pm…there are nights I get up at 9:50 pm. I love my job.

      Robin wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • I have a similar traffic jam on my commute to work – three cats all trying to go through the same doorway as me!

      I do have a second office, outside the house, but I can bike there in less than 20 minutes.

      Our main office is across the country, but I only fly there once every month or three, and then I stay for a couple of days.

      Erika wrote on August 27th, 2014
    • These are good problems to have!

      Rrrracer wrote on August 27th, 2014
  9. With a 2 hour / 120 miles a day total drive this post is stressing me out just reading it…

    Ham-Bone wrote on August 26th, 2014
  10. I’ve been telecommuting for years now, and it really is great for my productivity in all areas, and great for my family life and health (I get more time to exercise and prep food, since the kitchen is handy and I’m not driving to work or spending a lot of time getting ready in the morning). However, I do miss the human contact with other adults. I’d suggest if you telecommute and you can, to incorporate some video calls in with the telephone calls, and to try to work some regular outings into the week so that you are definitely spending time with other people besides your spouse and kids. Otherwise it starts to get a bit cabin-feverish.
    Now I’m starting grad school one day a week, and it’s a hell of a commute to school (90 minutes). I’m exploring options like public transportation – I can alternate sitting and standing and get some reading done – and bike sharing, but sometimes I just have to grit my teeth and make the drive. I’ve made it a little more productive by getting some language practice in on those drives, since that’s a requirement for my program.

    Kelly wrote on August 26th, 2014
  11. I ride my Vespa to work. It’s a lot more fun than driving. Maybe not less dangerous for my health, but so far so good. Been doing it for 30,000 miles rain or shine so far. I don’t seem to mind the lack of music to listen to. There’s something nice about being out in the air and the exhilaration of riding a motorcycle, especially one so pretty. I’ve also done the bike commute and the walk commute. Both those are pretty nice, too. Trouble with the walking commute is if you are running late it’s almost impossible to catch up and switching to driving or riding at the last minute means a whole new set of headaches regarding where the hell to park or where the hell to lock your bike, which will also make you late, making a walking commute something you have to make sure you are NEVER late for. A good bus commute that isn’t too long with a bus stop you can walk to is the best option. You get a nice morning and evening walk and a chance to do a little reading or spacing out before/after work.

    Diane wrote on August 26th, 2014
  12. This goes nicely: here is one of the best posts from one of the best personal finance blogs out there.

    http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/10/06/the-true-cost-of-commuting/

    Jarrod wrote on August 26th, 2014
  13. Subway commuting in NYC is a hellish daily experience but I recently softened it somewhat by finding a different route wherein I have to walk about 10min on each side of my ride. On nice days, this really helps lessen the dread and improve my mood (as well as get some sunshine).

    I used to work at a place that was a 10min walk from my apt but the work environment was terrible to the point where I prefer my 45min commute each way at my current job.

    Christopher wrote on August 26th, 2014
  14. I have a 35 minute commute. Fortunately my husband and I carpool for a portion of it and then I listen to podcasts such as On Being. (I highly recommend it, soothing voices with good thoughts, keeps the road rage abated).

    As someone suggested previously, I leave a little earlier in the mornings to beat the heavy traffic. Doing so can help stress tremendously, in my opinion.

    Bridgette wrote on August 26th, 2014
  15. My husband has to drive 15 minutes to work (very short commute time according to this) and it still drains him. We just can’t afford a house in town and so we had to go a little further away. However, I will say that some planning can ameliorate some of the stresses above- particularly where food is concerned.

    I have recently become a big fan of devoting a weekend a month to prepping all of our dinners in the freezer for that month, ready to be used when required. That sounds like a lot of work (and it is, sometimes) but the amount of stress it decreases in our lives is amazing. Both of us can be assured that there is a paleo-friendly meal waiting for us when we get home from whatever we’ve done that day (slow cookers are our friend) no matter how long he’s worked or what the schedule is for me that day (mine varies considerably since I am a stay at home mom with two kids that are very involved in different activities/aspiring author).

    I know people who just prep for the week ahead and it only takes them an hour or so at most. I spread out my food weekend and probably spend 4 to 6 hours doing what needs to be done (chopping/pre-cooking where needed/portioning/labelling). I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s decreased both of our stress enormously and has saved us quite a bit of money in the process. We probably spend about $200 less on groceries than we did, because we actually only get what we need.

    Stephanie wrote on August 26th, 2014
  16. One of the biggest changes that I made outside of diet was avoiding traffic. I leave home a LOT earlier and go to the gym where I try very hard to do as little as possible before going into the office. The trip takes 18 minutes each way instead of 1-1.5 hours and I am much happier.

    Corbeaux wrote on August 26th, 2014
  17. I used to be a mega commuter (90 miles each way) and it was awful on my health. I gained weight, had no energy, and was constantly stressed.

    Now I live about 30 miles from work. It is still a long drive, but I am able to carpool. Having the opportunity to spend time and socialize with others while driving makes it go by much more quickly (also, the use of the carpool lane literally makes it go by more quickly).

    I have also reduced my commute time by teleworking once per week, and staggering my start and end times at my job. Not having a starting time makes driving in less stressful (even if there is traffic, I don’t worry about being late because of it). It has done wonders on my stress. More workplaces should adopt this kind of flexibility.

    Kathleen wrote on August 26th, 2014
  18. I’m moving to live a half mile away from my job in October, im stoked to rollerblade in the summer, though i think i’ll be screwed in the winter!

    Brandon wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • Not at all–just switch to x-c skis or snowshoes!
      I’m fortunate to live walking distance to work, enjoy it year-round. Even our last winter, brutally cold, was never too much. You just need good clothes.

      Tom B-D wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • Cross-country skiing?

      Wenchypoo wrote on August 26th, 2014
  19. I rather like my commute, which is about 45 minutes each way. I’m a bit of an introvert and my commute is my alone time – just me and the radio. I focus on the positive, like that driver that just let me merge over, rather than the several that did not. If I know traffic is going to be bad, I take one of my alternated rountes. If I’m stuck in a traffic jam, I let work know I’m running late, and find something good on the radio or my CD’s. I’m the weirdo who actually seems to be enjoying the traffic jam. Hey, I can’t do anything about being stuck there at thaemoment, so I might as well enjoy myself. An added bonus, my job allows me 1 hr, 3 times a week, to work out on the clock.

    b2curious wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • Your comment reminds me of being stuck in the LA traffic after the Rose Parade way back in the 1950’s. In the car in front of us, the couple used the time to “make out.”

      Sharon wrote on August 27th, 2014
      • Ha, ha, ha! Well, I certainly don’t enjoy traffic jams THAT much. I just work on my “car dancing” and “steering wheel drumming.”

        b2curious wrote on August 27th, 2014
  20. Oddly enough, though I do agree with many things you listed above, I often find my commute relaxing.

    As a full-time working mother, it’s hard to get time for myself, and my commute provides me with guaranteed alone time. I listen to my audiobooks and drink my coffee (in the morning) and I can just…breathe.

    Unfortunately, there are no jobs where I live, so finding another job isn’t an option…so I make the best of it. :)

    Monica wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • You said it perfectly “I can just…breathe.” That’s it exactly!

      b2curious wrote on August 27th, 2014
  21. I joined a vanpool. I can nap, play on my phone, or enjoy the company of the rest of the people riding with me. It is subsidized by the taxpayer, just like the rest of the bus and rail system in the region, which I don’t support, but at least it is more efficient than all the empty buses driving around town.

    Lou wrote on August 26th, 2014
  22. My husband is a carpenter (journeyman) with the carpenter’s union and is feeling seriously burnt out by the long commutes (1 1/2 hrs to 2 hrs one way). We live in a small rural community in Southern Ontario, Canada that we love but are considering moving to a city closer to the main highway arteries, He has major sleep deficit and stress so bad his heart sometimes skips or flutters (not to mention he is dreading driving another winter like we had last year). After reading this article, I’m really starting to think he needs to get out of the construction industry because it seems that no matter where we live it will always involve too much driving from site to site. Are there any other carpenters or tradespeople on here that have experienced this? If so, how have you coped, did you have to eventually give it up?

    Amy wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • I’m an electrician, so is my husband. We live in the mid-Willamette Vally, his work is mostly 45 min. South of home and mine is in the Portland metro area 75 to 90 min. North. Mornings aren’t too bad because I start earlier than most city folk, but the afternoon commute can take up to 2 1/2 hours depending on traffic. I’ve learned to just chill, crank up the radio and sing really loud. I try to not let the other drivers stress me out, if they feel the need to cut in I just let them. I figure that it will only add a few seconds to my overall driving time and it just isn’t worth the adrenaline release with no way to run it off. I’ve been thinking of checking out some books-on-tape from the library too.

      Rema wrote on August 26th, 2014
  23. As an airline pilot, I was communting across the country twice a week. It was awful. Besides just being in an airplane so much, the stress of actually making the flight and hoping their were seats available was a constant and great stressor. Finally just took the financial hit of not being to sell my house (finally a renter) and just moved across the country. Best move ever. Now I take the bus to the airport. Nap, listen to podcasts, read….Ahhhh.

    B wrote on August 26th, 2014
  24. When my husband and I purchased our house last year our top priority was “within 5 miles of his office”. This allows him to ride his bike to work each day which gives him some exercise and a huge boost of energy for the day. He has a very cheap gym membership right next to work for showering. We’ve not only cut out owning a second vehicle at all but also cut down on a lot of caffeine intake at work. (I’m told coding is boring.) I am about to give birth to our first child and am therefore not working at the moment, but when I am I will be doing home visit massages so I take primary use of our old hatchback car. Can’t avoid driving for that as in MY home massages aren’t legal in Las Vegas. But overall this forethought has saved us a ton of stress and money. (A big thanks to the Mr. Money Mustache blog for helping us see some of these options as well as pointing us to Mark’s site in the first place.)

    Shannon wrote on August 26th, 2014
  25. This is a timely article, as I have a 90min each way car drive to work. I am selling up and buying a smaller house nearer my family. This will clear my mortgage, release some equity and as soon as I have exchanged contracts I will hand in my notice. Double the stress, but excited about the opportunities that may present themselves.

    Jackie wrote on August 26th, 2014
  26. I am very fortunate as I have an employer that subsidizes transportation costs for us, so I use a commuter bus that’s non-stop between where I live and work – it’s about a 20 mile round trip. The ticket costs me only $19 a month, the busses are clean and nice, I can relax a little and not have to worry about driving, and there’s not a bunch weirdoes on our bus since we’re all commuters (well, if there are, at least they keep it to themselves). When I do drive, it is stressful and I am glad I don’t have to very often. I wish everyone were able to have a nice bus to ride to work.

    KariVery wrote on August 26th, 2014
  27. I have pretty strong feelings on this. Much of my job requires work on MS Excel or on MS Word. Why should I need to commute even 20 minutes to the office on a regular basis? The biggest problem is when I need to look at other documents at the office. There is no remote access for it.

    The distance is about 15 miles, so biking may be possible, but I live in the Phoenix area. I don’t prefer to be covered in stinky sweaty clothes for the day. Even with a change of clothes, they stick to me, and I notice my scent. I am sure I would not be the only one. When it’s 90+ degrees (as it is probably 7 months or more out of the year), the idea is very unpleasant. If there was a shower here, as at my last office, I would make good use of it.

    I agree with Mark that commuting makes it difficult to get enough sleep, always make a home-cooked meal, and even have enough time to do the whole array of ANYTHING more important than sitting in a car driving to an office.

    I can get up REALLY early and get to work by 7 to keep my commute to twenty minutes, or get to work by 10 to accomplish the same thing. The departure times on those schedules also tend to minimize total commute time. But I am a night owl and enjoy being out with people in the evenings (or other late night activities! ;) ) so the early schedule conflicts, but I dislike getting home so late and cooking a meal and eating at 8:00 or later.

    This has been one of my greatest personal enemies. And it seems it will continue to challenge me for a while!

    Kevin Grokman wrote on August 26th, 2014
  28. I’m a homeschool mom so my commute isn’t too bad, usually a walk around the neighborhood for 20-30 min. just to get the blood flowing. ;-)
    My husband is lucky too. He commutes 20-30 min. (depending on traffic. The earlier he leaves, the better). And about a third of that is along calming canopy roads. (A huge reason we chose our neighborhood.)
    And, lucky him, he doesn’t have to worry about less time to prep his meals since his lovely wife usually has a healthy breakfast sitting out before he leaves, a healthy lunch packed to throw in the fridge at work, and a healthy dinner to fill him up in the evening before relaxing with the kids before bed.
    I’m sure that sounds very 1950’s and Suzie-Q-Homemaker, but it’s what works for us! And we’re very happy doing it! I love knowing that’s he’s been well provided for throughout the day while he’s out providing a living for his family. :-)

    Beth wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • Nice!

      wildgrok wrote on August 26th, 2014
  29. So, I’ve lived in cities for the past 10 years and have always walked to and from work. Currently it’s 3 miles daily- and I look forward to my “commutes” (I don’t cab or subway, even in winter). I’m honestly not sure I could handle a real commute.

    Charlotte wrote on August 26th, 2014
  30. Weather permitting I often ride my bike to the gym near my office long before the morning rush. I then walk from the gym to the office and back to the gym at the end of the day then I am able to throw my bike on a rack on the local bus which gets me through the worst of the downtown traffic safely. I then ride the rest of the way home.

    Its not perfect but the ride in the morning is glorious before most people are out of bed and it makes the rest of it worth it.

    Cindy wrote on August 26th, 2014
  31. I agree with the costs of commuting! But want to share some “positives” of when I commuted back in the 90’s and early 2000’s. I listened to teaching tapes during all of my drives and it fortified my mind and soul in ways that I am so thankful for now. Hours and hours of teaching tapes (cassettes and then cd’s) led to some important learning for me and my hour + commutes each way allowed this to happen.

    healthywings wrote on August 26th, 2014
  32. The type and quality of the commute are what matter to me. I am one of those super commuters and have been doing it on and off for 15 years. 3+ hours daily for 3 days per week. I stay in an inexpensive motel two nights that are not consecutive. That means only one day is spent commuting in both directions. Strange as it sounds I enjoy this time. It is 100% interstate at speed limit. Satellite radio or just semi meditating is relaxing to me. I am more refreshed when I get to work or home than I ever was from a 20 minute commute where I fought traffic daily. And I do agree with the talk radio, whether your slant is liberal or conservative don’t do it.

    John wrote on August 26th, 2014
  33. I love what I do for a living, but I always had trouble finding the right job. Three years ago, I set my mind to finding the right job for me – telecommute, specific salary, learn something new every day, adequate PTO – and last May I found it. As it turned out, an even better opportunity came along about a month ago. Working from home has been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I’m more productive, relaxed, and I can cook Primal meals every day. The opportunities are out there. You just have to set your sights on what you want, put in the work to find the opportunity, and don’t lose your patience.

    James wrote on August 26th, 2014
  34. Years ago I changed jobs, 12 miles one way took somtimes 40 minutes. Now it takes 12 to 15 minutes. Much better. I’d like to take public transportation but it would cost a LOT more in money and time so forget that. It’s about 4 miles and I suppose I could ride my bike but it’s a dangerous route and most of the year it’s RAINING and COLD. Being a “sissy-la-la” I don’t like getting too cold nor dirty in the rain. But the commute is great with the radio blasting or not at all depending on my needs.

    2Rae wrote on August 26th, 2014
  35. My commute takes 2.5 hours from the time my bike leaves the garage to when I lock it up at work.

    That would be horrible if it was more than 6 times/month. As it is, I have a 5km ride first thing, then a brief wait before a 45 minute ferry trip (on which I usually sleep or read a novel), a 20 minute bus ride, and then another 6km uphill ride at the far end. Sometimes, on my way home, I ride all the way, but that makes for a 4.5 hour commute and usually isn’t worth it unless I just want the exercise.

    I work 24 or 48 hour shifts, so at the end of work I have a few days off to recover.

    rocketpj wrote on August 26th, 2014
  36. I can’t have it better:
    Work is 3.8 miles away, I use my bike daily, all the time in wide sidewalks, almost no hills ,this is Miami, very flat :-).

    I have been working in the same place for the last 9 years, and during that time I used the car only in the first month.

    Once a week (usually Tuesdays, like today) I walk to work: going I include some soft runs of 6-10 minutes, returning I just walk and enjoy the scenery and the mp3 music (which I do also on the going trip).

    I have in the past had the “opportunity” (notice the quotes) of long commutes. For me it is MUCH BETTER to earn less and live happier.

    wildgrok wrote on August 26th, 2014
  37. Snake Plissken wrote on August 26th, 2014
  38. I started a work at home position just over a year ago and absolutely love it. Even though the brutal Midwest winter kept me inside more than I like. The thought of a position that requires a commute and set hours literally gives me a panic attack. Please don’t make me go back to that life.

    Pam wrote on August 26th, 2014
  39. Problem with this, for me, is I want out of the over crowded stereotypical ‘burbs and hate city living – I’ve had years of both. I enjoy space, privacy and nature too much. But to get it, means moving away and increasing commute time – a choice I may be making soon. Unless extremely wealthy, there are always tradeoffs to be made.

    Sue wrote on August 26th, 2014
  40. I recently moved from being 2 miles away from work where I took an electric scooter to work in a matter of 6 minutes, to living 9 miles away and taking my car.

    Fortunately there are still a few highways in Austin that are not completely packed with cars and there is still a steady flow of cars.

    I always think about the air pollution aspect. Isn’t it insane to think of the traffic jams around the country and planet that occur each day? and to think about all the gas being burned, the oil being dripped and the heat and gasses being put off my these cars.

    Hard to imagine a life without cars, let alone more efficient cars that run on different types of alternative fuel.

    We’re in a weird middle ground with our outdated way of life still functioning for now. Sustainable America has been on my show if someone wants to learn more.

    Evan Brand wrote on August 26th, 2014
    • Like you, the cost to the environment was the first thing that came to my mind with all the commuting.

      We had solar collectors installed on our house and one way the solar company tells us about our usage is to tell us how many lbs of CO2 we have saved from putting into the air. In a year and a half, we have saved the equivalent of NOT driving about 20,000 miles in a car. That seems pretty amazing to me.

      My husband is able to walk to the 1/2 mile to work on most days, we can easily walk to grocery, etc in our small village and I try to tie all the things I need a car for into one event when occasionally I need to be out and about. I feel fortunate that we are able to do this.

      Sharon wrote on August 27th, 2014

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