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There’s a sort of epidemic that has struck car-owning people, and I’m here to share the good news, and the bad news with you.
Right now, the average American spends 54 minutes commuting to and from work each day, and over 54 million Americans commute more than 90 mins a day for work every single day.
I’ll come right out with it. This is batshit crazy. My opinions are subtle, I know. But let me explain.
A common scenario looks like this.
Buying a big house in the city is expensive. You find a job in the city, but can’t afford a big house in the city, so you buy a big house in a new suburb with dirt lawns and no trees, deciding to commute into work each day because they’re paying well— and you need that salary to afford the house. Plus, it’s only a 40 minute commute each way (at least when the traffic is good). We’ll call this person Emily.
Firstly, this is a horrible idea, Emily.
You should never, ever commute unless you absolutely have to— here’s why.
1. Waste of time
Let’s do some math, I love math (just kidding, I hate math).
So we take the average of 54 minutes a day spent driving to and from work, multiply that by a five day work week, and a 52 week year and what do we get?
234 hours spent commuting, or nearly TEN DAYS.
If you’re in that 17% of Americans spending more than 90 minutes in the car each day, it’s just over 16 days, and this doesn’t even take into consideration all the other driving we’re going taking the kids to soccer, getting groceries, visiting our family or heading out of town on a trip.
Average of 54 minutes a day spent commuting, x 5 days a week, x 52 weeks is 234 hours spend commuting OR nearly 10 days.
If you’re doing the full on long commute, it’s more like just over 16 days. This doesn’t even take into consideration all the other driving we’re doing!
2. Physical health
I’m sure we all know that sitting for ages is terrible for us, especially since so many of those doing the commute also head into an office where they sit for 8-9 hours before heading home and sitting on the sofa for a few more. But in addition to being boring and stressful, commuting regularly also increases your chance of obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, back and neck pain, and premature death.
We’re simply not built to spend half of our life sitting, and if we take a moment to listen to our body we’ll hear the quite desire for more time spent walking and biking over driving.
3. Mental health
Anyone who has spent more than 20 minutes trapped on a busy highway (a personal shout-out here to highway 401 in Southern Ontario, you nebulous bastard) knows that commuting can’t possible be good for your sanity.
In addition to being absolutely terrible for your body, spending long hours commuting each week also wreaks havoc on your mental health. In a study conducted last year, the daily commute was ranked absolute bottom in a list of undesirable tasks. Not only does commuting bump up the road rage to 10, but it increases your change of developing depression, ruins relationships, and even increases the chance of your kids developing emotional problems.
4. you Don’t need the extra money anyway
I get it— if you work that job in the city and spend just 40 minutes a day commuting, you can afford the four bedroom house with the en suite bathroom and the big backyard, and the two car garage and room for your pool table. But just hang on a sec. Do you really want that big house?
No, do you really want that big house? That big house means:
- More time spent cleaning
- More money spent on bills
- More money spent on crap to fill up all the rooms
- More isolation from your family
- More impact on the environment
Plus all the aforementioned damaged to your mental and physical well being.
Besides, the average family only uses 40% of their house, leaving 1000 sq ft to collect dust.
The solution? Get that smaller house in the city, ditch the car, and walk/bike/bus/subway to work. You’ll be happier, you’ll spend less money, and you’ll spend less time crammed in traffic. Your whole family will thank you.
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What could you do with an extra 234 hours every year? That’s an extra four and a half hours each week (so according to Tim Ferris, you could be doing A LOT).
p.s. Relevant: Why Life-Changing Happiness Is As Simple As Riding A Bike