Four hours a day in the car. Two hours one way by train. Is anything worth that commute?
While most Americans say no—we rank short commute times or proximity to public transportation second only to crime rate when it comes to determining where to rent or buy a home—these four super-commuters have embraced the long-haul lifestyle. Why? Because they love their neighborhoods that much.
Every Monday morning, Jamila Souffrant starts her work week with a two-hour drive, from Brooklyn, New York, to Morristown, New Jersey. When she pulls into her office, she doesn’t feel exhausted; she feels inspired and energized, thanks to a weekend spent strolling with her family through their secluded, leafy neighborhood.
A financial education instructor, podcaster, and blogger, Jamila lives in Bergen Beach, a scenic community on the borough’s southeast shore. A Brooklyn native, Jamila grew up loving the area, so she and her husband are committed to raising their children in this neighborhood by the bay.
With its driveway basketball hoops, family barbecues, and tree-lined streets, Bergen Beach is a little slice of the burbs—with a more city-like pace. “We don’t want the slow feel of the suburbs,” Jamila says, “but we love our quaint, quiet block.” (As do their neighbors: 70 percent of locals there plan to stay for at least five years.)
This upscale residential area has a friendly, small-town vibe and a multitude of parks, playgrounds, and a great library. “The library has great, free events like Saturday Storytime, and other resources our family enjoys,” she says.
After spending four hours a day behind the wheel, what’s the neighborhood feature she draws the biggest heart around? The ability to keep her car in park. “I love that I can do my grocery shopping, hit the drugstore and stop into a local restaurant for lunch—all without a car,” she says.
Jamila spends four hours in the car between Brooklyn and Morristown every weekday. She’s worked for the same company since she interned there in college 12 years ago. What makes her commute palatable? Podcasts. She especially loves Radical Personal Finance, Mad Fientist, and His and Hers Money. “Since discovering them, I actually look forward to the commute so that I can listen to the latest episodes,” she says.
In fact, her podcast habit inspired her to podcast her own journey to financial independence. “I wanted to make the same kind of impact on someone else’s life that podcasts had on mine.” Thus, her podcast and blog Journey to Launch was born.
And on Friday evenings, when she finishes the last of her 20-plus hours commuting for the week, Jamila finally gets to enjoy the quiet streets of Bergen Beach the way she likes them best—car-free.
Eric Morrison and Stacey Jurgensen are veteran commuters. Before moving to Mt. Washington in Baltimore Maryland six years ago, they’d travel 90 minutes each way from their home in Rockland County to their jobs in New York City each day. “Adding another 30 minutes from Mt. Washington to our new jobs in Washington D.C. wasn’t ideal,” says Stacey. “But it wasn’t a far stretch, either.”
Eric (a corporate legal accountant) and Stacey (a digital asset manager) were close friends with a couple from college who lived in Mt. Washington. Their friends were originally drawn to the quaint, historic community and its proximity to Baltimore’s arts and music scene.
Stacey and Eric’s Commute
Eric and Stacey log more than two work-weeks of time commuting monthly. How do they stay sane? In the morning, they sleep on the train. In the evenings, they catch up on social media, getting their all their screen time out of the way in one, big chunk. “This way,” says Stacey, “When we get home, we can really enjoy being there.”
Would they’d ever move to Washington, D.C., to make their commute easier? Not a chance. “We’ve never considered moving closer to D.C.,” says Eric. “We’re wholly motivated by being among this great group of friends and in this wonderful neighborhood.”
That’s what hooked Stacey and Eric, too. After regular weekend visits, their friends’ neighbors began to feel like their own community. “They are a top-notch collection of people,” says Eric. “Smart and kind. It was rare that we would come down for the weekend and not have either a potluck dinner party or musical gathering happening—and usually both.”
In addition to its neighborly vibe, Stacey and Eric fell in love with Mt. Washington’s summer-getaway charm. It’s full of sidewalks and quaint shopping areas, where the kids walk to get ice cream at the local shop in the summer. They continue to connect with their neighbors at their community garden, over sushi at one of their favorite local restaurants, and in the green spaces at the Mt. Washington Arboretum.
On warm days, Jon Brodsky often goes for a long run in the woods before work. In the winter, he breaks out his skis.
It’s the kind of idyllic start to the workday super commuters just don’t have time for, right? Wrong. When Jon trades his running shoes for his Oxfords in the morning, he still more than two hours in transit ahead of him. But the country manager of Finder.com loves his Bedford, New York neighborhood too much to leave.
Forty-eight miles north of New York City, Bedford is perfect for families who want a small town with a country feel—and easy access to all things outdoors. Pastoral, chuck-full of horses, and downright ancient by American terms (the village’s Bedford Green was “laid out March 1681 for cattle, horses, and swine”), Bedford is the sort of place you might dream of retiring.
But why wait? Jon didn’t. And while he lives the big-city life by day, it doesn’t compare to the Bedford experience. “We’ve gotten to know the farmers who grow our food, and our local gourmet is run by former chefs at Per Se,” he says. “We’re not really hurting for quality or connection.”
And Bedford is still within an easy drive to all of New York City’s major airports. “We can make it to JFK in under an hour if we leave early, something we never could do from our apartment in Gramercy Park.”
When Jon first moved to Bedford, he worked only 15 minutes away from his home in Connecticut. “I had the easiest commute I’d had in years,” he says.
But starting a new job last year required him to travel to New York’s Chinatown, Monday through Friday. The journey takes about two hours each way, with a mix of driving, Metro-North, subway, and finally walking to the office. But he’s yet to second-guess his new hometown because of it.
“I generally use my train time to work or take calls,” he says. “So it’s not that different than just working a long day every day, which I would do anyway.”
That means leaving work behind him when he gets off the train. Jon slips back into his running shoes and is ready for those back-to-nature moments that make Bedford such a perfect fit for him.