Getting Out Of The Commuting Grind

Congestion Problem’s Worse in NYC

The USA is a huge country, but most Americans spend many hours a week queued up behind each other in traffic. In modern societies, people crowd together in or near big cities which offer excellent job opportunities and other amenities. 80% of America’s population is squished onto just 4% of its land! With tens of millions of people crowded into small spaces, traffic jams abound, especially during rush hour, and commute times are long.

NYC has one of the country’s longest average commute times, 58 minutes round trip, but for many it’s much longer than that. As long as humans crowd in and around cities, there will be long commutes and heavy traffic. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t limit the damage overcrowding causes to your quality of life by moving closer to your job, or even cutting out the commute altogether by becoming your own boss.

Move the Job Closer to Home

For decades, anything beyond the outskirts of Brooklyn was considered “out of town” and it was hard to find a job out NYC. In recent decades, however, the tens of thousands of frum families who’ve settled throughout and near Monsey, Lakewood, Passaic, Teaneck, Five Towns etc. etc. have created many more local employment options, and it is feasible to find a job closer to home.

While salaries out of NYC proper tend to be somewhat lower, the tradeoff of a lower income for a better quality of life can be well worth it. You can use some of the travel time saved to learn more, spend time with  family, or even open a small business. With a little maneuvering and an open mind, you may be able to attain the bracha of having  parnassah “karov lair”.

Or Move Home Closer to the Job

On the other hand, perhaps, instead of moving your job closer to home, you should shift your home closer to your workplace by relocating to the city. While this may alleviate the commuting pains, the convenience of living in the city often comes at a high price, and the you may have to move into either a much smaller or more expensive home.

There is a clear trade-off between proximity to a city and the price of real estate. In general, land gets denser and costlier as it gets closer to the employment centers. While one can shave at least 60-90 minutes off his daily travel time by moving his family to Manhattan, Brooklyn (or Staten Island!) the family will either will have a much larger mortgage and or a much smaller home with less space for his children. Add to the real estate problem, the challenge of switching kids’ schools, and finding the right shul and shopping, etc. and moving to the city may be too large a pill to swallow.

Trying a Different City

If housing costs are the main factor keeping the your family in Lakewood, you may be able to get the best of both worlds, affordable real estate plus a short commute, by moving out of town. Some cities with established frum communities including Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis, Miami, and Cleveland have affordable real estate within reasonable commutes to their commercial districts. Positions in these less dynamic cities may be a bit less plentiful and lucrative versus NYC’s but the quality of life gained by saving a couple of hours of driving each day may be worth it.

Also, the less expensive real estate expenses can offset a lower salary, and some OOT communities now have state-backed tuition vouchers for families within specific income brackets. If your family can live with just one kosher pizza shop option and having to actually smile at people on the street, you may enjoy a smaller communities’ close-knit and slower paced life.

Become Location Neutral

Finally, a grueling commute can be the final push to encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to open their own businesses. Especially with online technology, it has never been easier to open a business and interact with customers all over the world from any location. Owning your own business could enable one to work wherever and whenever he chooses while you build up equity in a valuable enterprise.

While this scenario sounds like a dream to the weary rat-racer, the grass always looks greener on the other side. Being your own boss has its risks and challenges: most small businesses aren’t financially successful, and the discipline required to build a business is beyond many people’s capabilities. For the right person, entrepreneurship is well worth the risk and effort, but it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Regardless of the direction you choose, you can still expect to earn your living by the sweat of your brow. Adam’s curse may be minimized, but it’s not going away just yet.

Just by the Way: A Gadol’s Perspective on Moving Out of Town

People may be hesitant to relocate despite pressing financial reasons due to concerns that their children’s yeshiva options will be less fitting or of a lower quality. An avreich from Bnei Brak, who’d been desperately looking for a job in klei kodesh, raised this concern with the Gadol Hador, Rav Shach Zt”l. He was conflicted when a great opening finally became available in a small city far from the “Ihr Hatorah”. On the one hand, he needed the parnassah and chiyus of this shteller, but how could he deprive his children of the finest education options possible? Harav Shach responded that “Di beste chinuch iz a tzufridene tatte” (the best chinuch is a content father”). In the Gadol’s eyes, the tradeoff between his parnassah and a particular school system was well worth it.

Want to dig deeper?

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Exploring the World of Shared Work Space

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