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Happiness research ranks commutes lowest: my car-free option

When asked to name the worst part of our day by happiness researchers, we consistently name commuting as at least one of our least favorite activities. And yet, many of us choose long commutes. Why?

Swiss economists Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer call it the “Commuting Paradox” (Stress that doesn’t pay) and claim that we fall into this trap because we underestimate the pain of long commutes when making decisions about where to live.

Psychologists refer to this error in judgement as a focusing illusion. By simply choosing to consider a higher salary or a bigger house in the suburbs (those things that make our commutes longer),  we give them more weight than they deserves. So instead of focusing on what would really make us happier- less time in the car- we become fixated on the bigger income or bigger backyard and choose the longer commute.

In this video, I take you along for my commute, the 5-minute walk to my daughter’s school by stroller through Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. It’s one example of life in a mostly car-free zone where traffic is largely on foot (or bike or skateboard) and where instead of getting stuck in traffic, you can get stuck in conversation.