My Super-Commuting Life

by Handeep Kaur

The thought of moving out of CA was hard to stomach. My husband had been moving up fast in his career with the state. I had spent most of my life comfortably in California surrounded by my family, friends, and accustomed surroundings.  For years, I had been devoted to staying in the Sacramento-Bay area after I finished my Ph.D. in Chemistry from UC Davis.  After all, I thought, life is about spending it with those near and dear to my heart. I had taken opportunities before to travel the world, but didn’t think twice about making a permanent move.  As graduation drew near in the summer of 2014, I started thinking deeply about how I wanted to apply my degree and what the ideal career would look like.  Unfortunately, only a few high-tech employers in the Sacramento-Bay area were looking to hire a chemist.  Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 8.04.00 PM

Intel was one of those companies on my list and fortunately, they were hiring. Unfortunately, they were hiring for positions in Hillsboro, Oregon.  The opportunity to work at Intel Corporation, albeit in Oregon, tugged at my heart for months. The excitement of working at the forefront of cutting edge technology in the microprocessor industry was a constant thought and hard to shake. Eventually, my husband and I had to make some important career decisions.

Parm and I are the type of couple that likes to ‘have our cake and eat it too’ and are constantly trying to have the best of all worlds.  When it came to making a career decision, we decided to apply this philosophy and plunge into the world of heavy travel to balance our career goals and family responsibilities.  What did this mean? It means we are now one of the thousands of interstate couples that hits the airports every single weekend. We are known as super-computers; commuters who’s distance to work is around 200 miles or more. The definition of super-commuters or mega-commuters is still evolving. Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service released a report about this topic spanning from 2002 to 2009.  “The Emergence of the “Super Commuter.””, defined a super-commuter as someone who commutes from one metropolitan area to another by car, rail, bus or air on a daily or weekly basis. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, around 2.5% of the US population traveled 90 minutes or more to work one way from 2008 to 2011. The last I heard, this group of professionals accounts for about 4-10% of the working population in the US today and is rising.

Terminal B at Sacramento International Airport

Terminal B at Sacramento International Airport

Percent of Workers with Commute Times of 90 Minutes or More, 1990-2011. Source: U.S. Census Bureau (1990 Census, Census 2000, 2006 ACS, 2007, 2008 ACS, 2009 ACS, 2010 ACS and 2011 ACS).

Like many things in life, this arrangement has had its positives and negatives.  At the beginning, we missed each other terribly during the week. However with the help of modern technology, heavy scheduling, and having friends and family that are willing to work with our lifestyle, this has gotten much easier.  Super-commuting has been a nifty arrangement allowing me to focus on my new career in rainy Oregon during the weekdays and enjoy the California sunshine with my family and friends most weekends. With a 1-1.5 hour flight and fast booking when Southwest Airlines offers discount deals, the arrangement has been a blessing for the past 6 months.  The lifetime of the arrangement is temporary, but a super-commuting lifestyle allows us to navigate our career paths and take advantages of tempting opportunities without uprooting our family.

Author: Bill Miller

Bill Miller is a Councilor of the Sacramento Section of the ACS. He also teaches chemistry at Sacramento City College.

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