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Travelling further for a more settled lifestyle: the paradox of hypermobility


Whether for work or play, hypermobility is becoming more and more widespread for people from wealthy countries, who are travelling faster, further, and more often. Paradoxically, though, hypermobility is sometimes the best way to stay close to home.

From low-cost flights to high-speed trains and motorways, the development of transport solutions and decreasing prices are boosting hypermobility for people living in wealthy countries. They are now travelling faster, further, and more often, for work and for play. “The number of daily trips has hardly changed since the time of our great-grandparents. On average, it’s still around three to four. But the distance covered is much greater, because income is increasing, transport has got quicker and the cost of travel has plummeted,” explains Yves Crozet, an economist specialising in transport, in an interview in Les Clés de Demain.

Longer, cross-border journeys

In the United States, each resident travels an average of 80 kilometres per day, compared with 4 kilometres in 1880. In Western Europe, passenger travel by any means of transport rose from 2 billion to 5 billion kilometres per year between 1970 and 2005. The phenomenon is gaining momentum and is not held back by national borders. With flights now less expensive, more frequent and faster, global tourism and business travel alike have grown exponentially.

A “euromanager” can now flit between Paris, London and Berlin, all in a week’s work. Low­cost flights make travelling between major cities easier than getting to rural areas. And cross-border commutes are now quite normal. In 2016, a study commissioned by tour operator Thomson showed that 1.5 million people worked in the United Kingdom but lived abroad in cities such as Barcelona, Marrakesh and even Dubai. Today, the Eurostar essentially acts as a commuter train between Paris and London, as does the Thalys, which links up Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam.

Inter-city mobility

However, hypermobility is most often seen in inter-city commutes. Today’s travel habits centre around regular return journeys more often than single trips from A to B. In France, it’s no longer a rarity for someone to work in Paris but live in another city, such as Lille, Rouen, Le Mans or Reims, and make the return trip between home and work every day. These inter-city commutes can even be quicker than a trip within Paris or its suburbs.

Staying close to family and friends

A survey led by Swiss technical university EPFL confirmed that long-distance commuters (whose workplace is more than 80 kilometres away from their home), paradoxically, choose hypermobility for a more settled lifestyle. They voluntarily make a long trip to work every day in order to live nearer to friends and family. Moving closer to the workplace would mean compromising on well-being and social and emotional bonds. Furthermore, daily hypermobility is often motivated by a desire to live far from the hustle and bustle of the city and the frenetic pace of work. However, these elective long commutes contrast with the time-consuming trips that residents in the suburbs of major cities have no choice but to make. Those who can’t afford to live in city centres often find themselves spending hours stuck in traffic jams or commuter trains. For some, long commutes are a luxury, but for others an unfortunate necessity.

Working from home

Hypermobility today “is still very much dependent on transport powered by fossil fuels, which of course raises questions about sustainable development,” says Yves Crozet. One solution for people to reduce hypermobility without uprooting themselves from their home environment is the concept of remote working, which, thanks to the development of digital tools, now means employees can work just as efficiently from their living room as they would in the office.

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