Morning commutes can be stressful, borderline harrowing, affairs from time to time: You may face a near miss from an erratic driver paying closer attention to their incoming emails than the road or have to navigate a fellow 9-to-5er who sprints past you while you’re just a little too close to the train platform.
Incidents such as these may make your heart stop for a moment and give you a three-minute story at the water cooler, but they pale in comparison to what some commuters face in their regular trips to work or school. Here is a brief glimpse at
1. Sulfur Miners of Mount Ijen, Indonesia
Whatever thoughts pass through your brain on your morning commute—Did I send that email? What’s my schedule today?—it is very unlikely that How much toxic gas will I inhale? is one of them.
But that is exactly what can pass through the minds of workers
The hike up and down the volcano is like truly like commuting to Hades and back. Noxious fumes fill the air in the hazy early morning hours and a single change of wind could send a wave of toxic smoke into the faces of the climbing mine workers, who are often saddled with wicker baskets of yellow sulfur chunks. It’s a scene that most can imagine only in their nightmares, but it is all in a day’s work for the miners of Mount Ijen.
2. The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia
Doctors must already face a series of challenging, sometimes life-and-death decisions when they are at work, but the doctors and nurses of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia must first commute via airplane over the vast untamed Australian wilderness before they take on all matter of medical emergencies.
The service was founded in 1928 to provide a “mantle of safety” for citizens who lived in the far-flung corners of Australia’s less populated areas. The pilots who fly these doctors to work must sometimes rely on community improvisation to get them safely landed. One town set packages of toilet paper on fire to mark an airstrip for one RFDS emergency flight.
Whether they’re flying through a storm to provide care to a newborn baby or facing other perilous circumstances, the commute of the Flying Doctors Service staff certainly makes that traffic on the tollway seem like a walk in the park by comparison.
3. Students of Suro Village in Java, Indonesia
It can be hard for parents to get children to go to school, but a bumpy bus ride is nothing compared to the dizzying commute that the children traveling from Suro Village to Plempungan Village in Java have to brave each day. The bridge, which is actually an aqueduct designed to transport fresh water across the jungle river below, has become the shortcut of choice for schoolchildren in the area.
Standing 100 feet above the river, the bridge only has enough room for one student to cross at a time. Even more daring, many students will ride their bikes across the narrow plank of wood. The bridge isn’t the only way for the students to get to school, but it is the quickest.
The alternative route is a six-kilometer hike to the jungle floor and finding a boat that can ferry students across the river. The kids of Suro Village feel that the time saved is worth the risk.
4. Palestinian Day Laborers Commuting From The West Bank
Most hazardous commutes are the result of treacherous terrain or the dangerous nature of a job, but in the West Bank, Palestinian day workers confront geopolitical hurdles each day to work in Israel.
The security faced by workers from Palestine seeking a day’s pay in Israel is incredibly tight. Laborers will often arrive hours before dawn to pass through the checkpoint in time for work, while those who don’t have the necessary paperwork make the risky choice to cross into Israel illegally.
Smugglers assist these daring workers in crossing by driving them to various makeshift entry points
The workers say that the better pay in Israel is worth making the extreme commute. Such an intense daily routine is worth remembering the next time you encounter a slight line to enter your office’s parking garage in the morning.
5. Students Traveling Via
Zip Line in Rio Negro, Colombia
Rushing to school takes on a whole new meaning in the Colombian mountain village of
Suspended some 1,300 feet above the river valley below, the wires have been the only way in and out of the tiny mountain town for generations. Older locals used hemp ropes, but industrialization brought stronger, sturdier metal wires to the region.
Children hook themselves to the wires each day to get to school, while any kids too young to hook themselves to the wire are helped along by older siblings and carried in a durable burlap bag.
6. Students of Pili Village in China
The children of the village of Pili in Xinjiang, China, would be relieved if their commute was only a zip line ride away. In fact, for these students to make it to their local boarding school, they must traverse over 50 miles of difficult mountain trails that are inaccessible by vehicles.
The trek is an arduous hike that would terrify most adults— it takes the kids over plank-wide bridges, through freezing river waters, and along a 600-foot zip line.
The most difficult part of that already harrowing journey is a narrow path cut into the side of a sheer rock cliff. Teachers guide the students across using ropes but the children are still expected to step carefully or risk a deadly fall. Mercifully, this is not a daily commute but simply one that the children must brave “only” four times a year.
7. The Ferry Commuters of Jakarta, Indonesia
Jakarta is not some distant, isolated village in Indonesia— it is
The traffic jams are their own daily frustration, but it is the ferry that carries people back and forth from Jakarta to the Thousand Islands chain that can inspire real fear due to its truly abysmal safety record.
The privately-run ferry system is the only way for locals from the small fishing towns of the Thousand Islands to make it into Jakarta, yet it has a history of accidents that has journalists wondering if it is Jakarta’s most dangerous commute.
There have been multiple incidents of ferries catching fire after violating safety regulations. One at the beginning of the year caused the death of 23, while a more recent fire took five lives. There have been other fires
Indeed, facing snarled traffic on a exit ramp or unexplained train delays can be frustrating, but as long as you’re not dangling on the side of a mountain, flying along a metal zip wire, or strolling into the harmful steam of an active volcano, you are better served taking a breath, turning on some music, and reminding yourself that your daily commute is probably not all that bad in comparison.