The World's Loneliest Job

by Kristina Rudic | September 14, 2016

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With the infiltration of technology into our daily lives, our busy work schedules, and keeping in touch with friends and family, it’s nearly impossible to find adequate alone time. For some, being alone is a preferred state, and one they don’t mind in their occupations. However, there are certain jobs that significantly test the boundaries of how much loneliness a human can stand. And below, in ascending order, from least lonely to loneliest, are the five positions that take the solitary-job cake.

5. Crew member of Concordia Research Station

In the heart of Antarctica exists a research center nicknamed “White Mars” for its qualities shared with the red planet’s harsh living conditions and its extreme isolation—nearly 1,000 kilometers away from the closest human contact. A chosen team of typically around 13 people—scientists, researchers, a doctor, and a chef—is completely isolated from February until November, many of those months in complete darkness with temperatures dropping to below 85 Celsius. Not only physically strenuous, the isolation is mentally difficult for all inhabitants of Concordia, and has sparked the interest of sociologists who have begun to study the effects of a small group of people who are away from society for prolonged periods of time.

4. Professional Online Poker Player

For those with exceptional analytical skills and a knack for poker, playing professionally online may be lonely, but well worth it due to the financial rewards. Playing poker online is most profitable during the sleeping hours of the night, and is extremely isolating because of this. In addition to this hardship, players must multitask and make stressful high-stakes decisions constantly. Due to the niche-nature of online poker playing, others rarely understand the job and the hardships it entails.

3. Agricultural Consultant for Tristan da Cunha

The most remote inhabited island in the world is situated approximately halfway between Africa and South America and hosts a population of just over 250. Although an airport is in the works, getting to the island can now only be done by sea and only during the 60 days the island is accessible each year. Tristan, as the locals call it, is a mere seven miles long and scattered with farmland (all of the families on the island are farmers). Currently, the island is looking for an agricultural consultant to help navigate the potential of the farmland, and to ultimately find a way to make the island fully self-sustainable. 

2. Astronaut

Leaving planet Earth hurls astronauts into darkness and far from anything familiar. The uncertainty of the profession, as well as the selflessness, has been described as heroic, yet astronauts deny this time and time again. In an interview with Michael Collins from the Apollo 11, he stated, “Heroes abound, and should be revered as such, but don't count astronauts among them. We work very hard; we did our jobs to near perfection, but that was what we had hired on to do. In no way did we meet the criterion of the Congressional Medal of Honor: 'above and beyond the call of duty.'”

However, few humans have been to such isolated extremes as astronauts, particularly those that have completed the lunar orbit alone, such as Al Worden from Apollo 15. While his companions walked on the moon’s surface, Worden stayed in the command module and circled the moon, at one point reaching 3,600 km away from some of his fellow astronauts and approximately a quarter of a million miles away from home. During the time when Worden was in lunar orbit—a feat that has only been accomplished alone by five other astronauts—he was named the “most isolated human ever” in the record books.

1. Fire Lookout at Gila National Forest

The dry New Mexico heat creates perfect conditions for forest fires (as well as for the world's loneliest job), which is why national parks with high chances of these breakouts employ fire lookouts, who live alone in small, secluded houses atop mountains for months at a time. Philip Connors, a former editor of The Wall Street Journal, chose solitude over the bustling office life. From April to August, Connors spends time sitting and watching the forest through his binoculars, looking for any indication of trouble. He even wrote a book about the life of a lookout (writer: another lonely job), and how he dealt with the months-long isolation. 

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Tags: job security | loneliest jobs | remote jobs | space travel | unconventional jobs

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