On long commutes

My friend and colleague Dai Vaughan wrote yesterday about his experience of long distance commuting between Wales and London, something he did weekly for most of the last eighteen months. Being in a similar position, I wanted to add a few thoughts about my mileage.

Like Dai, I’ve spent the last year-and-a-bit travelling to and from London on a weekly basis - a two hours and ten minutes trip each-way from Preston. It’s not a bad journey - two hours is about the right length to get some work done on the train - and for what it’s worth, it’s a pretty reliable train service, albeit I can only afford to travel peak due to Virgin Train’s railcard concession.

For the first few months, I stayed in London from Monday through Friday each week. It was the first time I’ve ever really stayed away from home for a considerable amount of time. Whilst it was convenient for work, staying in London four nights a week was both expensive and draining on my life. Staying on your own in hotels means you effectively have no life outside of work, with the exception of the occasional evening tech event here or there. Weekends back at home were mainly spent recovering from the week.

Around April last year, the increasing price of hotel rooms reached the point where it was getting tight on my finances. Another work colleague, who was going on holiday for a week, offered me his flat whilst he was away, but in an unfortunate turn of events, I was mugged whilst I was making my way there (more on that in another post). I took a little bit of time away from work and figured I needed to change things a bit.

Since May, I’ve been working a split week - I travel down to London and back twice, only spending two nights in London. Despite this, I still manage to get four days in the office, and I work a day from home too. For me, this is a better work/life balance than what I was previously doing - spending more time at home at least felt like I still based myself out of somewhere permanent. I continue to do this weekly.

If was to live the last fifteen months again, would I have done the same? I don’t think so. Things are still not ideal. My ultimate aim is to find somewhere to live in London, but it’s not been as easy as I’d thought - despite looking at a lot of flatshare listings and some other places too, I’ve not had much luck so far, and I got a reminder just this week as to how much caution you need to take with flatshares online.

I think my routine right now is an easy hole to fall into. It just about works out from week-to-week, but I’m not convinced at all that it’s healthy in the long term. I still don’t have much of a life at either home or in London, and I think it makes my overall happiness over-reliant on how good things are at work - which, thank goodness, continues to interest me and challenge me every day.

My life in London is still very much confined to friends at work, but I’m trying to get out and do more things in the evenings. I’m also trying to get into a routine of reading more and building more interesting projects aside from work, to push the work/life balance a bit more towards the middle.