I have now been living and working in Dubai for over a year, and this month I enjoyed the ‘pleasure’ of working back in London for a couple of weeks, and it has provided me with some real perspective on the work/life balance I now have in the sandpit.
An important note before I go on; I absolutely loved my time at the Salt HQ and this blog has exactly zero to do with any of the amazing people who make magic happen in our Waterloo office. I have to say that while my experience back in London was a less than enjoyable one, I found the buzz of working with such a vibrant and bustling team infectious, and I arrive back in Dubai bursting with excitement and ideas and I look forward to sharing what I’ve seen with my amazing team here.
So, back to my grumbles.
Day one, 5:30 am, alarm sounds. In itself this isn’t a huge issue, yes it’s an hour earlier than my usual wake-up call but I was actually quite looking forward to my day ahead. That was until I pushed back the duvet and couldn’t understand how I’d apparently woken up in the arctic circle. 4 degrees celsius, I’m sure I have woken up on many occasions in much colder temperatures but when you’ve scarcely seen anything below 20 for a year, believe me when I say 4 degrees bites, hard.
Not to be deterred, I defrosted myself with a hot shower and wrapped up warm, swiftly taking a man-up pill for breakfast and headed out the door in a mild state of shock ready for my hour and 30 minute commute.
Make that an hour and 50 minutes, as I was delighted to find that my train was cancelled as I stomped up the station platform. Of course, it was cancelled, how could I forget that trains being on time in the south-east is about as common as a chilly summers evening in Dubai. Still, I had only paid £38 (including parking) to get to work for the day so I suppose it isn’t reasonable to expect a train to be on time, is it?
Never mind, the next train came and I miraculously managed to get a seat. A person wearing as many layers as myself now encounters a very challenging social situation; you’ve taken a seat by the heater, which is on full blast, and within 5 minutes I’m in major overheat mode. Then comes a hilarious performance of a Houdini-style escapism manoeuvre, trying to remove as many of said layers as possible without clocking all of your fellow commuters in the head. Needless to say, many disgusted looks were thrown my way, clearly, I had become a novice commuter again and had forgotten the unwritten rules of early morning train travel.
45 minutes and a re-enactment of my Houdini dance in reverse to put my layers back on later, I was heading for the Jubilee Line, blissfully ignorant of the delight that was ahead of me having not been on a tube for quite some time. Over-crowded, unbelievably loud and with a tension that you could cut with a knife, it is essentially a moving metal ball of stress and anger. A full blown argument broke out on this particular morning as a gentleman was trying to leave the tube at London Bridge but evidently wasn’t happy waiting for the pregnant lady to get out first. A tirade of verbal abuse followed as I looked on in disbelief, realising now what London travel does to people and how it makes them act almost inhumanely in the pursuit of shaving 30 seconds off their PB commute time.
I made it to work that day deep in thought; is it really worth it?
I spent another 2 weeks travelling to London and my journeys all took a similar format to the above. Not one journey was smooth, or enjoyable. In fact, sitting on the train now on my way home on my last day, writing this blog, is by far the most enjoyable journey I’ve had.
My days when I worked back in the City were 14 hours long, 3 1/2 hours of which I spent travelling. That’s a working day and a half spent on the commute every week. 6 days every month. 72 days every year. I would get home every night exhausted, freezing cold and would pay well over £400 per month for the pleasure.
Again, is it really worth it?
Spending some time in my old hometown has really given me some perspective. I love London, it’s a great place to visit, it has history that you simply cannot find in the UAE and it has a certain charm that I’ve scarcely seen elsewhere in the world, but the impact it has on your work/life balance and hence your psychological well-being is profound, not in a positive sense.
I urge anybody who feels stuck in the rat race, or who feels they have a work/life balance too heavily weighted towards the former, to make a change. I am now lucky enough to have a 15-minute walk to work watching the sun come up over the skyline of Dubai Marina, and I can guarantee you it is a better way to start your day than the 7:00 am Houdini dance. In travel time savings alone I have subtracted a day per week out of the ‘work’ pot and added it into the ‘life’ pot, not to mention the financial savings.
I believe that you should work to live, not the other way round.
Until next time, happy commuting!