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"The commute to my banking job begins at 3.40am"

I work in a technology job in a financial services firm and my commute to the office takes nearly four hours. When I go into the office, which currently happens twice a week, my day looks like this:

  • 03:40 Wake up, shower, dress
  • 04:15 Leave my house to walk to station. Outside of London, I cannot rely on a taxi in the middle of the night. I could optimize this with a Brompton bike
  • 05:07 Catch the first train, which is the only Off-Peak Train for £95. If I get the slightly later train, it will cost me £225. If I can book 2-months in advance then I could catch a later train cheaply, but then who knows a finance company that plans things two months in advance?
  • 07:16 Arrive at Paddington Station
  • 08:00 Arrive in the office before most of my colleagues outside of trading. The Elizabeth line makes a big difference here.
  • WORK
  • 19:18 Catch the first off-peak train with everyone else whilst positioning myself strategically in the station to bag seat. Enjoy a sushi bento box.
  • 21:15 Arrive back at home station
  • ~ 21:50 Arrive back home at the end of my 16-hour day

Why, you may ask, do I put myself through this? I have a wife and two children. Where I live now, I can buy a house with four bedrooms in a nice area for £600k. In a pleasant area of London I would pay twice as much.

My mortgage is much smaller because of my commute. This gives me more optionality in the jobs I take: the golden handcuffs are less tight. However, I still want to work in London, because this is where the jobs and the money are.

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Clearly, there is a lifestyle sacrifice. I am foregoing sleep: I work on the train on the way in despite the abysmal wifi and on the return journey I rotate between treats, entertainment, work and sleep. I long ago learned that wine is drunk at your peril: the commute home takes twice as long when you drink wine throughout. 

I believe my arrangement to be worthwhile. I would be interested in hearing in the comments whether there are many other people living this lifestyle; I think it has become much more prevalent since the pandemic.

Peyton Meyer is a pseudonym

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Photo by Sawyer Bengtson on Unsplash

AUTHORPeyton Meyer Insider Comment
  • St
    Stress routine
    6 November 2023

    Ouch.That is seriously early starts to your day,then commute into work.Maybe little unnecessary .

  • Ma
    29 September 2023

    Blimey. A huge day but consider staying a few nights in London. I have had London days shorter than yours and less travel cost for a 700 mile return trip by aircraft! House prices are half too

  • Sn
    29 September 2023

    Now do I feel sorry ? I spent years getting up in the early hours to walk 4.3 km's to Solothurn catch the train to Zurich arriving 6.50 to walk again 2 km's to the office Monday to Saturday as head Compliance and Risk. Repeat the to Berne for a bank opening minus the walk of 4.3 km's and later then to Geneva a 2 hour train ride one way.

    Reason I could afford a small house, a car, pay my taxes and afford my mortgage. Not to struggle like many of my associates over years and not be able to save up a Cent.

    Modern times now have arrived many foreclosure to save anything but prefer to have debts that one day will bite them.

  • al
    alberto m
    29 September 2023

    I am an expat living in (central) London and every day I wonder how it is possible that so many colleagues go through excruciating commutes daily in order to have a small garden and one bedroom per child. By the time they get home the children are asleep and they can enjoy the garden in the weekend only.

  • No
    29 September 2023

    I guess there are a few of us living this lifestyle. I work as a Software Engineer in one of the Investment Banks in Canary Wharf and I live in the Midlands. There is currently a return to the office mandate of 3days a week, but I'm still on 2 days because it doesn't make sense when the majority of my team is offshore. There are occasional exceptions though when I need to be in the office for a third day.

    My commute takes two forms depending on how I'm feeling at the beginning of the week. If I want to be at the office by 8am, I take the 5:56am train to Euston, which means I have to be up at 5am to get ready. On days where I can't be bothered and don't mind being in the office at 9am, I take the 6:35am train, which means I've got to be up at 5:45, I've noticed an extra 30-45mins can do a lot for your body and health... I'm not as tired. I live close to the station, so I usually walk for about 7mins. The second annoying bit of the commute is that after arriving at Euston, I need to get on the Northern line and also the Elizabeth line/DLR before arriving at work.

    Regardless of my time of arrival, I leave my office at 5pm on the dot, I don't care what anyone thinks. 8-5 or 9-5, just so I can catch the peak train and make it home for dinner at 7:15pm. My husband works in the Midlands, so he gets to be home with the kids. If I could get the same pay elsewhere, without the commute hassle, I'll take it, but the benefits of working for my current employer is not commonplace at many companies.

    With regards to cost, I used to buy in advance, but quickly realized it wasn't as flexible as there were days I might not need to be in the office. So now I buy a couple of days in advance when I know for certain I'll be in the office, which costs on average £78-£110/day depending on demand, which is just another fuckery conversation for another day, I don't see why the same journey costs £35 on a Friday.

    The zombic commute is the price to pay for the perks of a larger house, as I've also got kids. Sometimes I do wonder if this will impact my long-term health, it's not the greatest quality of life, but my hope is I don't have to do it for any longer than 2years. I'm still keeping an eye out for fully remote positions with occasional office visits if necessary, but they're rarer than hen's teeth. All the nice paying jobs are in London and herein lies the problem.

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