Darren Hickling

Leaving London

Published onReading time6 minutes

After 5.5 years of working in London, I'm relocating with my family; hopefully for many years, and probably forever, or until we retire and globe trot. This was a tough decision. Doing so has meant I am leaving my current employer, my wife now permanently works from home, our son is starting at a new nursery, and we moved home! Co-ordinating so many major changes, at times at once, was extremely challenging, but as I approach the end of my tenure in London, we are already seeing the benefits for which we'd hoped.

The Dreaded Commute

Why move, then? Simple: having both my wife and I working in London simultaneously was interfering too much with our duties as parents. A typical commute for the one travelling to the nursery and then to work was 1 hour and 45 minutes, as opposed to an hour straight to the office. That meant enjoying about an hour of the morning with our little boy, and hen having around an hour of quality time in the evening, before he became tired and we began the bedtime routine. 2 hours of quality time with your children is, in our eyes, nowhere near enough! Witnessing his rapid development from tiny baby to Mobile Trooper has been absolutely breath-taking, and we didn't want to miss any more precious time than was absolutely necessary.

By the way, those commute times were based on a good day. It was the bad days that reinforced our decision, and begun to add urgency to it. London transport is usually pretty good, but when it goes wrong, you really know it. In the run up to last Christmas, delays were more frequent, with even the small ones pushing us to the limit of running past the closing time of the nursery. One in particular stood out, however: a signal box fire at London Bridge. Despite an early warning from a colleague, our trusted alternative route via the DLR to Lewisham landed us in limbo, where cabs suddenly dried up, and road traffic ground to a halt when we finally walked part of the journey and hailed one. 3 hours later, we arrived at my Dad's, who had collected the boy for us; luckily, he was at home, whereas all my close friends were also struggling to return! The feeling of helplessness that day is not something I'll quickly forget, and thus began the serious hunt for an alternative lifestyle.


That weekend, we sat down with a bottle of wine and talked about what we wanted from life. What we loved now, what we didn't, and how we could try to avoid or mitigate as many of the negatives as possible. It started off with location: not where immediately, but what we liked, and weighted each point to prioritise them. Things like being near water, distance from family and friends, climate, etc. Having that list, we tried to think of places that would satisfy those requirements, and eventually, kept gravitating back to one area: Bournemouth. My wife lived there for most of her childhood, and still has family and friends there, plus I attended the university, and also have friends in the area, so we know it well.

I'll most likely drone on about how much I love it in future posts, so with a location set, we began looking into career options. The missus is a remote worker, so could likely commute to the office 2-3 days a week. I decided, however, that I needed to work within a 45 minute commute limit, which meant looking for alternative employment. Funnily enough, this led again to another set of lists! Comparing the pros and cons of my current role, and thinking of what I wanted from my career from at least the next 5 years, was absolutely one of the best decisions I have ever made. I deliberately left my next move a little fuzzy, in terms of absolute requirements, as I wanted to see what was available, and how others worked. The job I eventually landed wasn't the first I applied for, nor did it take too long, but I did shift my perceptions on what I wanted a few times, which has left me in no doubt of how much I am anticipating starting there, and that leaving a very comfortable workplace is the right move.

It All Falls into Place

Suddenly, everything else began to fall into place. My wife now works from home full time, which frees up a desk at the office and her time to remotely manage colleagues. The search for our home was surprisingly unproblematic: I am a proper RightMove geek, so set up an advanced search, fed that into, err, Feedly, had the missus vet a list of potential properties amassed over a few weeks, and had an offer accepted on the third one we viewed! Our son is now at a nursery a 5 minute walk away from the flat, and appears as happy as we do with it. Taking him away from somewhere at which he was previously so happy was an absolute wrench, and we were not going to settle for a makeshift solution, especially as nurseries are so busy in general, which makes this all the more fortunate.

Was it all worth it, then? Only time will tell, but as I enter my last week at work, it's looking very, very promising. The commute will be, at very worst, 20 minutes, saving me 2.5 hours a day! I'm commuting from Bournemouth in the interim, however, so have a fortnight of 4.5 hour daily journeys, but there's light at the end of the tunnel. What I lose from my very generous holiday allowance is offset from the commute time saved, and that's only when it works. Then there are the costs: no train tickets, cheaper rent, council tax, nursery fees and car insurance so far. Companies tend to pay more in London to offset this, but if you look past it and consider the savings you'll make elsewhere, you might find yourself a little shocked...

Lastly, and definitely not least, is the reduction in stress. I don't consider myself a stress-head, and will happily put on my noise-cancelling headphones and block out the world in an attempt to make the commute pass by that much quicker. When the trains are delayed, and/or the local road traffic jammed, there's nothing worse than realising you might not see your little boy for more than 5 minutes of an evening, let alone neglecting the gorgeous wife. Knowing we have tried everything to put our family first, and seeing it already pay off, is exciting, extremely comforting, and worth the pain of moving 2 van loads of goods from one home to another! I'll miss my colleagues, and seeing local friends and family as frequently, but look forward to enjoying longer trips to see them all, and London, which I will appreciate more the less I visit. Bring on beach life!