Have you ever had a weekly commute? Did it drive you nuts?
October 25, 2019 6:11 PM   Subscribe

I currently have a long, tedious daily commute to work. For various reasons, instead of moving closer to work I'm considering moving even farther, renting a room close to work and commuting back and forth on Fridays/Sundays. If you've ever done this sort of commute, how did it work out for you? Especially looking for insight from folks who were single/unattached at the time (no SO or family in either location).
posted by btfreek to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I had a consulting job where I traveled Monday-Thursday every week, sometimes overlapping into the weekend depending on the project schedule. I don’t know what your rent situation is like, but I had my expenses covered while on the road, so it wasn't a financial hardship. That said, it was really hard and unsustainable. I had so little time in my “home” location that it was hard to make friends/establish a life (though my housemates were fantastic, and we are still friends today). I was single and tried dating but wasn’t around enough to really try - scheduling was tough, plus I was just exhausted from the traveling.

I cooked and ate like I was still in college because it was hard buying/using up produce and dairy before it spoiled. I didn’t decorate my apartment or really furnish it because I wasn’t around enough to use the stuff. My brother actually went to college in the same town, and I saw him maybe 4 times that year. It was a super weird existence.
posted by Maarika at 6:25 PM on October 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

My FIL was head of the Electrical Engineering dept. at Univ. of Maine. He rented a room in Portland, Maine, and stayed there the week, then went back to Orono on the weekends. Sorry to report that he did have a spouse, but no kids of his own, and they (the stepkids, one of which was my husband) were all grown. He did this successfully for a number of years. No one was harmed, and it seems to have worked out. They later retired to a lovely home Downeast and lived a great life.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:45 PM on October 25, 2019

It could be great. If you could also be in that room during an occasional weekend, it can open up your social possibilities. And saving the time of commute will do a lot for your mental health.
posted by Sophont at 6:53 PM on October 25, 2019

Is moving further away what is allowing you to financially rent a room closer to work? If you can swing it, just rent the room now and try it out for a while. Then when you’re really ready, move home base. But if it turns out you hate it more than the commute, better to find out now!!

I used to do this weekly commute back when i was in my 20s. My employer paid for my apartment in “town” (the crappy town that it was) but the place I paid rent at was about a 2.5 hour commute away with roommates i loved and was close to family. The job wasn’t bad and my Monday - Friday morning commute was less than 5 minutes. I didn’t even mind the friday evening drive “home” that much but oh lordy did i quickly begin to dread sunday evenings or super early monday and having to drive back. It could have been that the “town” sucked and the drive was not a nice one but my Sundays were so miserable with anxiety that getting laid off from that job was the best thing to happen to my mental health at the time.
posted by cgg at 7:09 PM on October 25, 2019 [4 favorites]

I worked with someone who did this and he used to say the biggest downside was the psychological effect of not having a real home base. Over time, he'd start to spend some weekend days closer to work, especially if he had to work late on a Friday or be at work early on Monday. He'd put off errands or chores at his home, knowing he wouldn't be there at all during the week. He'd rarely cook on the weekends for fear of food spoiling and wouldn't go grocery shopping for the same reason. He couldn't decide whether to date people closer to his home or to work. It just kind of snowballed into a sense of not belonging anywhere, for him. YMMV, but I don't think this would be a sustainable, long term solution.
posted by Everydayville at 7:16 PM on October 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

I commuted Sunday night to Thursday night from San Francisco to New York. I did it for three months. It ended bc I moved to NY, but I would have kept doing it for the foreseeable future if I had not accepted the permanent relocation. I actually stayed in a hotel in NY. It was easy in that I was able to leave my clothes in NY and was treated really will by the hotel. Room service made whatever I wanted, etc. The flights were okay too bc I did not have any bags other than sometimes a backpack or briefcase. Because I took the same flights every week, the flight attendants and gate attendants came to know me and also made sure I was squared away. Because of the miles and segments, I became I think Gold or Platinum on American for life.

I was okay with it because I would not have really had the time or energy to do anything during the week anyway at home. I was working in SF on EST so would leave for the office at 4am and be home by 2 or 3pm. My kids were 1, 2 and 3 at the time and I would pick them up on the way home, get them dinner and a bath and I would go to sleep too. Weekends were good because I was home and had time to enjoy the kids, the wife and SF.

It was more physically tiring then mentally tiring or me.
posted by AugustWest at 8:08 PM on October 25, 2019

As hinted above, if doing this consider negotiating a four day workweek with 10-hour days. You're likely to work longer hours anyway with the room nearby. So get a three day weekend out of it.
posted by intermod at 8:12 PM on October 25, 2019 [4 favorites]

This works a lot better if you are part of a couple. Someone to keep a home in one place.
posted by fshgrl at 8:29 PM on October 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Would it help (or maybe hurt, I dunno) to reframe this by thinking of this as renting a cheap/efficient apartment in town to allow you to be able to afford a "weekend getaway" place outside of town?
posted by misterbrandt at 9:07 PM on October 25, 2019

I did this for a year and a half. I used to do the commute late at night when the roads were quiet, and I often really enjoyed it. I kept a set of all the basic life stuff in each place so I didn't have to worry much about packing for the trip either way.

I did have a partner at the home end at the time, which meant that I wouldn't be coming back to a cold house and an empty fridge. If I was going to try it while single I'd definitely want a smart thermostat and a decent size freezer. Lay in a lot of tins of beans and soup.
posted by quacks like a duck at 12:02 AM on October 26, 2019

Well, it depends. I live alone and have no local family. I spent about 15 months doing something like that, staying in a furnished apartment. I can count the number of meals I cooked there on one hand.

I came to resent getting home late on Friday, often after a really long work week and a very long drive I was probably too tired to do that night. I also resented being exhausted over the weekend because of the previous week and then having to spend my Sunday evening driving back. And because I didn’t really want to go back I procrastinated and didn’t leave until late and then got back in the middle of the night, which made for a great start to the week.

My job is the kind where the work week goes significantly better if you can spent a couple of hrs on a Sunday night getting organised. Well, I may have had hr long conversations with my boss driving on a Sunday night but I certainly didn’t manage to get organised. Life stuff did not get done.

Between the long hrs, long commute and the fact that there never was any healthy, fresh food on hand I put on weight, I got no exercise and my health suffered, as did my personal relationships. That’s both the relationships in my hometown and those with friends and family elsewhere, because I couldn’t find the time to talk to anybody outside these long drives. And guess what, some of the drive was on roads with poor network/data coverage and people don’t always want to talk in the middle of the night.

So unless the weekly commute is shortish and unless you can make it so you have some kind of support network in at least one of those locations that will help get life and home stuff going I wouldn’t do this again, at least not with a job that requires long hrs.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:29 AM on October 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I did this. I developed TMJ from the stress. There's something to be said for having a space to be settled.
posted by crunchy potato at 4:47 AM on October 26, 2019

Did this for about a year. Totally hated it, and came to both dread and resent Sunday evenings as the time when I'd have to go back again. Even doing the thing suggested upthread of changing around my work week so that as far as possible I got three day weekends rather than two, it felt draining.

I lived alone at both ends for the first few months, then had a flatmate at one end, no SO. There was something very bleak about where I was living in the work week - I had everything I needed there, but it could never feel homely. As opposed to experiences above, I actually got fitter because I went to the gym just to be around other people and not be in that flat. But I ate crap, and wasted way more food as I kept losing track of what I had where.

That said, from my other experiences commuting, I think it was a better option than doing a 2.5 hour drive each way every day (I knew this was a temporary situation, hence not moving home base). Given that moving is really stressful, I think that if I found myself in a similar situation I'd do the same again - but I think I'd now put my limit at around 8-9 months of it, maximum. Long term? Hell no.
posted by Vortisaur at 5:27 AM on October 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I did this for 4-5 months. It worked out well, but I couldn't have gone much longer than that.

I used to take the train back and forth Friday evening and Sunday afternoon, about 5 hours each way. I had a 3-month temp job (with a couple of extensions) in Newtown but I wanted to keep my apartment in Oldtown. (I also wanted to keep on the part-time schedule at my original job in Oldtown in case there was no contract extension in Newtown. So I took the train home Friday evening, got home midnightish, worked a 12 hour shift every second Saturday and then came back to Newtown Sunday afternoon.)

I was trying to break into a new field and the new job was invaluable experience. I also did not want to cash in everything at home for a short term gig. It worked out well, but I could not have kept up much longer than I did. (I know I am a little out of the range of your question because I was working at both places.)

I had some very kind friends willing to look in at my apartment while I was away, but I was living on my own in both cities. It wasn't much fun in some ways, feeling rootless and placeless, but it was probably worth it.
posted by philfromhavelock at 12:51 PM on October 26, 2019

I did this for 7 years, driving to a city 4 hours away a Monday morning and returning Thursday night for each 9 month academic year. It's harder on your body than you might think, partly because of all the driving - I ended up having sciatic problems. It's also hard on your relationships - I had a spouse at the non-work end of the trip, and it was always hard to re-synchronize. As an introvert I quite enjoyed the alone time on the road, though.

For the first couple years I had an apartment there but it seemed like a waste of money so I started using hotels. For the final year I stayed at a friend/workmate's house 3-4 nights a week, which was vastly preferable. The company was great, as was having access to pets. I would recommend this option if you can do it.
posted by media_itoku at 2:15 PM on October 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I did this for about 4 months, and contrary to one comment above, I feel like it worked better because I was single with no family in either town - I wasn't missing someone/resenting the time I spent away from them etc.

I was in the fortunate situation that, to an extent, both ends were somewhat homely - I had a flatmate in each, so I never had to rock up to a totally empty flat. I think it would be harder if one of your residences was literally just a room, but YMMV.

I basically was already living in the city, in a flatshare with one other person. Then I got offered some short-term work outside the city. I'm googling it now and it seems to be only 33 miles away, but that feels hard to believe because at the time the only public transport was a bus down winding country lanes, that took 1.5 hours, so I took up the offer of one of my new temporary colleagues to stay in their spare room during the week. The job was in the kind of rural area where even crossing into the next valley is viewed as a proper trip, so while it was only 33 miles geographically, it was a world away in other ways.

I'd work Monday to Thursday (the whole office did a compressed week). On Friday morning I came back to the city, Friday through the day was my 'hunting for a permanent job' time. Had the weekend in the city and returned down the road on Sunday night. That was the only point in the week that I felt a bit sorry for myself - I was fine once I arrived and caught up with my other flatmate, but having to spend my Sunday evening packing a bag, heading to the bus station, sitting on a bus on my own going through dark countryside always felt pretty melancholy.

So I'd say -
* I agree with those above, try and compress your week if you possibly can. I think doing this but travelling Saturday morning/Sunday evening would have been much worse.
* Try and make your weekday accommodation as good as possible. It's easy to think you'll get the smallest, boxiest room you can just to save money, but it's still going to be your home for big chunk of time and if it's depressing, the whole experience will be miserable.
* Set it up initially just for a few months so you can review down the line.
posted by penguin pie at 12:03 PM on October 27, 2019

Oh, and also worth noting that it partly worked well for me because I was already established in the city, had friends and activities there.
posted by penguin pie at 12:12 PM on October 27, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks for your insights, all. The fact that I would be moving to a new place without a strong support system on the "home" end gives me some pause. I think I'll put this idea on the back burner for now.
posted by btfreek at 7:33 PM on October 28, 2019

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