Before I began working for myself in mid-2013, my shortest commute from bed to work was in the hostel in the Czech city of Olomouc that I worked in for a year from 2004 to 2005.
The hostel consisted of two apartments in a larger building, one on top of the other, in a larger building. The owners and staff lived downstairs, where there was also a private room, and the dormitories were upstairs.
If I was on shift – generally a 24 hour period from midday one day to midday the next – I would typically walk down the stairs to our apartment at around 7.30pm, when everyone was checked in and happy and out and about for the evening.
Sometimes I’d be heading out to join some of the guests at a restaurant or bar or a gig, the hostel phone in my pocket in case there was an emergency, but the best of times were when one of my colleagues had cooked a meal and we sat down together and ate before we played multiple games of Settlers of Catan.
In the mornings I’d walk back upstairs at around 7am, clean the bathrooms, toilets and kitchen before the guests woke up, then wait for any checkouts to go so I could start washing the sheets, doing the vacuuming and making the beds for the next arrivals.
On the best days I was done by 9.30am and I could sit in the common room, listen to music and read a book for a couple of hours until whoever was replacing me arrived.
It was pretty much the best job in the entire world and I’d still be doing it if it had paid enough that I didn’t have to draw down on my savings to travel outside the Czech Republic. Doing it again I’d look harder for some supplemental income.
Before that, my shortest commute was when I was working in pubs in London from 2001-03 and I lived in a room a few flights above the bar. My hospitality experience from Sydney meant I walked into assistant manager roles, which equated to an extra 50 quid a week and my own room.
On the worst mornings, when we’d been drinking or whatever else besides in the bar till late, I’d wake up five minutes before my shift began, walk downstairs bleary eyed and start opening up. When Sandy from Birmingham arrived an hour or so later I would go back upstairs for a shower before customers started arriving.
Working in pubs I learned how to cook, what alcoholism looked like, and how to pass out in the bathroom at 3am after too many vodkas and wake up when the cleaner arrived a few hours later.
I also got to live in Central London, within walking distance of Trafalgar Square and some of the best galleries, museums and bookshops in the world, and hang out with some great people – particularly friends from uni who passed in and out of London over the years.
These days I have perfected the short commute. On the best days I wake up at six, make myself some tea, stand up at my desk and write for a couple of hours. Then I get into my emails and whatever’s on the to-do list for the day.
I largely get to choose when I work, so sometimes I go for a bike ride or yoga class in the afternoon and then work until 11pm. The people I work for and with are all wonderful people trying to do things that make our communities stronger, and I get to help them do that.
I’ve had to learn how to say no – to myself when I really just feel like playing Witcher 3 for a couple of hours, or to a potential client when I’ve got too much work on my plate – and also how to manage my time more effectively. Both are a work in progress.
There’s really not much shorter my commute can get from here, unless I started eating, working, sleeping and living from my bed, so I think I’ll just call that a win and go on to another challenge.
PS: Header picture is from Pixar’s ‘Wall-E’, arguably the darkest and best film to come out of the now Disney-owned animation studio.