Joanna Papageorgiou finds her three-hour-a-day commute to work not so much a chore as a space to enjoy a bit of time to herself.
She has thought about looking for jobs nearer home, she says, but that would mean she wouldn’t have the time to read books, listen to her ipod, have a coffee in peace and chat to friends. In the past she has even done some Open University courses on the train from Bristol to Cheltenham.
In her blog, Ephemeral Digest, she says: “My entire repertoire of culture is usually experienced on my journey to work. My me time. My just-sit-there-and-do-nothing-and-don’t-particularly-worry-about-anything time.”
She adds:“I’ve thought of looking for jobs in Bristol so I could get more sleep, but I think that would be worse as I would go straight home and not have any time for myself.”
Joanna is a statistical analyst at the University and College Admissions Service. She is also a single parent with a 16-month-old daughter.
She was working full time until her daughter Mersina was born, but went back three days a week with one day working from home.
Although the days she works in the office are long – she leaves home at 6am and is not back till around 6pm – she doesn’t see the time as wasted and feels she has a good work life balance.
The only drawback is the expense. When she worked full time it cost her around £5,000 a year.
Her housemate, who is her daughter’s godfather, helps with looking after Mersina and her daughter’s father, who lives nearby, takes and picks her up from the childminder on the days she is working in the office. She chose a childminder on the recommendation of a friend. “Nurseries seemed so impersonal to me,” she says. “I couldn’t bear the idea of her being in there. At the childminder’s she is one of three children.”
Joanna, who is Greek-Australian, has been living in the UK since 1995 and has done the commute to Cheltenham for the last six years. Her family is not nearby. Her mother is in Greece, her father in Australia and her sister in Brussels.
She says she was fairly keen to get back to work after taking a year off on maternity leave. “I felt I was getting back to a bit of normality,” she says. “It’s exhausting having no-one else to watch the baby when you are a single parent. It makes you really appreciate having time on your own, even if I have to get up at 5am and Mersina hasn’t been sleeping till 11pm due to teething problems.”
Joanna says her blog also gives her some more personal space. It includes reviews of venues and events in Bristol. “It really helps with feeling more part of the community,” she says.