As some of you know, I’ve always been pleased with my fairly short commute. No matter where I lived, it was no more than 20 minutes from home to office – even in New York I only had a one-stop train ride from Brooklyn to Wall Street under the river. In Dallas, I loved my Turtle Creek condo, located near to pretty much all of the city’s great restaurants and bars.
Last minute invitation to attend the opening night for Nobu? No problem. I could pop over to the house, get changed and be at the restaurant in half an hour. Forget some Claritin at home and have allergies raging? I’d just let my editor know I’d have to run home to get a fix.
Sure, I was paying a bit more to live closer in. I could have bought a much bigger and newer place in the ’burbs. To me, I was paying for the luxury of time.
When I saw people rush out of the office to “beat the traffic,” or have to plan their evenings around the fact that they had to drive an hour home, well, I don’t want to say I felt smug. But I did feel glad that that wasn’t me. I admired friends like Tanya who doesn’t mind her 45-minute commute because she said it was to her dream house. But I did hope when I got a dream house that “God, please let it be closer to work.”
Well, in the UAE, that formula didn’t work out so well. Housing in Abu Dhabi turned out to be a nightmare. Outrageous rents for the sorts of apartments that might seem home in South Dallas. I refused. And at 37, I refused to join the “Big Brother” brigade of sharing a six-bedroom villa with five of my closest strangers. And then there was the fact that the economic downturn had really burned the Dubai real estate – or as my British friends like to correct me: “property” – scene.
Texas-style over-lending, over-building and over-flipping combined with the credit crunch that threatened to take down the global economy meant a lot of really empty apartments and really desperate landlords.
I began to wonder: could I do this, an hour and 15 minute commute? One way? Twice a day?
What helped seal the deal is that J, who had become a close friend here, was also interested in a Dubai abode. And my editors graciously said that I could work out of the Dubai office a few days a week to help with the commute. After a search over a month or so, we found the place in JLT at the end of Dubai closest to Abu Dhabi.
So — this is where everyone in Dallas falls over laughing – I bought an SUV. A baby SUV, but an SUV nonetheless. (Oh how I miss the little SLK.) I buy gas every three days to travel 240 kilometers every day. And I arrange my schedule around the fact that I have to spend 2 ½ hours each day in a car.
I still can’t believe it sometimes.