Soaring house prices, traffic gridlock, road rage, the smell of fresh diesel in the air – just some of the benefits to living in a city in Ireland in the first quarter of the 21st century. But at least you can get food delivered to your house within the hour, right? Some people weigh up the pros and cons and decide that life in the big city is not for them and the pandemic has made remote working a much more viable prospect than it was back in the pre-Covid days. So if you'd rather surf in the Atlantic than sit on a crowded bus for an hour twice a day, what are you waiting for? On Today with Claire Byrne, two people who've recently moved west told Claire how they’ve been getting on since they left their respective cities and headed into the west.
Lewis Clarke was living in the UK with his family and they decided that moving to Sligo – where his wife is from – would be a good idea:
"We’d been coming back and forth for years and considered it. And then, looked at 2020 as the year before the kids went to secondary school. And then, with the pandemic, it kind of – with remote working, it kind of, things slotted into place, so we thought we’d go for it."
Did they consider the big smoke – or indeed anywhere else in Ireland – before deciding on Sligo?
"We did consider Dublin and other areas, but we’ve got family here and the scenery and the outdoors were really what we were looking for."
Demand for housing was just starting to pick up in Sligo, but with the pandemic restrictions, Lewis and his wife couldn’t view potential properties in person, so they had to ask family members to go to viewings on their behalf and give them the FaceTime tour. When they made the decision to buy their house, they’d never set foot in it:
"We didn’t even have a floorplan, so we, kind of, you know, we got the video phone call, 'Well, here’s this room...’ So, yeah, we looked at lots remotely. I fancied somewhere out in the country, but I was persuaded that with young children, they wouldn’t meet anyone except for school."
The house they bought, sight unseen, is on the outskirts of Sligo town, with school for the kids only a ten-minute walk away. They moved in at the end of last year, after they’d finished isolating. So, how have the first 10 months been?
"It’s been really good. Really good. I was asking the kids what they enjoyed most and the friendly people, school’s more fun, surfing and mountain biking around the corner, so, yeah."
Sounds pretty compelling, doesn’t it? William Egan would surely agree with that assessment. William moved from Dublin to Sligo also last year. Like Lewis, William’s partner Susie’s family also live in Yeats Country and William told Claire that, again, remote working was the spur that allowed him to make the move:
"So, [Susie] was renting in Sligo and myself in Dublin. We were splitting our time. And then, at the end of March, when the first lockdown came in, I decided I would decamp and move down. At the time, you don’t know whether it’s going to be a week or a month."
As lockdown dragged on, William thought that he should maybe look at the idea of moving down permanently. He got a job that allowed him to work remotely and bought a house last November. Does he ever have to go to the office in Dublin?
"Technically I don’t have to be. I have, obviously had the conversation and I was very open with my manager, saying. ‘Whenever I need to be there, I’ll be there.’ Because I do think it’s important to have that social connection with people you work with... I’m there when I’m needed in the office, but the rest of the time I’m going to be working remotely here in Sligo."
Claire caught William a little off guard by asking him if he ever gets lonely. It wasn’t something he’d thought about until she brought it up, he said. Having lived and worked in Dublin for 18 years, William must have left a lot of good friends behind when he headed out on the M4. But, he told Claire, he actually sees more of his Dublin friends now than he did when he lived in the east:
"I probably see them more often now than I did in the year previous to lockdown, to be honest. You just organise those nights out, especially we all have young families, where you really need to make an appointment to have a catch-up."
Sligo seems to have it all, doesn't it? Can anywhere else in Ireland even compete? You can hear Claire’s full conversation with William and Lewis by going here.