And my working plan to make it happenStatus: work in progress
I am looking to co-live with a small (4-6) group of people outside of busy city life. These people should be intellectually curious, learning or building something that excites them, and generally leading their lives in a manner congruent with a more equitable, empathetic, and inclusive future. I see this as the first step in a longer-term plan described further below. If you are in any way interested in joining me – do reach out!
Some of my most memorable experiences over the past few years have been in remote cabins with good friends. While these were usually “vacations”, it’s in these moments where I found myself most in tune with my body and creativity; likely due to a few factors:
Calmer environment: no honking, crowds, sirens, loud music, inconsiderate neighbors, or yelling.
More physical space: these houses are usually considerably more spacious than the typical city apartment. Everyone has the room to spread out and work comfortably within getting in each other’s way.
Fewer distractions: I’ve found that – as inspiring and fascinating as it is – having a global epicenter of culture and entertainment within walking distance makes focusing on producing my own work really hard.
Close proximity to nature: being able to go on a mid-day walk through nature has massive benefits to happiness, sanity, and creativity. Being able to sit outside in the evening and look up at the stars has an effect hard to quantify but I know I want more of it.
Having dinner with a few friends is infinitely better than having dinner alone in an apartment.
New York City has been a phenomenal home for the past 3 years: I met countless incredible people and had the privilege of experiencing a diverse city life. However, due to the pandemic and economic downturn, I don’t expect it to return to its former self for at least a couple years.
Additionally, even before the pandemic I began harboring the heretical suspicion that perhaps living in a densely-packed city with 8,000,000 other people might not be the best for my mental and physical health.
Along with the rising acceptance of remote work, it seems like the perfect time to attempt an experiment like this.
The first version of this will likely be a short-term Airbnb rental (2-3 months) with everyone agreeing to split rent according to room size/other amenities. Think of it as a semester abroad.
- I would prefer to know every person in the initial group or at least have a strong mutual connection. We would either meet up in person or do video calls prior to committing to make sure everyone feels comfortable.
At least one person would have a car useable by anyone for errands, shopping, etc. The nearest town would probably be a half-hour away, and the nearest city less than two hours driving. There will be laundry in-unit.
The location should be in close proximity to nature (mountains, ocean, or both) and have a lower cost of living to major coastal cities. Some possible locations:
Tahoe/Sierra Nevada Mountains
San Diego/surrounding area
Catskill Mountains, NY
Future attempts at this may be located outside of the United States.
Assuming all goes well, I would like the first attempt at this to happen August 1 - November 1.
Other Questions #
Isn’t this just a typical hacker house?
- No. While it shares some traits with one, its primary purpose isn’t proximity to Silicon Valley. Additionally, not everyone need be an entrepreneur building a unicorn; I’d love it if we had artists, students, and writers in the mix.
Is this a commune?
- No. But for in insightful look into what commune living is like, check out this Reddit thread.
How would food work?
Due to a variety of diets, preferences, and allergies this would be decided by the embarking group. One model might be an opt-in communal dinner with everyone taking care of breakfast/lunch individually.
With social distancing requirements, risk can be minimized with 1-2 people going shopping for everyone else and simply building a list beforehand.
How would chores and cleaning work?
- The typical roommate configuration: everyone takes care of their immediate living spaces themselves and we take turns cleaning the common areas. Another option would be to split the cost of a weekly outside cleaning for the common areas.
How much would it cost?
- Ideally, monthly rent + utilities would come out to less than $1,500/month. If 5-6 people are able to commit, the price can likely be brought down to $1,000/month. More detailed price breakdowns to follow.
How do I plan to find the rest of these people?
My immediate plan is simply talking to friends, friends of friends, and posting it on Twitter. Couples ok. If you know someone who’d be interested in trying something like this, please send it their way!
It’s also surprisingly difficult to “broadcast” this intent. What exactly do I call it? One would think, with the internet being as prominent as it is this would be a simpler task. But indeed, it’s not. Most of our social organization still seems to be separated into deep silos: there isn’t an easy way for me to query friends of friends.
My Long Term Plan #
I’m really interested in exploring alternative sustainable living arrangements with diverse groups of people across disciplines and interests. Though I never had the classic university experience, I find myself wishing for something similar on a daily basis. My dream scenario looks something like this:
Simple personal living quarters - sort of like a classic dorm room. A bed, desk, personal bathroom, and closet.
Healthy meals available in a cafeteria a few minutes walk away. While I sometimes enjoy cooking, I’m more than willing to trade that for convenience and consistency. Larger batches of meals can also be made cheaper and with less wasted food.
A variety of working spaces within walking distance
A quiet space resembling a library (or better yet, an actual library)
A co-working space, sort of like your typical WeWork or cafe arrangement. Outlets, whiteboards, and coffee everywhere.
Small, private rooms for calls or in-person meetings.
Lots of comfortable seating and whiteboards everywhere.
A fully-equipped gym.
A larger space resembling a lecture hall.
Located in nature somewhere: on a coast, or in the mountains. Let me take a mid-day walk on a nice trail.
- The closest thing to this I’ve found so far are camp retreats in California, such as those around Russian River and Gualala.
As amazing as the internet is for communication, few things in life compare to spending long evening hours with good company in thoughtful conversation. Life is short and I intend to have many more such evenings.
See [[my dream working environment]]