Looking back, it’s safe to say I’ve exhibited a predilection for communal living. I shared a bedroom with my younger sister for years without much complaint and I never longed for a single room in my college dorm, even though it seemed like the cool thing to want. The summer between my sophomore and junior years I lived in a house with seven guys and didn’t mind their relative filth and stench as long as I had my own bathroom. After graduating, I worked for a band and lived on their tour bus for eight months – and yes, those quarters are as close as they sound.
Perhaps the most telling factoid is that I have never actually lived alone. Not ever. This was not by accident or for lack of affordable housing. I simply never wanted to. I’ve known lots of people who felt a true need to experience life in a solo dwelling, and I get it, but I have always wanted to have lots of people around.
Which brings me to the present day and my very real desire to create a living situation for my family that involves shared spaces, shared meals, lots of shared responsibilities and tons of shared joy. The current (and evolving) list of participants in my non-traditional living experiment includes our neighbors, a family of three, as well as four unmarried and childless folks who are just crazy enough to throw themselves into the mix before it’s even officially their turn to help with potty training or clean up after a gaggle of toddlers.
We come from different places and have varied interests but our ideologies are in sync. We are a group of people who endeavor to live a lifestyle that values nature, creativity, social responsibility and a very wide definition of the word “family.” We believe that all of us living together (or in very close proximity) will benefit each of us, and our families, immeasurably. Many of us also value travel and adventure but don’t necessarily have the individual means to maintain homes all over the globe. Combining forces makes that part of the dream a bit more attainable, and so we envision a primary residence here (in Vermont) with little satellite dwellings in New York, Los Angeles, the Caribbean and… and … who knows where else? That’s part of the adventure!
To boil it down: We all feel that life is easier and more enjoyable when you intentionally create and literally LIVE IN your own supportive community. Logistically, we’re looking at either one main house shared by two families with additional homes scattered around a large tract of land, or a bunch of single family homes all sort of connected to a central common space – imagine a little pod community with an open, inviting mother ship of a middle. We’ll also have a creative workspace with a music studio, yoga room and freelance office kind of thing for those of us who work from home. Add in a big, bountiful garden, a handyman’s workshop and a few chickens, and there you have it: “Back to the land” meets “Epitome of the 21st Century.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah – I hear your skeptical smirk. But we’ve already been trying this idea on for size with our neighbors, and I have to say, it’s working. The boundaries between our two houses are really just physical at this point. We share a meal at least once a week, our children play together every chance they get, we know each other’s kitchens and we’ll wash each other’s dishes. My husband spends sizable stretches of time on the road for work and when he’s gone, I still feel as if I have an extra set (or two) of hands whenever I need help. This goes beyond any common notion of “good neighbors.” This is community in its truest form; friends as family.
Because we didn’t always grow up and fly away, right? There is a reason families stick close together in so many cultures. I’m even hoping that when my parents are able to retire, they’ll come back to Vermont and build a pod of their own to share in this micro-village that we create; a place that, for now, remains just a dream, but one that is on its way to coming true.
(Photo: Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock)