Let's (not) start a commune

Bet you thought the communes piece would encourage everyone to start a commune, huh? Guess again.

In college, usually after a particularly good hiking trip around Pisgah National Forest, my friends and I would often dream about switching paths, ditching the scary adult world, moving to the desert (or mountains), and starting a commune. There, we imagined, we could live out our days in idyllic bliss, happy in the fact that we all had each other.

The problem with the commune dream was that it was just that—a dream. For what Duke student really wants to give up all they’ve been working towards and move to the desert? My friends with whom I shared this fantasy are now scattered around the world, from San Francisco to Bangkok, pursuing PhDs and starting companies and protesting injustice and doing God-knows-what-else—did we really think everyone would just give all that up and move out to the wilderness, where you have to scale a mountain just to get a decent phone signal?

Lucky for you, this is not a sad piece. I’ve got a way better idea. Instead of starting a commune…let’s start a co-housing community!

What’s a co-housing community?

Basically, the idea is that we get a bunch of awesome, fun people to all live in the same place, so that your neighbors are your friends, and you can build a local community (just like in college!). As young adults, this could look like a bunch of people sharing houses next to each other or getting apartments in the same building. As real adults (aka married with kids), this could look like everyone getting their own house, just all in the same neighborhood. It’s a pretty neat idea, huh? So, cool, in fact, that other people have already caught on. Durham, for example, already has at at least four cohousing communities! And yeah, everything I just linked to was pretty much a place for adults over 50 years, but still—a cohousing community is an awesome and feasible idea, because, unlike the wilderness commune, we can locate the co-housing community in or near a city, drastically lowering the opportunity cost of joining, as people won’t have to give up their jobs and careers. Furthermore, unlike a commune, where you need everyone to relocate at the same time (you can’t run a commune by yourself, can you?), a co-housing community would allow people to move more slowly, a few at a time, grabbing houses and apartments near each other as time went by. Plus, we still get to enjoy all the benefits of modern society, like coffee shops and rock concerts!

I have so much to say about this idea (which I’m absolutely convinced is correct) that there is no way it will all fit into one piece. Therefore, to avoid writer’s block and be able to actually send something, I’m going to spread the arguments out over many different letters. For now, I just ask you to picture this.

Imagine your future, co-housing style. Instead of having your friends spread across the globe, they’re all around you. The late night dorm-room discussions everyone loved so much in college aren’t relegated to the past—they’re the new norm. Instead of coming home to watch Netflix alone after work and only grabbing a beer with your friends on the weekend, you can shoot the shit with them on your back porch all the time. You can save tons of money, since cooked meals together will be way more fun than expensive takeout or restaurant food, and if you want to start a new project, be it founding a non-profit, learning to make your own espresso, or launching an ICO, you’ll always have people around to bounce ideas off of, and potentially partners interested in joining you! What’s not to like?

So many things in the world are difficult. Becoming a doctor is difficult, curing cancer is difficult, and climbing a 5.14, that’s pretty difficult too. Co-housing—and, by extension, happiness—well, that doesn’t have to be so difficult actually, does it?

Friends shooting the shit on the porch
Friends shooting the shit on the porch