It is now almost 3 weeks that Jim and I have been living in Dorchester, MA at Homestel, a hostel run out of a triple-decker, multi-family home right around the corner from the Red Line, specifically the JFK/UMASS stop.
There’s a Star Market just a 7 minute walk away, Carson Beach just a bit further, the neighborhood’s full of super cute homes with a wide mix of people, and there’s a community center and local branch of the Boston Public Library less than 10 minutes bike ride to Upham’s Corner.
When I go on a morning run, I head through the train station over to the beach and there are throngs of kids going to school, young people my age heading to 9 to 5’s in fresh office clothes, hipsters in their hipstery whatever, and everyone in between. The area has a Vietnamese community as there are dedicated markets and a string of restaurants serving everyone’s favorite pho, banh mi, and other delectable dishes on the main road.
We’re also three T-stops or an 18 minute drive to the Landmark center in Quincy, MA where Jim and I have been creating our Community Projects through their Self Expression and Leadership Program- Check out Jim’s project here and mine here.
The location is perfect!
Doing a cursory search on Craig’s List for housing in Dorchester, the average cost to rent one bedroom is ~$800. What we are using is Workaway. In exchange for two full days of work per week, 9AM to 10PM, Jim and I have a private room on the third floor with kitchen and bathroom shared between other hostel staff, who are great.
The job entails checking in guests, flipping rooms, and keeping the hostel clean. 95% of the work is done in the morning when guests are checking out. Once that is out of the way around lunch time, the rest of the day is hanging out in the common room on my laptop, writing posts, eating Halloween candy, and kicking Jim’s ass in Scrabble. It is extremely low stress and I’m freed up to work on my projects while still having the added benefit of some external structure in my life. Not to mention, my commute is walking down a flight of stairs. And I make lunch at home. It’s actually been an awesome and easy experience exchanging work for lodging.
I say actually because I’ve never done anything like Workaway before. This is something totally new and I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve always worked for my earnings, you know, like cash $$. Bartering is not necessarily in my language. What is familiar to me is I give you $ in exchange for _____. Fill in the blank with whatever material good or maybe, on a darker note, even an intangible concept, like self-worth or love. Whoaaa — didn’t think I was going to go that deep place … a post for another day.
Exchanging money for goods is an easy exchange. It is clear, transactional, and the expectations for both parties is known to all. I pay X and get Y.
Going into this work exchange program, I met with the host about three weeks prior to my move-in date to get a feel for the place and its people. I assume this is a luxury not always afforded to Workawayers who are normally searching for work exchanges in other countries, and not the next town over. We chatted about what the day to day would look like, what opportunities were available for me, and what to expect; even then, I was still unsure how everything would play out. Without the clear transaction that money affords, expectations are a bit shades of grey and that unknown fucks with me. And yet, I seek it out because Growth.
I’m purposefully seeking out the unknown, re-purposing it into a life of my creating. I have a strong suit that’s also a double-edged sword; sometimes, it is called Boldness and other times, Recklessness. It depends when and how it shows up. For a long time, I believed in the one-size-fits-all Life Model, the one where I check the boxes and mile markers to Happiness – read about that in this post.
In 2015, I was working as a medical scribe in the Emergency Department of Norwalk Hospital preparing to take the MCAT and apply for medical school. Between writing medical histories, looking at radiology images, and being the doctor’s personal secretary, I became obsessed with travel blogs like Nomadic Matt. The following summer, I solo-backpacked Thailand and Cambodia where I met loads of people my age, living their lives differently, who thought differently, and had radically different ideas of what’s possible. In Chiang Mai, I ran into Jim at this reggae bar and we started a conversation. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was our banter, Tantra Banter.
By the time I came home that September, whether I was applying for medical school was a foregone conclusion.
Where to Go From Here
It is now 9:39pm and I’m just wrapping up my shift here at Homestel. Jim’s noodling on the guitar next to me. We’ve just eaten a light dinner of sigumchi-namul (Korean spinach dish) and roasted spaghetti squash, which we got from Fair Foods’ deal of a lifetime, $2-A-Bag groceries. In the morning, we’ll wake up at 4:45AM and sit for an hour of meditation. Eat some oatmeal and start our day. We have a shift from 2PM to 6PM and the rest of the day I’ll spend on my creative projects. I am “being me, rather than doing me”. Life is nice this way and I’m loving it.