Coliving Case Study: A Lifelong City Dweller Reconnects with Himself, His Community & the Wilderness

This past August 2022, Cabin ran a coliving experience with our first partner neighborhood, Montaia Basecamp. Fifteen residents attended 2-4 weeks of coliving and coworking in a Montaia’s shared house in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas in California. They shared meals, swapped stories, and communed with some of the finest nature the world had to offer.

When Matthew Watman told folks about participating in the program and meeting his internet friends from Cabin, he struggled to explain the “coliving” part more than the “internet friends” part. Folks just didn’t understand what intentional coliving was, or how it was different from splitting an apartment with people.

In the 26th Edition of its Community Directory: The Guide to Intentional Communities & Cooperative Living, the Fellowship for Intentional Community defined an intentional community as “a group of people who live together or share common facilities, and who regularly associate with each other on the basis of explicit common values.”

In Matthew’s prior living  situations, folks could go for days without interacting. In an intentional coliving situation like Montaia, residents expect interaction, connection, and a constant give and take from everyone else.

In this profile, we go into Matthew’s experience as a coliving resident in Cabin. We touch on his previous living experiences and what it was like to (finally!) meet his Discord frens in person at a Cabin event.

Matthew’s experience is the reason for our existence. We hope this profile tempts you dip your toes in the bottomless lake of Cabin and consider coliving yourself.

Here we go.

If you’re interested in coliving, our inaugural Coliving Pass is now available for stays in our Austin location (and more to come!) from Oct 1, 2022 to Sept 2023. Learn more here.

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Matthew is a Cabin contributor and developer who worked on our Blaze product. Before attending Cabin’s Summer in the Sierras, Matthew didn’t have any coliving experience.

Hi Matthew!
Hi Matthew!

Apart from the usual revolving door of college and post-college roommates, his only real exposure to coliving was through his sister and his brother-in-law — circus performers who live on the top floor of a coliving house in Philadelphia, along with other entertainers. This was his first peek into a world where people could live harmoniously with each other. After a litany of hit-or-miss shared housing arrangements, including some “absolute nightmares”, intentional coliving where folks respected communal space and connected with one another beyond merely sharing the same living space, seemed like a dream come true.

Matthew experienced the stress of COVID & the loneliness of city living

Before Montaia, the macro environment of COVID and stress had eroded Matthew’s faith in the good of people. Even with his most recent roommate with whom he had a good relationship and shared aligned expectations, there was still some undercurrent of tension. He says, “We had very similar expectations around how we wanted to live together, but we never wrote out chore schedules and never did any of that explicitly. This led to a lot of coordination failures.” Matt came into Cabin and Montaia’s coliving experience, hungry for a more social living situation, but also one that prioritized open communication and clear expectations amongst the members.

Matthew also felt city life bear down on him a little bit and had wanted to get out.

“I was just feeling lonely. Even though I have a great group of friends and my family close by, I was feeling very, very surrounded by concrete.”

Even after sending in his application for the month of coliving, one final piece needed to fall into place before Matthew could attend: “I’d been in a pretty financially tenuous situation for the past 3-4 months,” he says. Fortunately, Matthew received a grant for another project and agreed on a payment plan with the Cabin team.

Cabin’s Summer in the Sierras experience at Montaia Basecamp came at the right time for him to try out coliving, immerse himself in nature, and of course, to continue working as a freelance developer.

Repairing his relationship with himself, others & nature at Montaia

Matt didn’t come in with expectations. He hoped to relearn how to trust and connect with people and with his own body. He was also looking for a place where everyone pitched in, contributed, and took care of the space.

At Montaia, Matt found all these and more.

Each day, Matthew found a lot of fun sharing this experience with the other residents, most of whom were in the web3 industry. The residents would bounce ideas off each other and these sparked interesting conversations. “Some of that is going to turn into tangible projects after this, which is really, really cool.”

Then at the end of each day, the residents would sit out on the deck, watch the stars, and pass a blunt around — and not talk about work. “We’re all just vibing and enjoying each other's company.”

Over the 4 weeks, he learned to trust others again. After multiple challenging living arrangements in the past, Matt had unconsciously developed a cynical attitude towards potential housemates, but he felt that shift throughout the month. He says,

“Living in a house where the expectation was for everyone to pitch in, made it easier for me to let my guard down and be vulnerable.”

He also felt himself open up to the rest of the community. He learned how to give and receive platonic physical affection, gestures that had been difficult for him in the past. Even small things like folks casually checking in with him, made all the difference. He recounts, “Instead of waiting for people to prove themselves to me, this experience helped me build the habit of trusting people by default.” He credits Montaia’s caretaker for helping the residents get under each other’s skin in the best way. “That was very intentional on Kaela's part. She facilitated exercises to get us beyond surface level shit.”

Fortunately even with all the social interaction, Matthew — who views himself as an introvert — found that coliving was friendly for both introverts and extroverts. “Montaia has so many nooks that if I don’t want to be around people, I can just go fuck off somewhere and be alone for a while and recharge.”

The highlight of the month? “The backpacking trip was absolutely incredible.”

Cabin caretakers Kaela and Jon led a backpacking expedition, made up of 9 Montaia residents. The team hiked the Crown Point Loop in the Sierra’s Hoover Wilderness. The team hiked 4-6 miles a day, while carrying 30-50 lbs of gear on their backs. Over 4 days, they covered close to 20 miles, climbing 2,000 ft of elevation to 10,000 ft. Matthew says, “This was my first experience on a multi-day backpacking trip. I never thought I would be able to do something like this. It got me excited about what my body is capable of, in a way that I’d never been before.”

Today he feels more at ease with his renewed connection to nature. “I feel mentally better. Being immersed in nature made me realize that I want to expose myself to this regularly.”

Riding his Summer in the Sierras high, Matthew feels a tug-of-war between his current plans to travel as a digital nomad and to continue coliving. He says, “Having experienced a coliving environment, I definitely think this is the way we should live with one another. I don't want to go back to the way I was living with people in the past.”

“Is coliving for me?”

If you’re reading this and you’re wondering if you’d enjoy coliving, Matthew says that he’d recommend it… But with an asterisk.

According to him, potential housemates need to value genuine connection in their lives— and to do the extra mile to get there. Prospective coliving residents need to be good communicators. They have to be willing to be vulnerable and advocate for their own needs, while wanting to be around other people for an extended period of time. Finally, they have to be okay with things not always feeling 100% fair. They have to actively open themselves up to letting things unfold.

Ready to try coliving with Cabin?

If you think you’d enjoy coliving or are simply interested in trying it out, our inaugural Coliving Pass is now available for 2-month+ stays in our Austin location from Oct 1, 2022 to Sept 2023. Learn more here.

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