In other areas of urban life we are becoming more flexible and temporary and customized to individual needs yet our living situations remain the same. Why is it that I still have to sign a year lease, get all my own furniture, and nest? I, like many others, am a consultant and a collaborator on various projects. My work takes me to many parts of the city, yet I return to the same place at night.
This trip I worked from the road and slept in different cities. Thanks to the generosity of friends, family, and strangers I didn't have to return home. I worked from my phone, which was admittedly difficult at times, and I carried all my things for the week in my backpack.
Granted, if I needed to go to a formal event I would have been in a bind- my wardrobe was limited to biking and casual clothes. It's hard to prepare for multiple situations with one tiny backpack.
My limits were tested one day when a best friend who had just given birth invited me to the hospital to meet her newborn. When I received her text I was on the bangka in Laguna de Bay, filthy from the day's ride and drenched in lake water. I couldn't meet a newborn like that.
I biked into BGC and started looking for spas with shower facilities. None would take me unless I bought a massage or spa service. Eventually a friend answered my plea and let me into the pool house of his fancy condo compound; a wall of towers surrounding a tennis court, playground, and pool. I was able to get a quick shower in there before biking to St. Luke's to greet the gorgeous new mom and her beautiful new son.
I've been a backpacker while traveling to other countries, but never in my own city and it was eye opening. It was good to have a homebase when I needed to use my computer (I didn't bring it with me on the road in case of damage or theft) for extensive work assignments or switch out clothes or take a day off, but other than that, I was happy moving about from place to place.
My homestays were especially comfortable and reminded me of my first travels at age 15 when I went abroad to study Spanish and lived with local families in Spain and Costa Rica. Air BNB is helping meet this market, but I wonder if there's a way to make more of a homestay out of it, where it's not so expensive and could be utilized by day laborers, transient workers, students, or just business commuters avoiding traffic by traveling after rush hour and spending the night in preparation for an early meeting the next day.
My stay in Z Hostel was the first time I stayed in a hostel mere miles from my own bed. It is true to its motto "a luxury hostel for the smart traveler". It is the nicest hostel I've ever stayed in and granted it may seem expensive for a hostel, it's a fraction of the hotel rates in the area and it's not much more expensive than much less swanky hostels in other parts of Manila.
If Z Hostel had branches in every city and they let me have a membership to access dorm rooms in each with a main homebase in one, I would be the first to sign up. Why are places like Z Hostel for "travel" and not for regular urban life? We have apps to pick us up in private cars, to book us reservations in restaurants, to find us dates at a moment's notice, but I do not have flexible, affordable, safe rooms to rent in my own city to replace the traditional rental model. Z Hostel, at its current per night costs, would not be competitive at a monthly rate, but if paired with co-lab/share space/maker space working models it might be doable and become the ultimate freelancer hybrid. I would love to be able to live and work in any of the business districts in Metro Manila any day of the week to cut down on commute times, increase networks, and access more collaborations. At Z Hostel's Wednesday night rooftop party I met a handful of new, interesting people, something which is always appreciated when you've lived in a place for several years.
Of course, this type of living would only work for a certain age and marital status- aka single- and probably for only so long. Eventually we want to settle down. But meanwhile, we should have more options.