For some, the American dream is having a three-car-garage McMansion, a place to raise and spoil your kids, an honest, high-paying job, peace of mind and enough cash to be worry-free into an early retirement. Maybe that's not working out so well for you if you're trying to do it all on your own, and even if you've done it on your own, fulfilling your desires may be coming at the expense of others' needs.
But the economy of scale in communal living with you and your closest dozen best friends will have you dropping your jacket and tie and for a tie-dye t-shirt and flowers in your hair.
Besides some of the cliches you'll see in this satire promoting the Art of Community conference starting a week from today (September 23- 25 in California), community living has serious advantages that are looking more and more appealing to the average American feeling the hard times of the recession, especially those able to connect the dots of our daily headlines to see the future of food, oil, water and world economy.
Here are the Top 5 Ways Hippies Can Make You Rich, with the life-time value of each.
#1 Cheap Land
On your own, if you have only $50k to put down for a land deposit, your choices are limited. If you got together with 20 community members, you're looking at a million bucks, just to start. That's the choice between mortgaging a shed on an empty lot or owning several hundred acres outright in some parts of the country. With that much space and lower debt, you can build a home much larger than you'd be able to afford to otherwise.
From there, you can either tend the land and preserve it for generations to come, or all work together and hope to flip it and get filthy rich, if you still have that capitalist streak in you.
#2 Cheap Child Rearing
"It takes a village to raise a child... " or if you do it on your own, it'll take a nanny, a backyard playground with toxic herbicides that a gardener must apply monthly, putting lessons for peewee golf tournaments, and more.
Intentional communities often offer collective childcare agreements, and even home-school, saving you tens of thousands of dollars on daycare and private school tuition you'd have to pay for schools that give a child such individualized attention. It allows each parent free time to get more business done or, Gaia forbid, just relax. Additionally, community living is like giving your kid dozens of aunts and uncles, who provide a wide variety of perspectives and experiences, giving your child diverse knowledge that will serve as a head start into the scholastic and, eventually, business world.
If you live in a really eco-focused community, they may discuss maintaining a one-child policy, which is about the most environmentally responsible thing you can do.
#3 Cheap Labor
Most intentional communities share chores, like landscaping, gardening, building upkeep and other maintenance that would cost you thousands of dollars a year in parts and labor you'd pay someone else to do for your home, so if you do your share of the work, you're taken care of.
You can, of course, do these things on your own time, when you're not commuting to your nine-to-six job (or looking for work), not watching the kids, not paying bills, and not going to therapy because you can't handle how crazy your life has become. Speaking of therapy...
#4 Cheap Therapy
Healthy hippie communities have two shoulders to cry on for every community member, which they're happy to loan out, as they know they have more than they'll ever need right next door. Besides, having many of life's economic and social needs taken care of by sharing resources and living in a less isolated atmosphere means you're likely less prone to the varieties of depression that can take hold in the modern rat race.
While the vast majority of intentional communities are simply setups like cohousing, and co-ops, some are closer to what you imagine -- a bunch of groovy folks growing tofu together. Why not start a community where everyone works together to make a product that can make you (and your community) real income?
Of course, it'd have to be a compostable, carbon-neutral, sustainable product, and you'd have to make sure all the workers get an equal share of the cash, but you won't mind so much -- you'll actually rejoice in the egalitarian love -- because by then, you'll have learned the value of #1 through #4, happy to have finally learned how to hop off the hamster wheel.
For more info, see Art of Community, or contact the author, who lives in an intentional community just outside San Francisco, CA. Namaste.
Follow Ben Zolno on Twitter: www.twitter.com/benzolno