But this post is not dedicated to alone time, this post is all about group time! Before I get into the details, I must tell you that the decision for the five of us (originally 7!) to live together was never meant to be permanent. Since there was only one house on the land, we all agreed we would temporarily have to make some sacrifices until our individual houses were built. We all came together from established homes and relationships in the US to giving up some independence and capitalistic comforts to give this Fiji thing a shot.
So what’s it like living as group in one, 1100 sq ft house, with one bathroom, one kitchen, sleeping only feet away from other people? In the beginning it was tough for me. Somehow, sharing one bathroom was/is no big deal; I shared a single bathroom with my family of six until I went off to college, but I’ll explain the difference later! When my older sister moved out for college, I relished in the fact I had my own room for the first time at 17. So when I upgraded to being out in the world after high school, choosing where to live and with whom, my independence blossomed and only grew from there. By definition, communal living sounds like backpedalling, especially for newly married couples, but like I said, it’s temporary and I did adapt, just like everyone else here! I’m sure I speak for everyone here, that as much as we love each other and get along under these special circumstances, we cannot wait to have the option to be on our own programs again. We already know that after living in such close proximity, that once our new houses are established, we will still choose to see each other every day!
Think of our temporary commune as the ultimate roommate scenario but with an off-the-grid, marital twist! Woohoo! A certain mind set is needed for a roommate relationship to be successful. Roommates can become a total nightmare, be almost professional, or become the best of friends. I’m sure I haven’t always been the best roommate but I’ve been fortunate to have more success stories than not. There are personality differences, different schedules and routines, and space and personal property to be respectful of. In our case, it’s concentrated. Living off the grid, having/being a roommate, and being in a relationship all have their own challenges, we’ve just decided to try them all at the same time! By doing so, we stretch our character every day we do this.
So let’s get into the details shall we? What are the biggest challenges you ask? Here they are:
Lack of Privacy This one might be my least favorite to live but my most favorite to tell. I mentioned we share one bathroom but what I didn’t mention is that the bathroom is right next to the kitchen…like inches away from the busiest room in the house. We do not have insulated doors/walls/rooms so you can say goodbye to a smidge of dignity when you have to ninja poop a matter of feet away from people. And if the bathroom is taken, an outside potty session might be necessary and these hills have eyes.
Besides the bathroom, there’s the usual clothes-changing struggle and having to wear clothes rule. Sometimes (or most of the time) a person just doesn’t want to wear pants around his/her house. Sometimes you need your own space, or alone time with your partner, and or just want to get away. Being so far away from town there’s really nowhere to “escape” to. To ease this, we have curtains around our beds, we set up tents on our future house pads, take turns going to town for supplies, or take off to another island for a few days.
Personality Differences Like in any relationship, work is required from all parties. You will get out what you put in. We may not always agree as a group but we always agree to communicate and work it out. We have to respect and consider each others' views, opinions, and concerns on every communal issue, no exceptions. No one person’s ideas or opinions weigh more than any others and there can’t be too many chiefs, otherwise, nothing will get done, at least not harmoniously. In this situation, we’ve all sacrificed some independence and control in order to be flexible, cooperative, and open-minded to the fact that we now share everything: responsibilities, food, finances, space, and schedules.
Finances Yikes. Not a topic even committed couples want to talk about so multiply that times five! Statistics show that 7 out of 10 marriages fail due to money-related issues so I could see how this type of situation could disintegrate easily with so many more players in the game. We have lots of projects, meals, and maintenance to fund as a group which is why money has to be a topic of conversation. This is where respect, communication, and commitment are most important. Everyone has to be on the same page when it comes to money prioritizing and allocation since we split everything communal equally. All money differences need to be put aside for what’s best for the group i.e. if one person is a spender and another a saver, balance and compromise must be made.
The Food Situation This topic earned it’s own post a while back and for good reason: we have to eat and it’s the biggest change we had to adapt to coming from the USA. Kudos to Anna for cooking over an open fire before Erik and I moved here! Knowing what it takes to feed everyone with a stove/grill, I am not sorry I wasn’t here for that! Most meals are from scratch and requires so much time and creativity when you have to do it three times a day. While I loved cooking before moving here, I have further challenged myself by baking anything I think of and attempting to use exotic ingredients every day.
This topic is, personally, my hardest struggle with communal living because I had to give up control over what I eat. I’m sure anyone on a special, restrictive diet, or even health-conscious diet could relate. I started educating myself on nutrition after college and started making changes to what I was buying and eating to the most healthy choices available. I wasn’t unhealthy but I wasn't being the best I could be to my body. After all, you are what you eat. So coming here and not having certain foods available, or someone else doing the shopping or cooking, or not having a single healthy option in town, can be frustrating. High fat and high sugar options are the only options at most food establishments on our island. Even if we do get our hands on some healthy options, not having electricity and being so remote limits how much and how long we can keep the fresh produce and the better-for-you foods. Since it’s been Erik and myself, I’ve gained some of that control back and will have to decide when we are a group again whether I can let it go once more or make some changes to continue feeling like myself.
If there are any other questions you have about our off-the-grid or communal living that I’ve yet to answer/cover, please feel free to ask or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I love hearing your feedback and reading your comments and suggestions for new topics! Thanks for reading!