Living: airbnb in Nederland, Co
Working: Spark Boulder
Laundry: Boulder Laundromat
This week in laundry I style lives.
It’s hard to put a finger on how it’s felt to be in Boulder this last week.
That has a lot to do with actually staying in Nederland, a small mountain town just outside of Boulder. And up 4000 feet.
A winding drive through Boulder Canyon divides the two worlds.
Instead of meeting the mature freelancers and seasoned start up developers that I’m used to working alongside at WeWork or Modworks, I encountered the bright eyed, male dense, “yah brah” new grad crowd.
And while there were certainly a handful of individuals that bucked that stereotype — including a freshman I met that could just as easily have been a ten-year industry veteran – it was the overwhelming trend.
In contrast Nederland hosts home to a certain class of person. Divided evenly, I found the hippies, the country cabin types, and the mega yuppies that overflow from Boulder. And their kids. Though each their own flavor, I felt a common root between them all in their laid back approach to life.
Each morning I would head down to Salto, the best coffee shop in Nederland, for a couple of shots, and a few hours of work in the cool mountain air. Within the half hour, groups of kids aged eight to fifteen would congregate the shared space between Salto and the Tin Shed bike & ski shop. They’d gather with their mountain bikes, dressed in their jerseys, in preparation for whatever organized ride was set up for the day. Their parents would drop them off, and linger, or leave.
Such privilege strongly shapes my impression of the area. The opportunity to take one’s $3,000 mountain bike through the gorgeous front range landscape. The opportunity to live in such an environment; to raise a family in such an environment. It strikes me whilst I sip my coffee as quite the lifestyle.
Just a half hour later I would find myself in the streets that skirt the campus peppered with frat houses and beer pong tables. The stereotype of any college campus holds strong and true. It is the universal university lifestyle, and it’s quite the contrast to the Nederland’s mountain-biking-child-rearing-laid-back style of life.
Those are just two dichotomies that don’t come close to touching the heart of Boulder. They’re likely at the extremes. They both reflect the local tech scene, and they both reflect the local wealth (the cost of living here is quite high actually). On the other hand, they both reflect two very important aspects of Boulder – the university, that major wellspring of tech, talent, and idealism – and the mountains, with their trees, canyons, hiking, biking, river kayaking, and all form of recreational tourism.
And then there are the wanderers. There’s a whole group of people that live up outside of Nederland on campsites, and commute into town for seasonal work. You’ll see them with their thumb out as you drive the mountain roads. Their life is in their backpack. That’s a lifestyle onto itself.
It’s a lifestyle that’s not too different from my friend Dirt Wolf, who’s spending the summer hiking the Continental Divide Trail. He lives his life through what he can fit in his pack, walking south to north and north to south along the backbone of the US. Now that’s quite a style of life.
And then there’s they guy who lives out of his tent, but has his BMW and satellite internet on hand. If any one person could summarize all lifestyles here in Boulder, it would be him. The minimalist but not really wealthy tech savvy man of the mountains.
I bet he has a mountain bike too.
And then there’s me. The digital nomad, but not really, because I only travel the US. Montana is the most exotic I get. San Diego the most tropical. My lifestyle is lean, unsettled, coffee rich and very privileged. But I don’t operate on all that privilege without gratitude that I’m able to do so. And lots of it.
Lifestyles are interesting because they’re not just a way of living, but a way of living that we use to communicate to each other about ourselves.
In fact, lifestyles are such a strong part of who we are, how we operate, and how we interact with each other, that there are entire industries devoted to lifestyles. People make their careers by evoking a lifestyle, sculpting a blog around it, and then finding ways to sell you on pieces of that lifestyle.
And just as travel enables me to sample each city I visit, in some ways I get to sample each lifestyle.
Airbnb enables that a little bit, since my airbnb often reflects my hosts’ lifestyle tastes. That may be by how they chose to decorate their shared space. But at a minimum I sample their lifestyle just by where they chose to make their home – in the heart of Chicago, the suburbs of Denver, or the small towns in the mountains outside of Boulder.
You could say that running a startup is a lifestyle in itself as well, since it consumes all of your life to do so.
Even how we clean our clothes reflects upon our style of life.
Some people wash their own clothes, and only their own clothes. Some people wash the entire family’s clothes.
Sometimes this is the work of the matriarch. In other cases a housekeeper is the cultural norm.
Some people only use eco friendly detergents. Some only use the most named of brands. Some use premium. Some use bargain generic.
Some people wash at the laundromat. Some do so on their own, some do so in familiar groups.
Some people wash only in their own homes, in machines that wash only their own clothes.
Some wash sessions take just an hour, some take the entire day.
Some outsource their wash to the laundromat. Some only use dry cleaning.
Some people have an entire estate staff that take care of the details for them.
And sometimes entire communities take their wash down to the river – a manual labor; a communal gathering.
Each unique situation of laundry, alone, community, outsourced or self-cleansed, is a reflection on each of our styles of life on a larger scale.
And on my journey, I’ve gotten to sample a little bit of each. Outsourcing, dry cleaning, shared machines, single family machines, and all flavors of laundromat.
With each laundromat a reflection of the city it lives in. Much like the people inside it.
You could say, through all my lifestyle sampling, laundry or otherwise, that I live a supralifestyle – a lifestyle of lifestyles, if you will, through travel.
But I don’t really regard my journey as a lifestyle. Because to me it’s unsustainable – I don’t really believe I’ll live like this forever.
But as a style of life for now, it works. At the very least, it serves as a canvas for me to learn and grow. A path of self-pilgrimage. Where it ends I do not know.
A friend of mine in LA reflected over Wholefoods bean burgers that all this travel incubates a survivalist mode of operation. To some extent he’s right.
But living in a perpetual survival mode keeps me on my toes – it fuels the growth. It’s a survival style of life.
These moments fuel such politics that I feel as if I can watch the people congregate in visceral motion. I see the tribes. I see the trenches. They are the groups to which people can belong. And I feel unwelcome in all of them.
It has a way of making me wish I had my own tribe, but I don’t know what that is. It makes me homesick, though I have no home.
In fact, as I reflect, if I were to simply conclude my trip today and return home, I’d have nowhere to return to. Because I have no home.
I have friends everywhere – in Milwaukee, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando. But none of those places are my home.
And maybe that’s the destination of this pilgrimage. The place that I can call my home.
If there’s any sense of a group I do belong to though, it would be the people of the parks. The theme parks.
I’m constantly blown away by their breadth, their skill, their passion. And their community of support and inclusivity.
In some ways, those people are my home. Though they’re spread across the nation, with strong LA and Orlando congregations. And only really converge for the summits, conferences, and trade shows. Maybe they are my home. I want them to be.
And yet, undeniably, home is a place. Certainly a place that has those people, but it is a place. A place to be safe, to live, and to grow within. A place with friends. A place to embody and root a lifestyle. Any lifestyle.
But it is a physical place. And with all these people spread across the world – much of theme park development happens in Asia and the Middle East these days – it seems that such a physical space would be too divided.
I don’t have the answer. I don’t have an answer to what home is. To where home is. If I did, then I suppose my journey would be over.
But without question, I deeply value the people that touch my life, though scattered across the globe they may be.
Each of you sculpts your lives in a certain style. A style that makes you happy. A style that reflects your person.
And with each, a unique style of laundry that, in some small way, reflects your life.
As for my laundry reflections – this week comes to a close with my clothes just wrapping from the laundromat dryer.
My laundry reflects my ever changing life and movement of location. And yet it reflects my habituality, and my simplicity – for I wash the same load of clothes, a single load of clothes, in cold water, once a week, without fail. Packed away for ease of use. Beckoning hope in the unknown for what the next week might bring.