The sharing and gig economy is a big part of Universal Avenue and our ethos, from the Brands we work with, to the flexible work we offer our Brand Ambassadors. Sharing economy pro Maria Eriksson has been living using only the sharing and gig economy since the beginning of this year - read on to learn about her surprising journey.
It all started with the phone. My old Nokia, of a model supposedly preferred by mountain guides and bad guys, because of its robustness. I had decided to get a smartphone when this phone died. But after eight years it didn’t seem to be happening anytime soon. And I was starting to realize how much I missed out on, not being able to use apps. So on new year’s eve 2015 I taped the phone to the biggest firework piece I could find and blew it in the air. It was time for a change.
Or maybe it started when went to France last year and found myself staying with the most amazing Airbnb host. Who not only offered me food, wine and excursions in the region. But who also during long conversations taught me a lot about life and about being a good host.
Or maybe it started when I, one year ago, found myself in an apartment clearly too big, too expensive and too empty for one person and decided I should try to rent out a room. Which turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever taken.
It could even have started earlier than that, after years as a political writer was getting more and more frustrated with the conflict orientation and lack of ideas for the future, that I found in the political debate.
So for all these reasons I decided to dedicate one year to the sharing economy. During one year – a leap year – I would try as many apps and platforms as I could. And to explore how trust is built between strangers. I decided to call it 366 Days of Sharing.
The nice thing about doing your own project is that you get to decide.
1 ) Renting out two rooms to Airbnb guests, and sometimes Couchsurfers, who can stay for free. So far I’ve had more than 150 guests since I started with Airbnb
2 ) Renting/lending out my things – skis, bikes, drill, ice cream maker. People can even rent my toilet, 200 kronor for a day or 10 kronor for maximum 10 minutes. Toilet paper is included.
3 ) Going to and arranging at home restaurants.
4 ) Ridesharing.
5 ) Working from other people’s homes with Hoffice.
6 ) Gig work, via platforms such as Taskrunner.
So far it’s been nine months of sharing and it’s been amazing!
Most of all because of all the lovely people I have met. The sweet Korean family with a four year old son who was jet lagged and got up at five in the mornings to do transformer imitations on my kitchen floor. acrobat instructors from NYC who came to my place late one Friday evening and right away decided to teach me handstands. The man who lives in a house in the countryside with his horse, dog and a number of kids and who arranged one of those at home restaurants. For 50 kronor we had vegetable soup and homemade bread. Some neighbours brought a meat stew. In the end there were almost twenty people having lunch in the kitchen, including the dog who got his own bowl of meat stew. When I started this year I had almost no expectations, except that I wanted to have a fun year. Sort of a break. Do something different. And meet some nice people.
Yes, it has definitely been a different year. I have Couchsurfed in Paris where my host was a nudist. Having French paté and wine completely naked with a French nudist was something I had never done before. I have done jobs like sending 24 pork- and moose sausages to Palo Alto in California (300 kronor) or transporting a kilo of cricket flour from Uppsala to Stockholm (200 kronor). One weekend I was offered to take care of my favourite coffee shop in Uppsala. “But I don’t know anything about this”, I said to the owner. “It’s easy, everyone can make coffee”, he answered. So for four days, me and an Argentinian friend I met through Couchsurfing did our best to make soy latte frappuccinos – or whatever they’re called – and home made empanadas (1000 kronor for four days).
No, I won’t get rich this year. But I have a lot of freedom to decide over my own time. Do I even have a job? What job fits this description: clean guest rooms, write a blog and post sausages? At least it’s very far from a traditional 9-5 employment. For me that’s a good thing. It gives me more freedom and makes me more creative.
I think more people will work like this in the future. Creating their own jobs. Having an income that is a mix of money earned doing different things. It’s not always easy. One of the biggest challenges for me this year has been that the sharing economy is still a fairly new phenomenon in Sweden. Many of the platforms are unknown to most people. No one rents my bikes, because they haven’t heard of apps like Spinlister or Rentl. I hope this will change soon.
Otherwise the hardest part has been – as in life in general – personal relations. Being a slightly reserved person it is a bit of a challenge when it comes to welcoming new people in your home all the time. And then seeing people you have become attached to leave.
Here are some of the things I’ve learnt during these nine months:
A job can be something completely different from what we learnt in school. Some things might sound crazy to most people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t try it.
Most people are great. Of course we all have our quirks and twists, but most people are reliable and helpful.
The sharing economy makes people even better. Because you want to get a good review when you rent someone’s car or stay in their home, you have incentives to be at your best. And because people who use it like to share, many of them are open and caring.
In the sharing economy I have met people who want to make a change and who believe they can create the future. I finally found the optimism that was lacking in the political arena, and my journey doesn’t stop there; at the beginning of next year amongst other things, I’ll be looking to become a Brand Ambassador to see what the role has to offer.