I lived in Melbourne, Australia for 5 months on a Working Holiday Visa. The whole time I was there I lived in a little hidden gem in a nondescript warehouse known as Crunchy Town.
It’s nearly impossible to describe Crunchy Town unless you experience it for yourself. Although the outside looks like a run-down warehouse, the interior is anything but. There are murals on the walls, a spiral staircase that leads to a makeshift second floor lounge area, a huge hammock hanging from the ceiling and a whole closet of hi-vis shirts next to the front door, which reads “fake door no exit” in mirrored gold letters. There’s no running water, no wifi, and no inhibitions.
Crunchy Town is a share house that houses 20-40 people at any given time. Over Christmas, we were closer to 60! No one has their own room, their own bed, or their own personal space, but this is what makes this community more of a family than a share house. Everyone greets each other with a hug, and strangers who just met each other a day before seem as though they have been best friends for years.
You usually get a spot in this community through Couchsurfing, where Sam (the Australian who started Crunchy Town) sifts through requests and determines who will be a good fit. When you’re a lot of people living in a small space, it’s important that everyone is respectful, helpful and open-minded. Because I met a lot of previous Crunchies during my time in New Zealand, I was able to get in simply by word of mouth. Many couchsurfers come for three days and end up staying for three months!
This community works because the people who live there make it work. Rent is low, and we eat for free, but everyone pitches in in their own way – whether it be cooking, cleaning, going on one of the weekly missions, organizing an activity for the community or building a new structure in the warehouse.
The rent we pay each week gets split into rent for the warehouse and house money for basic needs such as cooking oil, rice and pasta, toilet paper, cleaning products, etc. The rest of our food we get for free through dumpster diving, a mission we go on a couple of times a week. The quality of the food is incredible, and the amount of waste unbelievable. We feed 20-40 people twice a day, seven days a week, for free – and we eat like royalty. Dumpster diving isn’t only about getting free food, it’s about doing our part to go against a broken system and put food to good use that would have been thrown into landfill otherwise.
Crunchy Town houses travelers from all over the world, and many people staying here are longer-term residents. While some hold part time jobs, many are finding creative ways of traveling on very little money, and most are trying to figure out what they’re doing with their lives (including me). Overall, everyone is here for the same reason – to find a home away from home.
Crunchy Town is a place where plates are licked after each meal, glitter covers the floor after any event, and platonic snuggling happens daily. It’s a place where people from all countries, all backgrounds and all walks of life can come together and live in harmony, and that’s a really beautiful thing.
As a full-blooded introvert, I can find communal living a bit overwhelming at times. Even so, I can’t imagine my life without it. Through Crunchy Town and every other community I have lived in, I have found some of the deepest, truest connections I have ever known. People truly open up and become themselves when placed in an environment of such openness, love, and trust, and the connections and experiences you have when living like this are impossible to recreate outside of communal living.