Day 298: All these apps

With only 68 days to go I'm getting a little bit stressed out by all the apps I have left to test. So just in case I won't have time to try them all, here are a few tips for you that are especially great when traveling.

JetSmarter, the jet plane sharing service. One year membership for 12 000 USD is slightly over my budget for this project...

Accomodation apps, such as Wimdu, HouseTrip or Misterbnb. Well, maybe the "stay like a gay local" is not for me.

The boat renting app Click & Boat.

At home restaurants such as VizEat, EatWith, Cookapp and Feastly.

Maybe you know of other sharing platforms that I haven't tried so far? Please write a comment and I'll see what I can do.


Day 292: Ridesharing, apples and new guests

Finally, for the first time this year I found someone who wanted to do ride sharing from Uppsala to Stockholm. And since I wanted to try it I had to get up at six to get the ride at seven. Everything worked great! It was a nice guy who picked me up close to where I live and didn't even want to get paid. But I still gave him some money for gas and some apples. 

He had thought about that most cars you see on the high way have no passengers and decided to offer to add his trips in the GoMore app. Nice initiative! Hope more do the same. 

At lunch I gave a talk about my project at Epicenter, a start up hub in Stockholm. It's always very interesting to hear the comments from the audience and to meet new people. Today I got in contact with two sharing services that I haven't used so far. Awesome!

After that I went home (train this time) to clean a guest room and meet the new guests for today, two Australian guys who booked earlier today (unusally late). They sleep in the guest room with a 1.20 m bed: "we are happy to share a bed because we are good mates but we are not gay". 

And then someone came to get some of the apples I posted in Olio yesterday. Wow, this app was just launched in Sweden and seems to work pretty well already. It would be interesting to know if their marketing is different from that of other apps? 

Day 291: Hope she enjoyed the algae!

I didn't really think that anyone would want to get the spirulina powder that I was giving away via Olio. Especially since I said "I'm giving it away because I don't like it". (Honestly, the taste is horrible.) And since I had even opened the bag and poured it into an old spaghetti sauce jar.  And also since the app is just launched in Sweden, and I guess very few people have heard about it. 

But I was wrong, it didn't take long before someone asked for it. She even came to my door to pick it up. I was a little bit late. Fortunately the son of the super nice American couple was in the apartment playing the piano (and he was so good at it!) so at least she had some entertainment while waiting. 

Now I will try to give away some apples. 

Day 290: The weirdest thing you can rent in Sweden

That's my toilet! Here is a slightly longer film about it. It's in Swedish, so I'm afraid you non Swedish speakers won't understand it. But at the end of the film I talk about my experience from meeting people in the sharing economy, who try to make the world a better place, at least the small part of the world where they are. This has been one of the most important experiences or insights I've had during this year. Maybe you can't change the whole world, but you can do something. Even if it's such a small thing as smiling to a neighbour. 



Day 286: Work the way you want to live

When I started this project, some people asked me: "What's your business model?"

At the time I wasn't sure I had one. And a little later I would ask them: "Have you read my blog? I rent out my toilet and do Couchsurfing with nudists - does it look like I have a business model?"

But now I can actually see a business model take form. It could be summarized: Do fun stuff with crazy people. Get paid to talk and write about it.

Not bad, huh?

All jokes aside, I'm really happy to get the opportunity to speak about what I do and about the sharing economy. This morning I was invited to do a presentation at Universal Avenue, a really cool start up, with the slogan "Work the way you want to live". It's a great way to put it and I really like how they give young people the opportunity to have a morea flexible work and lifestyle.

Day 285: From lentils to Russian litterature

Wow! Yesterday evening turned out to be one of those magical evenings that would be impossible to make better with all the planning in the world.

So the Americans had invited me to have lentil soup with them. When I came home after the French conversation group they both started speaking French to me: "Bonsoir, c'était bien?" and so on. It was so funny. Turned out they had lived in Quebec, that's how they knew French.

During the day they had been to Gamla Uppsala and the man told me he'd been so fascinated by a painting in the church that reminded him of a scene in Bergman's The Seventh Seal. I told him Bergman was from Uppsala, and who knows, maybe this painting had inspired that scene? He was absolutely delighted about this information.

He has this very charming way of being absolutely delighted about many things. Like the heating in my bathroom floor: "Maria, that floor... *big smile* it's just amazing!"

Finally the son arrives and we have the lentil soup, that is so good! They drink a little wine. I ask them about their work, physician and lawyer. They show me pictures from where they live - so beautiful! The son knows some Swedish and is making funny comments with a really cute accent all the time.

Then the Russian guest arrives and the American man calls out: "Have some lentil soup! There is wine too!"

"Why all this?", she asks.

"We were hungry!", he answers.

So she finds a chair and sits down at the kitchen table with us and has some soup too. I bring some Swedish, thin bread I've just bought fresh at the market, and for dessert some cloudberry jam and ice cream. Then I mostly enjoy listening to the conversation. The Russian woman is doing research on Georgian diplomacy and the Americans want to know her view on Putin. It turns out the American man's dad worked with the missile system and had a lot of contacts with Russians. But when the son for a moment leaves the room (to go browse through my musical notes?), he mimes to the Russian woman: "Oh, I just realize why we've thought so much about Russia - he had a Russian girlfriend. But we will not speak of this now."

And then they talk about Russian literature, and their opinions on The Brothers Karamazov. The Russian woman doesn't like Dostoyevsky so much, it's too depressing to read such things, especially given the current political situation. It's understandable.

Then the American brings up The Master and Margarita. He finds the book completely crazy. "Or I felt I'd go crazy if I finished it. Does it really have an end?", he asks and sounds like if he is literally suggesting that the book might never end.

Then we make tea and everyone chooses their favourite herbal tea. "Is that tilleul?", the son asks me with a bright smile. He seems to have inherited his fathers charm and appreciation of details. His mum asks what it means. "Oh, it's this delicious tea from the south of France. Linden. Can I have some?"

I ask the Russian woman for some recommendations of contemporary Russian authors, and she writes down Sorokin, that I've read, and a few others, that I haven't heard of, that sounds promising. I'm thinking I should really do this more, ask my guests about contemporary book recommendations from their countries. After the Japanese authors, I could read some Russian ones.

"This is one of the best nights I've had in a long time", says the American man, "thanks to you two."

I agree, and thank him for inviting me. When we take care of the dishes the Russian woman ask me what I do in life and I tell her I used to be a political writer. "Oh, what a brilliant team here tonight", she says with a smile. Indeed.

It's like the story of the stone soup. What's the recipe for an evening like this? All you need is a bag of lentils. And maybe just a little bit of...



Day 284: "Can I play trumpet in the garden?"

Wow, my current guests is such a nice American couple! They're still a bit jet lagged and were up at night to see the Trump/Clinton debate, so this morning they were mostly hanging around in the apartment. She cooked some lentil soup - that smells amazing! - and invited me for dinner this evening. It's a lovely, sunny autumn day here and she asked me about the burial mounds in Gamla Uppsala and how to get there, so I said they could lend my bikes if they want to.

When I went out for a walk and came home at lunch time they were still here and he said:

- I brought a trumpet here. And I was thinking if there is a place where I could practice without disturbing someone? Maybe out in the garden? What do you think? If I go out there and play a little, and you can tell me - honestly - if you think it is too much for the neighbours. Otherwise I brought a mandolin too, so if it's too much I could play that one instead.

Amazing! Who brings both a trumpet and a mandolin for a one week overseas vacation? Now I see why he looked so happy when I played Miles Davis the other day. He told me about this amazing trumpet teacher he'd had who put together a music group for every occasion, marching band for 4th of July, Bach for Christmas, and so on. And I was honestly thrilled about the idea of someone playing trumpet in the garden, so I really encouraged the idea.

But then his wife really wanted to see those burial mounds.

- We need to go now!

- Yes, but this is prioritized.

- Honey, we're on vacation in Uppsala.

So unfortunately no trumpet. I hope he will play some later. At least he played a little mandolin before the went. Bach. I've never heard anyone play Bach on a mandolin.

They're visiting their son who is studying here and it turns out he's playing the piano, he looked through my musical notes when he was here the other day. And the Russian guest staying in the other guest room asked me if it's ok that she use the piano. Awesome!

Maybe we could have a little concert before dinner? "We'll have dinner at eight", said the American woman. Oh, good, I said, then I have time to go to my French conversation class before that. "Oh, you speak French? We do too! Then we can have a French dinner." I'm glad they're staying for almost a week.

Day 282: Sharing food waste

This morning I led a workshop about sharing economy. It was at Power Shift, an event for young who want to mobilize for a more sustainable society. To tell you the truth I think it's the first time I've ever led a workshop. And I've rarely participated in one either. But I guessed it should be more interactive than just me giving some speech. So I mostly asked the group of 8-10 people who were there questions. Like: Do you participate in the sharing economy? If not, why? What are the barriers? How can we get more people to join?

It was interesting for me to hear their thoughts, and I hope they got something from it too. When it comes to barriers we came up with a few different types which I've also noticed. 1) Lack of a critical mass of users on the platforms 2) A social barrier - that people feel uncomfortable sharing or meeting other people 3) Practical barriers - that it's not convenient enough. Perhaps it's easier to just go to the store and buy that drill.

We talked a lot about food sharing, since I started using the app Olio and there was a guy there who was an ambassador for it. Someone brought up dumpster diving. This is something I haven't tried, and even if I could eat food after the best before date I'd definitely prefer if it's not been in a dumpster. Even though the guy telling me this said the bananas he finds are usually perfectly fine. But there must be better ways to do this. I know some stores sell short dated food cheaper, which seems to be a better solution.

I've also heard of one initiative in Malmö called Rude Food that do catering from food waste. Given that all sorts of commercial food production is strictly regulated in Sweden, I'm a bit surprised such a thing is even legal. But it's an interesting concept and personally I think people should have the right to choose. Do you want to buy super fresh food and spend more money? Cool. Or slightly older food and spend less (and have a slightly higher risk of getting a little sick?)? Fine.


Day 280: Some thoughts on work-life balance

Yesterday I got the opportunity to talk about my project for the Liberal Party in Stockholm. The main topic for the evening was digitalization, the sharing economy and the labour market. Economist Anna Felländer, who has written a lot about the sharing economy and digitalization, raised the question about jobs being replaced by robots and what we will work with instead.

This is by now a familiar question that is asked in any political discussion on these matters. What jobs will replace the jobs that the robots take over? How do we create new jobs?

But I think it's the wrong way of looking at things. Why is it at all important to have a job? Do we need jobs? What is the purpose of work? I believe that what we really need is to make a living - or to live. And in order to do that we need to fulfill certain needs. Basic needs, like food, water, shelter, etc. But also more complex needs. Or wishes. And to do these things - study, travel, socialize, have kids - everything that we want to do, we need money, or the things we buy for money. But if, let's say, robots can give us some of these things, we might not need jobs as much as we do today.

I think the starting point should be to ask what is needed for people to have - or make - a good life.

I know it's abstract. But let me exemplify by telling you what I did today:

First I spent a couple of hours writing a column about Airbnb hosts discriminating certain guests. (read it in Norrbottens-Kuriren tomorrow)

Then I had a phone call half an hour with a woman who wanted me to come and talk at an event about my project.

After that I chatted an hour with a friend, that I originally know through Couchsurfing, about life.

Then I went out to give an antique suitcase I had sold to a guy through Shpock to the buyer. He had an old vespa and wanted an old suitcase to go with it. He sent me a message later: "Thank you for a nice suitcase. I'm very happy."  

On my way home I picked up some groceries, and then made dinner for a friend with kids who came here and played and had dinner for an hour. Guests who had invited themselves on short notice - love it! And who messed up my place in just one hour - love that too!

So then I spent some time cleaning up. And folding sheets and towels for the guests. 

And at eight I met a guy who contacted me via Couchsurfing. He just moved to Sweden and wanted to meet people. We had a little walk and a cup of tea. He'd lived in several countries and we talked about social norms in different cultures. Things like how much physical space people need to be comfortable or how much you look people in the eyes, or if it's ok to walk up to a stranger in the street and talk to them. I'd really want to get better at talking to strangers in the street. When we said goodbye for the evening he told me: "Except for my boss and my landlord, you're the only one I know here." Well, he'd only been here for two days, but it still made me feel a bit responsible for making him feel welcome in Uppsala.

Now I'm waiting for a friend who's gonna stay in one of the guest rooms for the night. I have an Airbnb guest too, but I haven't seen much of him.

So, that's my day. Some of it is clearly work, like writing a column. Some of it is clearly not, like having dinner with a friend. But since I sometimes get paid to write and talk about what I do, even hanging out with Couchsurfers is a way of getting "material". But I mostly do it because I enjoy it.

I realize I'm privileged to be able to spend so much time socializing. And then sometimes even get paid to write or talk about it! And I really appreciate being able to make a living and have enough time left for friends.

Is it a job? I don't know. But it's a life.


Day 279: In praise of shadows

I just realized I got only five star reviews from my Airbnb guests in September. Awesome! The Japanese guy who was here last week gave me such a nice review: “If you want to stay at Uppsala quietly, warmly and comfortably, you should choose Maria's listing. Though I stayed there only one night, I could feel there like my real old friend's house. I really like Maria's welcoming character and her life style.”

Awww. That's so sweet! He was a really nice guy and I'm always glad to hear that the guests like it here. I had a German guest a few days ago who said about my living room: "I like the furniture here so much, it's so cozy. You just want to sit down and read a book here." That's exactly the atmosphere I wish to create so I was glad he felt that way. Especially now when the autumn is here it feels important to have a nice, cozy atmosphere inside.

The Japanese guy also gave me some recommendations for Japanese authors to read. I've already finished Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, which I liked a lot. And then he recommended In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki. Unfortunately I couldn't find it at my library. He said it's about Japanese architechture. I found two other books by Tanizaki though, and they were mostly by sex, so I'm starting to wonder. Not that I'm complaining, I read one of them and it was... interesting.

Day 277: An unproductive autumn day

I woke up early this morning by a knock on the bedroom door. It was the Couchsurfer from yesterday that wanted to say goodbye before he left, on his way to see the rest of Europe. After he'd gone I went back to bed and woke up just in time to clean the guest room before my lunch meeting. After lunch I met the Italian Couchsurfer for a coffee. Well, he was from Belgium originally, but after many years in Italy he was using his hands a lot when speaking and had an Italian accent in English. He was a very nice person and wanted to see Uppsala - and it was a lovely autumn day - so we went for a walk along the river, to the castle, to the university library, the cathedral and the house of Carl Linnaeus. I tried to guide as much as I could, even though I've forgotten most of what I was taught about Swedish history in school.

He told me he had once thought about studying in Uppsala, but had decided to go to Italy instead and fallen in love with the country and lived there since. And now he was on his first trip to Uppsala to see what this place that he didn't choose was like.

It took about two hours to see the most important parts of town and he seemed satisfied with his decision to only spend a day here and the rest of his vacation in Stockholm. And, I guess, the rest of his life in Italy.

After that I went home and had a dinner with my Airbnb friend whom I haven't seen in months.

It was a really nice day. But not super productive from a work perspective... or perhaps this is my job... ? Tomorrow I'll do laundry, clean guestrooms, and some of the paperwork I should have done today...

Day 276: All of Europe in one trip

It was a beautiful autumn day here today, so I went to the forest with my friend the French car mechanic and a few of his friends to look for mushrooms. We didn't find any but it was a nice day and we had a pick nick in the forest.

It's strange how being outdoors make you tired, and with the days getting shorter all the time here I felt like having a quiet evening, just going to yoga class, when I got a request from a Couchsurfer who wanted to stay here. "French architecture student... love the taste of adventure... stuck in Uppsala with no place to sleep". So I thought, why not? I have an empty guest room (there's an Austrian researcher in the other one).

The good thing with Couchsurfers are that they don't have too high expectations. Especially this one who had thought about sleeping outside (it will probably be frost tonight) was very happy to get inside. I made a cup of tea and he told me about his trip, where the idea was to see all European countries at once. That's a crazy idea! He had planned to travel for three months and in this time see what? 40 countries? More?

He showed me on the map what he'd seen so far. Greece, Montenegro, Bosnia, etc etc. This was nice, that was not so interesting.

Why not spend more than one or two days in a country and not do all at once? "Because I want to see other parts of the world too. Now I will have done Europe."

Ok, that's one way to look at it. I thought it sounded crazy. On the other hand he thought the same when I told him about renting out my toilet, giving away food and all that stuff.

He sounded like a fun guy from his Couchsurfing profile, and it was nice to chat, but I tend to forget the difference between my somewhat reserved Airbnb guests, and the uber-social Couchsurfers. If you want a quiet evening, perhaps you shouldn't invite someone who wants to meet new people. I did my best, but after a few hours of chatting I had to tell him I needed to sleep. I was really tired after all the fresh air. And tomorrow I need to get up and work. And the Italian Chochsurfer who was going to cook for me is coming to Uppsala. Unfortunately he has decided to only come here for the day, so I won't get any Italian food - I was so much looking forward to that - but we will have a coffee. And then in the evening the second Airbnb guest I had over a year ago is coming. She was here a couple of times a month during the whole spring and I really look forward to see her again. In other words, tomorrow is a new day in this social economy.

Day 275: September in numbers

This month was even better than the last one, with 20 300 kronor income from the Airbnb guests. And 200 kronor from delivering cricket flour to Stockholm. So all in all 20 500 kronor. Then I have to pay taxes on this, and most of the rest goes to pay for the apartment. But if I was a little bit better at getting Taskrunner jobs (I made a bid a couple of days a go, but they wanted someone in Stockholm) I think it would actually be possible to earn enough to cover my basic needs.

Day 272: I'm giving away spirulina

Hm, funny, I just heard one of the guests (a woman) upstairs get out from the bedroom, into the bathroom and pee without closing the door to the bathroom. I was in the kitchen and clearly heard what was going on. Not that I mind really, but it was surprising. I would never do it myself, in a stranger's home, with another stranger in the guest room next door. It's interesting where different people draw the line for their personal integrity.

Anyway, I was going to write about something else. I just tried a new app, Olio. It's a bit similar to LeftOverSwap, an app for giving away food. Olio has been available in the UK since January and has just launched in Sweden.

I couldn't really find a lot of food that I didn't want to keep. But this spirulina powder is supposed to be healthy, but tastes terrible, so I won't eat it. But it's pretty expensive, so if anyone want's it it's yours.

It'll be interesting to see if it will work. I can imagine a lot of people would think it's a good idea not to waste food, but to give it away instead. On the other hand you can't keep most food for too long, which could be a problem.

So far there are very few items in the app in Sweden. A bottle of Caesar dressing in Stockholm. A jar of thyme and one of white pepper in Malmö. A jar of nescafé in Halmstad.

Even in the UK there doesn't seem to be a lot to choose from. And people give away weird stuff they don't want to eat themselves: salmon paste; bubble gum lollipops; tinned potatoes. Well, like I did.

What do you think, will it work?


Day 270: Where did today go?

I was supposed to finish two articles. But I overslept. Then I cleaned the guest rooms, and the rest of the apartment. Then some company called that wanted to sell me a lot of washing powder. For a second I wondered if one of the neighbours had asked them to call me, as a joke, because I do too much laundry. The washing powder guy told me I'd have to buy a batch of powder enough for 500 loads. 500?! That's like two and a half years of washing. I told him I'd rather invest the money in the stock market than in washing powder.

Then I had lunch. Then the first guest arrived, a Dutch woman. Then I went and had coffee. Then the second guest, a colleague of the first one arrived. Then I did some laundry and thought about if it could have been a good idea to invest in washing powder. Then I had dinner and went to the French conversation MeetUp group. Then I did some more laundry. Then one of my neighbours sent me a link to a 50 min youtube video about the US role in the war in Syria that he wanted my comment on.

After watching it I had a chat with the Dutch guests about pets in the Netherlands, the sharing economy and eating insects. And about shared laundry rooms in the basement, common here but not there. Then I had to go get the last of the laundry in the basement. When I came back the roller shade in one of the guest rooms had fallen down. I will not blame the guest, but the shade for this. But I had to put it up there again, with one piece broken. The best thing I could think of to use at this hour was - tape. It's a temporary solution...

And now we're here. Past midnight. Tomorrow I'll finish those two articles. Unless...

Day 269: An offer I couldn't refuse

Aww, I got a really sweet note from the Japanese guest when he left. I love it when guests leave these little messages. This weekend I had four German guests here, who were going to a wedding in Uppsala. It's great to have nice people in your home. And to get paid for it. 

But I'm very happy to let people stay here for free too, if they, like this Couchsurfer, offer to cook Italian food for me. Wow! Looking forward to that!




Day 267: Alternative lifestyles

What type of person hurries into the kitchen, makes a dry martini with two olives and grinds a really nice piece of entrecôte in an old fashioned meat grinder? And then makes two hamburgers with lots of mayonnaise and that artificial cheddar cheese wrapped in plastic? Than eats it all, with the martini, leaves the kitchen in a mess and then rushes out again.

Well, I don't know, but apparently I'm that type. And why not, the burgers turned out to be the best I have ever had. The martini was excellent too. And I had to hurry to be in time for the movie* I had bought tickets to.

But maybe the German couple who, in their pajamases, were having an omelette and a pile of raw veggies when I came in, found it a bit... unusual. At least they must have thought I have the most unhealthy lifestyle ever. Since they arrived today and didn't see me eat granola, carrots, herbal tea and cod liver (I'm not making this up) all the other days of the week.

Anyway, we had a little chat about outsourcing, the German Mittelstand and human resource policies before I had to rush. (Nice and social guests for the third time in a week!)

It was all highly improvised, but turned out to be a great recipe for an excellent Friday evening. Martini, entrecôte burgers, a good movie and two Germans in pajamases.

* The movie was great, Captain Fantastic, strongly recommended if you like wilderness, alternative lifestyles, freedom or Viggo Mortensen. Need I say, this is my favourite genre. The only disappointment was the audience, who, judging from the lack of reactions, didn't know neither Noam Chomsky nor Gleen Gould's interpretations of the Goldberg variations nor Guns, Germs and Steel.



Day 266: Japanese strawberries

Amazing, it worked today too! Suddenly social guests twice in a week. Today a really nice Japanese guy who cooked some food he shared with me, browsed my bookshelves, made tea and told me some nice places to see in Japan. He'd been working in a bookstore and I asked for some recommendations of Japanese books. In return I showed him some of my favourite apps. And a couple of articles I have written that happened to be translated to Japanese. One of them was about, among other things, the VAT-rate on almond paste. He read a part of it ("ah... almond paste"). He also works in writing and sent me a link to an article he'd written about a strawberry plantation. It was in Japanese though, so I didn't understand anything. "But it has a lot of pictures." Yes, they were nice.

Day 264: Magic brochures

Well, I put these brochures in the living room to make people more comfortable to hang out there too. And voilà! One of my guests, who said she'd chosen this over an impersonal business hotel, is now in the sofa working on her laptop. And the other guest spent some time in the kitchen writing. We all had a nice chat together.

The only thing is - I never told them about the brochures, or showed them. And it's extremely rare that guests spend this much time downstairs in the evening (it's now half past eleven). So it's almost like magic. There is only one problem. I really want to sleep. Like one hour ago. But since they have made themselves comfortable (one listening to some musical upstairs, and the other working in the living room), I don't want to destroy this moment by getting ready for bed, putting out the mattress etc. I guess I just have to wait.