How to Swap Cities

While writing her book What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption (co-authored with Roo Rogers), Rachel Botsman collected hundreds of stories of people sharing stuff through technology and peer communities. Shareable is pleased to present some of these tales of sharing in a new series, "Collaborative Consumption in Action," written by Lauren Anderson of the Collaborative Consumption team.

 

Many people are drawn to extended travel, but are too afraid of sacrificing a great job. Conversely, visa constraints and language barriers often make the prospect of working overseas too challenging. Jose Poyatos and Andrew Zarick were well aware of these issues, but were determined to overcome them – and that’s when they found SwapYourShop.

Names: Andrew Zarick and Jose Poyatos

Ages: Andrew is 25, Jose is 35

Cities: Andrew lives in Brooklyn, NY. Jose lives in Valencia, Spain.

Careers: Andrew is a Digital Strategist for interactive marketing agency The JAR Group, and co-founder of the second largest digital community in NYC – Digital DUMBO. Jose is owner of advertising agency Comuniqualis that specializes in branding, print, web design and marketing strategy.

The story: Launched at this year’s SXSW festival, SwapYourShop takes the notion of swapping to new heights – trade your apartment and your office for a period of time, all while keeping your day job. For Andrew, a 25-year-old Brooklynite, “the appeal of SwapYourShop is that you only work overseas for a limited period of time, which in most cases does not require a visa, and you also immediately have access to housing. This completely reduces the barrier to entry of the traditional way of working overseas.”

Over a two-month period, Andrew and Jose chatted online to arrange the details of their swap, where Andrew would be spending seven weeks in Jose’s home in Valencia, with access to Jose’s workspace at Comuniqualis. In exchange, Jose would live in Brooklyn in Andrew’s apartment, with a desk available at JAR Group, for six weeks.

Two weeks into the experiment, Jose says, “[It was] a bit difficult during the first few days adjusting to the new apartment, new workmates, and working remotely.” Andrew agrees that the six-hour time difference has been challenging but mainly just affects how he plans his day. “I usually try to see the city in the morning and then be ‘on the grid’ around 4pm,” which is the start of the work day in New York.

“I was also fortunate that Jose was here for the first two days of my stay and he was able to introduce me to people at other agencies and digital publications here in Valencia,” says Andrew. "They have invited me to dinner and shown me around the city. Two weeks in, this has already been an amazing experience.

Andrew and Jose together, in front of the Plaza de Toros in Valencia.

The motivation: For Jose, the experience of SwapYourShop is all about “proving to myself that I can live and work far from home, improving my English and learning about how other people work in the same business around the world.” But is it difficult to convince co-workers of the benefits that a swap like this could offer? When Jose broached the subject with the co-owners of his business, they were excited about its potential. In Andrew’s case, it was actually his employer, JAR Group President AJ Lawrence, who came across SwapYourShop first, making it a pretty easy selling point.

Without SwapYourShop, this experience would be an unrealized dream on many a professional’s wish list.

Andrew believes that “the value of SwapYourShop is that it serves as matchmaker between like-minded people. Without it, I would have needed to reach out to agencies directly to gauge their interest.” This in itself is a challenging task with no guaranteed results, especially when the added complication of language is involved. To be able to ‘borrow’ the professional networks of a like-minded person, as well as their home and office for a period of time, seems like an adventure in extreme swapping, but for Jose it makes complete sense and is the key to its success. “I think Andrew and I are lucky with our similar houses, friends and office environments. This concept is cool because you only swap places for a short time, but keep paying rent and keep our jobs in our own countries.”

By creating the least amount of disruption in swappers’ lives, whilst creating maximum opportunity for inspiration and a change in work environment that so many people desire, SwapYourShop could herald a rising tide of nomadic workers who aren’t quite ready to throw caution to the wind completely.

A shared future?: Andrew has a pragmatic attitude this kind of swap arrangement might be more difficult if he were to have a family -- and so he is enjoying his time in Valencia as though this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But Jose, who is already 10 years older, believes that if everything aligns as easily as it has this time, “I would take another chance to swap in the future – it’s a great experience!”

Perhaps even more telling is the new awareness this experience has brought to Andrew about the power of Collaborative Consumption and the possibilities of sharing. 

“The benefits extend far beyond simply trading physical space, to trading goods and bartering skills. Someone here in Spain offered to teach me Spanish if I gave them free marketing advice on their website.” With Andrew’s pet project Digital DUMBO now making forays into offering sharing services to its members through the newly launched SnapGoods, it seems his swap with Jose heralds the beginning of a sharing revolution, as he hopes to help “facilitate this trend in an effort to allow our community to live more sustainably.”

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