However, the bulk of my work happens behind the scenes. I’m under mandate to identify the best way the organization can provide support for all care workers (both informal/family caregivers for all conditions as well as professional aides and PCAs). Once I identify a need, I develop and carry out a plan to address it.
There is significant interest in creating caregiving support programs from private industry, government institutions, NGOs, and academia. However:
- Academic research focuses on self-identified caregivers and the global care chain, overlooking the majority of people providing care
- NGOs focus on providing individual support (like encouraging self-care or providing respite care as charity) and use frameworks rooted in conservative values and (myopic, non-inclusive) white feminism
- Government and industry programs operate with the stated goal of using caregivers to increase patient compliance and formalizing the role of unpaid workers in providing care (by programs providing medical training to family members to do work that would require certification if being performed by paid staff and providing minimal financial support to family members to encourage them to continue performing medical care at home instead of by staff in residential care facilities)
Currently, the mainstream conversation on care work lacks an intersectional lens and fails to examine the ways recent history has led to the current situation. References to “traditional” caregiving are mired in in gut level value-based responses that are contradicted by both data and common sense.
I am writing the story of how the lived experience of providing care has changed over time, as part of economic, political, and cultural shifts. Care work is a social justice issue, yet current caregiver support systems are intertwined with systems of oppression.
I could conduct this research from my home in Toronto, which is located in a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community and a short walk from the Toronto Reference Library. Toronto is home to a number of respected academic and medical institutions. I could conduct interviews with experts and people personally connected to care work in other cities over video chats, the telephone, and email.
However, I have the opportunity to deepen my work and better capture people’s lived experiences of care. The location independent nature of my work means I am free to spend weeks or months as a participant in different communities, such as religious and secular communes, retirement communities, and various types of neighborhoods. I often conduct interviews with people who provide care but do not identify as caregivers or would not typically participate in caregiver research.
Interviews and interactions, some of which extend over weeks, months, and years, go much deeper and provide insights that are simply unavailable over the phone. I’m also given the opportunity to observe and participate in their daily lives.
House sitting, home exchanges, and home stays enable me to enter each place as a guest and am provided with the introductions necessary to become a part of the community from the moment I arrive. Many people who provide me housing through a home exchange or house sit have their own history of care work or are traveling for reasons related to care work. Often I will arrive before a house sit or home exchange begins, spending this time with my hosts.
Because the vast majority of my accommodation and some of my board and transportation is provided at no monetary cost, I am able to extend my research timeline and explore unexpected directions without worrying about the limits of my funding.
My primary areas of interest
The social economics of money
We’ve all heard that love and money don’t mix, but the truth is far more complex. I’m constantly examining the ways money shifts our relationships, both through reading and personal experience.
The question I examine most frequently is: How does monetizing interactions change relationships between people with loose social ties? I interview people about and participate in various monetized, gift, and barter economies, such as: CouchSurfing/HomeExchange/AirBnB, queer rideshare/BlaBlacar, Craigslist/Bunz, Trusted House Sitters/professional services, volunteer/paid companionate care
When speaking with people I always disclose my status as a researcher, yet my choice to use public transportation and stay as a guest in people’s homes leads to many people to assume I am unemployed and living in poverty. This leads to interesting interactions someone from my social class would not typically experience.
As a queer woman who is not part of the corporate world, I seem like an odd fit within the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) community. I believe there is space in the FIRE community for people who make less than six-figures and for discussion about the privilege that changes the opportunities we each have access to. In fact, people who do not have access to the golden handcuffs of the corporate social safety net have the greatest need to take control of their finances. Further, the extraordinary lengths people go to in order to reach FIRE demonstrates that financial security is not something most people have the opportunity to achieve.
As someone who hasn’t had the option of paying into an employer pension or 401k plan, I instead invested by buying a home in Brooklyn. I didn’t qualify for a mortgage, but was able to access a private loan. When my life and career plans went awry, my misfortune led to me selling my apartment and making a significant profit. As a result, I was able to buy my next apartment without a mortgage. My ex-wife and I also briefly owned an investment property across the street from our home, based entirely on her finances. American policies are designed to encourage homeownership and reward those who make certain choices — assuming they have access to them.
Now I travel full-time while renting out my own home. Rental income and the sales of my books cover the majority of my personal expenses, allowing me to work for an independent nonprofit while still preparing for a secure financial future.
Understanding Canada and America
When I first immigrated to Canada, I was eager to understand how Canada’s unique history explains the cultural differences between Canada and the US. However, the more I venture out of the two regions I know best — the New York and Toronto metropolitan areas — the more I realize how little I know about the US.
I’m fascinated by how seemingly arbitrary moments in history shape our world, how differences in the tax code and economic policy result in major cultural shifts, and other things that seem boring and trivial but are actually fascinating and pivotal. Our present moment may seem inevitable in textbooks, but things could have taken many different turns. In a culture where we blame individuals for not making the best use of their opportunities, at a systemic level we are blind to the true range of opportunities we have.
What about the other stuff?
There are lots of posts that don’t fit neatly into those categories.
I originally started a travel website and social media accounts when I was Brooklyn’s CouchSurfing ambassador. For several years I was part of the NYC CouchSurfing team that organized CouchCrash and the main Manhattan meetup. I also organized weekly Brooklyn events, queer events, and one-off cultural events.
A new team of organizers emerged over the years, my own life shifted, and CouchSurfing ended the ambassador program (which they’ve since revived). The website shifted to focusing on my travels with my ex-wife. She and I explored the grounds and researched the history of many historic sites in New York City, the north east, and a bit of Europe. We walked through every neighborhood in NYC’s five boroughs, spent a day riding every transit line that went through Manhattan, and lots of similar antics. Unfortunately, many of those deeply researched posts had to be removed as part of our separation agreement.
During my marriage, we spent a lot of time finding ways to work full-time, 9-5 jobs while traveling. Remote work makes this easy, but there are still challenges to be overcome, even in destinations that are by no means off the grid. This is when RemoteSwap was born, with the idea of helping facilitate home exchanges and hosting for remote workers, as well as sharing information on working traditional jobs while traveling. There are so many high quality sites discussing remote work (as well as lots of clickbait and pyramid schemes) that my interests shifted to questions that felt more personally meaningful.