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The concept of Coliving formally started in Denmark somewhere in the 1970s. Back then it was termed as cohousing where different families shared common places so that they could socialize with each other and also share costs towards housekeeping, dining etc. while having their own private places for sleep and family-related activities.

What is coliving space?

Stretching this concept of co-living into the hospitality sector has been a recent trend. A neat and clean dormitory with separate beds and attached washrooms is now quite often requested by guests when booking sustainable accommodations for ecotourism.

The purpose is to socially connect with one another, as much as possible with no restrictions on age, sex, nationality or religion. Such places are also popular for their eco-friendliness and sustainability – they save immensely on the use of resources like water, electricity, fuel and food; thereby minimizing carbon footprints.

With an increasing number of guests today seeking out such minimalistic and yet pragmatic stays in hotels and guest houses, it is no big surprise that such Coliving spaces or hostel spaces are on the rise in India too. Broadly speaking, solo travellers, as well as people travelling in groups these days, look forward to this type of accommodation.

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Common cases in points

  • Solo backpackers – Wildlife coliving spaces are most commonly used by individual travellers – generally young adults, students etc – who wish to see and explore the world on their own terms. Their inquisitive self loves to mingle with all sorts of people while at the same time, the dormitory accommodation works out cheaper for them.

  • Corporate team outings/trainings/brainstorming sessions – Almost all corporates these days take their employees out on offsites for training, ideation and recreation. Nearby dormitory type accommodation not only helps them save costs but also provide an ideal environment for people from different departments and levels to bond with each other.

  • Family group tours/Leisure travel/Event-based travel – Quite often relatives travel in groups to new destinations, to celebrate special events like birthdays and anniversaries. Hostel spaces suit them because they are cheap and they help everyone to stay under one roof and enjoy together.

  • Field tours and long-stay study tours – post-graduate and higher-level education students who go out for field and study tours opt for such Coliving spaces because they are able to work and study together, besides the cost of the place being shared equally by everyone.

  • Volunteer tourism by enthusiasts – social workers and people who love to indulge in community welfare work often seek out such dormitory-type accommodation because it is economical and it helps them mix well and collaborate with others of the same mindset.

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Rise of hospitality

The Indian Travel and Tourism Industry has seen tremendous growth in the last few years. Indian backpackers coincidentally are also increasing in numbers. Most of them are solo travellers, educated people with an open mindset and have unconventional travel patterns.

They are young – college-goers or just started their careers – they love exploring newer destinations as intimately as is possible and have unconventional expectations from the travel. More than the place, these are people who wish to experience alternate ecotourism every minute aspect of their travel with passion and intrigue. And since budget is a concern for them, they prefer alternative accommodations like hostels that provide basic amenities, dormitory with separate beds, guided tours, hygienic, safe and secure for stay. Minimalistic, inexpensive and yet offering an ambience to quench their thirst to know more about local culture, landscape and people. Thus, the Indian hospitality sector has witnessed the growth of the hostel market in India though at the moment, it is a very nascent stage. One of the brands that has evolved to cater to these free-spirited travellers is the U Hostels that practices sustainable infrastructure, affordable pricing, shared accommodations and promotion of interactive experiences.

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Shared accommodation in wilderness

In the periphery of the Kanha National Park, this wildlife hostel or Coliving space near Kanha has just seen the end of the construction of Phase 1. The first phase has gone live in October 2020 where a large hall or the dormitory called the Quarter Dorm has been equipped with eight single beds. The dormitory has been named so because of the roof style. Adjoining this hall are two appropriately equipped washrooms with western-style toilets and washbasins. Care has been taken to provide basic amenities to guests, like charging points for laptops and mobile phones with each bed. Other than that, each bedside has a special window view of the green topography of Surwahi.

The entire Phase 1 has been constructed in a sustainable way that include-

  • Use of stabilized mud block or SMBs that is bio-degradable, cost-efficient and eco-friendly. These blocks are made from soil and have been prepared on-site thereby saving on fuel and transportation costs. The carbon emission in preparing these blocks is negligible compared to manufacturing cement or making fired bricks.
  • Locally-sourced materials were used for the entire construction. From the Kapam Mitti collected from local ponds for plastering the mud walls to using lime and local Kadapa stones and involving local people to empower them financially and with technical know-how, all aspects were locally-oriented.
  • Eco-friendly Evapotranspiration Toilet (EVT), the first of its kind in Madhya Pradesh has been built in the common washroom block.

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Practising wildlife Coliving

While co-housing and Coliving concepts as used generally involves sharing space with fellow human beings, Surwahi presents the perfect example of Coliving with the native flora and fauna of Kanha. It is truly a dormitory near wild-life. Here, guests get the opportunity to not only socialize with like-minded people, they also get to experience the local culture up front with the local Gond and Baiga tribal living in and around Surwahi. Both these tribes were originally from the place that is famously known as Kanha Tiger Reserve.

Most of them had to leave their centuries-old dwelling places for the Tiger Reserve and today co-habit the place that lies on the periphery of the jungle. As far as the bio-diversity of the Kanha is concerned, the management of Surwahi has ensured to preserve all plant species, as it is on the premises. Almost 70% of the land here is unmanaged allowing natural growth of the jungle flora and fauna. Located on the banks of the Sanduk Nala, this wildlife Coliving property is only 500 metres from the Banjar River, has its own pond within the boundary walls, has a well and also an erstwhile Limestone Kiln with hundreds of trees all across its land. Surwahi stands tall with conservation practises, sustainability best practises and involvement of the local community. Even in the development of the place, the local tribes have been equally involved and their inputs incorporated to make this a true example of Coliving and wildlife hostel. Guests here share their space physically with all the natural elements of this planet making it a perfect and a worthy Coliving experience.

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