First Impressions Can Be Wrong -- The Three-Day Rule
I fancy myself a pretty good judge of character. More than once in the past, I've met someone and thought, "Hmm, something feels dodgy here," and later been proven right. And I'm also usually pretty good about knowing my mind as well. I like "X" but definitely don't like "Y."
But I'm not infallible.
Case in point, when Brent and I first arrived at Cocohub, the co-living space in Malta where we stayed for seven weeks, I was dazzled by fact we were living in a four hundred year-old stone building, the utterly charming neighborhood, and the offbeat, colorful artwork on the walls. But when we arrived at Casa Netural in Matera, Italy I was off-put by the sub-bar neighborhood, our bedroom with insanely low-ceilings, and a city that seemed way less charming than Valletta. In fact, we were this close to changing our flight and racing off to Bulgaria early.
You can guess where this is going. And you're right. While we didn't hate our time in Malta (a fascinating place), we pretty much loathed living at Cocohub. And instead of fleeing Matera, we wound up staying and loving our time here.
What changed our minds?
Cocohub was badly run and dirty, and the charming stone streets carried our neighbors shouting and barking dogs right into our room (after being promised it was "incredibly quiet"). We had a tiny, smelly, badly equipped kitchen that had to be shared by up to sixteen people. Ditto the two bathrooms. Yes, two. Cochub's host quit after two weeks of being barely there anyway, and the owner kind of stepped in, but some weeks the place didn't get cleaned (once a week was the max if we were lucky), communication was terrible, and it wasn't until a journalist came to do a story that suddenly there were activities scheduled every day.
As for Casa Netural, our neighborhood didn't suddenly transform into something more charming, but Susanna, the host, did an outstanding job of keeping things clean, showing guests around town, and giving suggestions as to what to do. Oh, and there are four bathrooms for a maximum of six people.
Casa Netural is also plugged into the local community, and staffed by great people. Brent and I were invited to speak to a local LGBT group -- one of several presentations Casa Netural did for the locals. We were also invited to dinner with the founders of Casa Netural for one of our best evenings in Italy. (The digital nomad guests in both Cocohub and Casa Netural were fantastic; DMs pretty much rock wherever you go.)
So what's the takeaway?
Our rule of thumb now is to not make any kind of decision until you've stayed somewhere at least three days.
It takes at least that long to really get a sense of a co-living facility. By then, you have a sense of how a place is actually run, and also the deal with the surrounding neighborhood. In Italy, for example, we quickly learned that Casa Netural is less than a fifteen minute walk to the really great parts of town. We also learned the locals are incredibly friendly (and quiet! Thank God).
Had we left early, we would have missed out on an amazing co-living experience with incredible people in a fascinating city. Please learn from our potential mistake.