Religions and Spirituality

Elizabeth Residents Living Differently: Modern Day Hippies

Shain Vitukhnovsky spinning poi. Credits: Shain Vitukhnovsky

ELIZABETH, NJ - Elizabeth is a hot pot brewing with diversity. Although the multicultural population may be evident, there is also diversity among the lifestyles of residents. There are those who choose to live in accordance with the mainstream as well as those who choose not.

Sitting in a Cherry Street studio apartment with Trap music playing in the background, former roommates Shain Vitukhnovsky and Joe Exarchakis are two young residents who choose to stand with the counterculture and identify as modern-day hippies.  

“I’d say modern-day hippies are a counterculture just not flowing to the normal flow of society or conforming to it,” said Exarchakis. “The rebels of today’s society like the old ones were in the sixties.”

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These Elizabeth modern-day hippies may be similar to their predecessors in the aspects that they consider themselves rebels but  in comparison to the characteristics of the hippies of yesteryear such as activism, communal living and even questionable personal hygiene, they greatly differ.

“It’s not like no one showers and smells, the world has modernized,” said Vituknovsky.

His former roommate described the government as a lost cause that they’d rather stay away from then try to change via protest.

Where the hippies of the sixties often drew enlightenment from the East via Buddhism, these modern-day urban hippies turned toward sacred geometry and spinning poi like the Maori people of New Zealand to deepen spirituality.

One aspect that does connect the hippies from the sixties to their modern-day counterparts is their appreciation of and enthusiasm towards music. Both men boasted about going to see well over 20 live concerts a year. Phish being one of their favorite bands. Exarchakis, a musician himself, worked on his music full-time while Vituknovsky maintained a regular nine-to-five.

“Music is the most important thing,” said Vituknovsky. “It moves people not just physically but also emotionally and mentally. Nothing else can do that.”

Are you an Elizabeth resident or native that lives an alternative lifestyle? We’d like to hear about it! Contact:


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