Digital NomadLifestyle

How digital nomads are living the dream in exotic cowork spaces around the world

By October 13, 2018 No Comments

If the post-summer blues is kicking in and you’re dreading your 9-5 life as the days grow shorter, then there could be another way. While we’ve all been slaving away at the office, digital nomads have been getting a much sweeter deal in some of the most beautiful places in the world – and it’s been dubbed the future of work and travel.

It’s no secret that millennials are increasingly sacking off traditional career paths in favour of something a little more flexible – and fun.

They’re over the assumption that work can only be done from the confines of an office, and popular careers like blogging, coding and software development all lend themselves well to the remote setup.

Figures suggest there’s a growing trend towards the freelance lifestyle too. According to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed, between 2008 and 2016 the number of freelancers in the UK increased by 43%, to almost two million.

The benefits of going freelance – higher (day) rates, being your own boss and usually more flexible working conditions – are compelling, though most freelancers will tell you their biggest problem is taking holiday. If they don’t work, they don’t get paid.

But what if you combine the two? That’s what some the savvy sunseeking self-employed are doing in some stunning coworking and coliving settings around the world, proving that the two really don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

A Selina cowork and coliving space in Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica (Selina)

‘The right way to work’

We caught up with former digital strategist Joe Sharp, co-founder of Coworksurf. Having grown progressively less enthusiastic about living in London, a surfing holiday to Sagres on the Portuguese coast led to a new life for Sharp, when he decided not to come home. He’d been offered a marketing job at a local surf school and started to freelance remotely to supplement his income, but says he struggled to find work-friendly environments.

“I couldn’t find anywhere to concentrate, everyone was here for two or three days and just wanted to party and surf. I’d be on a Skype call and people would turn up from the beach, it became really hard to separate the two things,” he said.

Sharp says he wanted to create an environment where digital nomads like himself could still meet people like you would in a hostel, but one that was conducive to getting things done. Two years ago, he and his business partner Nick Mattia held their first Coworksurf pop-up at a villa in Portugal.

A space in Canggu, Bali, followed, where he explains they could afford a longer-term let, and now Coworksurf has locations in Portugal, Bali, Morocco, Panama and soon will be launching in Sri Lanka.

They host all sorts of guests from oceanographers and influencers, to people who are teaching online, running e-commerce businesses or Amazon startups. He says Coworksurf is specifically targeted at less established freelancers who want to dip their toes into this lifestyle.

“They like the digital nomad concept but are not yet fully sure how they can adapt into this lifestyle,” he said.

One of Coworksurf’s pop-up villas in Portugal (Instagram/coworksurf)

One such person is 26-year-old freelance writer Emma Rosen, who – fed up with the mid-winter blues in London – spent a month working remotely from Coworksurf’s Canggu space earlier this year. She found her flights, accommodation and food added up to less than a month of renting and living in London. She points out many nomads enjoy the benefit of earning in pounds or dollars, whilst spending in local currency, like rupiah.

Rosen says that her experience ​changed her perspective on “the right way to work.”

“I could continue working on all my projects from a swimming pool while having better WiFi than I’d have at home,” she told the Standard.

Rosen working from the Coworkfurf pool at Canggu(Coworksurf)

These experiences are part of a wider trend towards nomadic life and working remotely. Cowork and coliving setups are popping up all over the world. In Latin America, Selina has 27 locations in eight countries, including Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala, among others.

And unsurprisingly, the concept has seriously taken off in places like Bali – known for its popularity amongst digital nomads.

David Abraham, co-founder of Outpost, a company with locations in Ubud, Canggu and Phnom Penh in Cambodia, opened his first space in 2016, having spent years travelling and working from different locations.

“We kept encountering more and more people like us: people who were established in their careers, or seriously developing their own businesses,” he told the Standard.

“We were all seeking ways to live and work in non-traditional, idyllic, adventurous places. We realised it was part of a bigger narrative around the future of work, and how exciting the possibilities might be of a decentralised, networked remote lifestyle.”

David Abraham describes Outpost as ‘Wework in paradise’ (Outpost)

‘Wework in paradise’

Not only are these environments set in some of the most beautiful parts of the world, with stunning pools and trendy interiors, they also offer nomads some home comforts – luxury, even.

Abraham describes Outpost as: “Wework…in paradise.”

“People can order smoothie bowls and coconuts to their desk,” he says. “They can be in the surf or at yoga and five minutes later be set up at their desk at Outpost.”

They also provide travellers with a sense of community and networking opportunities while they’re on the road.

“At one recent Outpost members’ lunch I chatted with a coconut plantation owner from Brazil, a book publisher from the US, and a landscape architect,” he says. “In our Bali offices, we have an international jewellery company right next to a Latin American tech start-up that develops technologies for remote communities.”

There are usually a range of activities and social events on offer, too. At Outpost this includes everything from six-week coding courses to weekend excursions to nearby islands, while at Coworksurf locations there’s an emphasis on surfing lessons, naturally, and regular yoga.

“It’s not a party, party hostel vibe, more active social things that encourage people to interact,” says Sharp, who is currently busy with his latest project; converting a 28-seater bus into “the most beautiful (solar-powered) office in the world.” He plans to park it up on the cliffs in Sagres so those who use it can have lunch-break surfs.

A pool party at Outpost Canggu (Outpost)

A ‘remote lifestyle revolution’

The demographic of cowork and coliving members is changing, according to Abraham.

“While the early members were largely from traditional location independent careers such as coding, digital marketing, graphic design and coaching, increasingly we’re seeing other professions join – we’ve had material science engineers, architects, NGO workers, and lawyers,” he said.

And it’s not just freelancers that are getting on-board with the remote setup. He says that corporations are increasingly willing to offer employees perks like a month or two in exotic coworking destinations.

This way of living has been dubbed by some as the future of work, but Abraham says he sees it as more than that, it’s a “remote lifestyle revolution”.

“Soon, [companies] will realise that the way to attract the most talented, ambitious thinkers won’t be locking them in a mega-office in the suburbs of San Francisco. It will be about setting up a benefits package that allows employees to work from anywhere – and gives them access to new cultures, new people and new adventures.” he said.

While obviously not every industry lends itself so well to remote working, it’s not hard to see the draw of this way of life for those who do have the flexibility to enjoy it.

The pool at Outsite in Canggu, Bali. Could you work from here? (Outsite)

DETAILS

A night’s stay at Coworksurf spaces ranges from 20 Euro to 60 Euro per night based on a week’s minimum stay, depending on location and type of room (shared or private). coworksurf.com

Outposts’ costs range from roughly $500 per month in Cambodia, to $1,150 per month in Bali for coliving/coworking packages. outpost-asia.com

Click through the gallery above to see what it’s like at some some of the most exotic cowork and coliving spaces around the world in places like Thailand, Bali and Costa Rica.

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