Are you a freelancer? Have you ever taken “home office”? Or maybe you’re a full-time digital nomad already? If any of the above sounds like you, you might be interested in getting to know a little more about co-working spaces – oasis of comfortable desks, fast WiFi and like-minded people placed in the middle of a jungle, or, maybe, overlooking a paradise beach.
In the era of “remoteness” where almost everything, starting from groceries and finishing with seeing your doctor, can be done on-line, people slowly start realising that escaping cold, polluted cities and taking their jobs along is not a dream anymore. Because if the only thing you need is a decent internet connection, your laptop, and a piece of a desk, then why not? And this is where an idea of co-working spaces was born.
What a co-working space actually is?
Let’s say you’re a freelance social media strategist from New York. Everything is really great and you love The Big Apple. But winters are cold and your rent is high, you don’t remember when was the last time you felt the warm sand under your feet and your skin gets so pale, that it’s almost blueish.
Bang, the decision is made, you buy a ticket to Thailand, for two months, put your apartment on Airbnb (auntie Anna promised to help with that) and off you go! You can always work from Asia, right?
But when you arrive it turns out that the WiFi in your hotel is not as good as they promised, that after a week you would like to actually sit at a desk instead of working half-lying in your hotel bed, and that you start feeling… lonely. Lonely and lazy, without any will to work.
Sounds like it’s time to find the nearest co-working space!
Co-working spaces, in other words, HUBs are usually big detached houses/apartments with numerous workplaces to rent. It’s like an office without permanent workers within. You can choose daily, weekly or monthly membership and usually use it 24/7 till it expires (because most of the HUBs are never closed).
What you can expect clearly depends, of course, on a location. I spent my last two weeks exploring co-hubs on Thai islands: Koh Lanta plus Koh Tao, and these are the two on which my experience is based so far.
Both KoHub on Lanta and TaoHub are one-story houses with closed AC rooms, but most importantly, spacious terraces overlooking the greenness of the islands. Desks, tables, and, what absolutely won my heart after 18 months of working from every location possible – office chairs (TaoHub).
The goal of co-spaces is to give you a possibility to focus on work in comfortable conditions while in paradise, but also, connect you with like-minded people. That, can not only add a nice feature to your after-work schedule but benefit on a business field as well. Remember, you’re not the only nomad – there are people who’ve been working this way for ages, growing successful companies and conquering the markets…from the middle of the jungle. It’s always worth to listen to their stories.
I sleep in a shed, I work in a jungle.
My first stop on the Co-working Spaces Testing Expedition was Koh Lanta, pretty big island in Krabi province, not that far from Phi Phi islands but much more mellow than her western neighbours. To embrace leaving the city with its hostel hustle to the fullest, I decided, that the best option will be to move into one of the bungalows at the beach, just 15 minutes walk from KoHub. Gigantic bed, wooden walls, hammock lazily swinging on a porch – hell yeah.
The first morning I left my classy bungalow (affectionately called a shed) literally dying from curiosity. That was about to be my first time in co-working space and I had no idea what to expect, or, more precisely, how would it work for me. I read their website, I looked at the pictures, blah, blah, but it cannot replace the feeling you get actually being somewhere.
Maundering down the main Koh Lanta road with my office under one arm and phone opened on Google Maps in the other I must have looked pretty obvious to other Thai island digital nomads. After only a couple of minutes of walking I heard someone’s voice:
– Hey! KoHub?
(No, I’m Sophie, lol)
– Hey, yes, as you see – I smiled back
– It’s here around the corner – a blonde, curly haired girl explained while parking her scooter next to another lovely shed, I came across that day.
The place turned out to be gigantic! Bright terrace with bamboo chairs and tables that could easily fit 30-40 people. The terrace led into a garden with a small arbour, hammocks and a huge stone Buddha frowning at those who would forget for too long, that they are still at work.
Using a semi-hidden path in the garden’s right corner you had just 400m walk separating you from the beach. The sunset coast. Imagine: having a short break just to see the orange sun disappearing into the sea and then coming back to your computer among palm trees and cicadas humming in the background. Magic.
I must admit, that KoHub was very well equipped: starting with a kitchen serving free water, tea and coffee to the members, an “honesty fridge” where you could reward yourself with cold coca cola, or beer, putting an exact sum of money fo the jar on it next. I absolutely love the idea, it’s like saying “we’re a community, there’s no place for cheating”.
So you can choose to work on the terrace at one of the tables or at the kind of counter that goes around the whole terrace – then there’s nothing but garden right behind your screen. If you’d like to feel more like in an actual office, you can always move to one of the AC rooms, where hot breeze and ravenous mosquitoes won’t get you.
Lacking screens or flattened butt
Have you ever had this feeling, while working over hours, that your bum is literally getting flat from sitting for too long? Horrible. Sometimes staying in a chair for another hour seems like a torture. Don’t worry. In TaoHub you can rent laptop holders that will help you adjust the position of your laptop so that you’ll be able to stand in front of it (you’d be surprised how many people choose this option). You can rent some other goodies as well, like a mouse, keyboard or additional screens to build your own NASA-command-centre-like space.
There are also some other features I didn’t use, like for example food option. You can order one meal a la carte or go for a whole packet including membership + 2 meals per day. They also organise some social events, lectures, English language help, lunches and other activities that were put on a big white board next to the reception desk.
So how was it? I came in, sat down, opened my laptop, placed weary but still alive graphic tablet in front of me and started to work. To tell the truth, I am perfectly used to other people walking around me, looking into my screen while I’m drawing, asking what these drawings are for etc.
I don’t mind.
What’s more, I could even say that it became impossible for me to focus in solitude – I need a low level of distraction, otherwise, the temptation of providing the distraction myself (Facebook, Instagram and others) might be too hard to overcome. But after working in cafes and hostels (or in the toilet on Fumincino airport, LOL), where I was the only one focused on doing my job – this place came as a complete novelty for me. It turned out, that I can be more productive than ever!
Seeing other people literally lost in their computers is sort of mobilising, encouraging. Even though you are doing completely different jobs in totally different companies and even different countries you feel like “we’re in this together”. This atmosphere successfully prevented me from being hung on social media instead of Photoshop.
Friends or workers?
As the co-working spirit was great, the co-social, unfortunately, didn’t hit me in a positive way. I felt pretty much incognito all the time, but, well, maybe that was my fault. Maybe I had too much to do, or the place was too big with too many people, so it felt anonymous. But, the fact that after coming there 3 days in a row, the receptionist every single time was asking me to fill the first-time member registration form kinda blew my mind.
Like, dude, I’ve got a couple of piercings in my face and I was the only girl with a full-sleeve not mentioning other tattoos. So, after 3 days of having me around for at least 8 hours per day, you COULD, like really COULD vaguely remember me. This is also a way to build a community feeling – making the members feel like they matter. It would be nice, wouldn’t it?
But I know for a fact, that people make friends and businesses there. Anyways, the only friend I’ve made was a cat that showed his deep and intense interest in me after I opened a can of tuna steak. Well, life.
Girl on Grill
A week passed in a blink of an eye, so like a proper nomad, I packed The 15kg of All I Have and jumped on a ferry – a starting point of my 10 hours trip to Koh Tao. Thinking of the next Thai island and co-working oasis filled me with excitement. What’s more, Koh Tao was introduced to me as a more party place in comparison to Lanta, and believe me or not, after one mellow week I was dying to hit the dance floor.
Before arriving in TaoHub I exchanged some friendly messages with them on Facebook and was simply delighted to find out they replied very fast and very reasonably. On the arrival, the manager – Moe – made me feel welcomed from the very first second. I filled the form, was given a sticker and a short explanation of where&how&barbecue. Oh yes, you heard me! I was lucky to meet some grilled meat on my first day. With a start like that there’s nothing that could go wrong.
On the contrary to KoHub, the Tao place enchanted me with a small island vibe, where everyone knew everyone. It was way smaller, lacking marvellous garden and some other posh features, but it felt more like home to me. Plus, there was a red wine jug in the “honesty fridge” – my after-hours treat.
TaoHub is located right next to the pier, on the west side of the island – be prepared for some breathtaking sunsets just a couple hundred meters from your desk. I got simply addicted to them, and, observing other people gathering on the jetty around 6:30 in the evening I can honestly say, I wasn’t the only one. It was a nice way to relax my eyes for a bit and grab a quick bite on a way back. Absolutely recommend it.
What type of people can you meet in co-working spaces?
HUBs attract people of all ages, colours, shapes and sizes. You can meet some short-time travellers who decided to catch up on work in the meantime. There will be some who decided to escape the winter, so they move to the islands for a couple of months. Some of the HUBbers will be like me – digital nomads travelling the world solo, looking for a wifi and some company. There will also be ones, who moved in many years ago, but even though they have their own apartment, still appreciate taking work out of their homes and socialise a bit.
At the desk next to you, you can meet everyone. a c++ coder, web designer, social media specialist or even an illustrator. A real one, using crayons and white sheets of rustling paper (a digital artist said, ha ha). Some of the nomads will be just beginners trying to make their Living-a-Dream come true. Some – experienced professionals, owners of huge, successful companies. All of them under the same wooden roof, doing their best and enjoying life, that’s out there. Not locked in 4 walls of an office.
The freedom technology gave us is simply mind blowing and you should definitely give it a go. Even for a while, like many nomads already did. Good luck!
This article was written for writingcomeseasier.com.