12 Months, 12 Countries, 12 desks — Co-working Around The world
Co-working is an emerging trend that allows freelancers and small businesses to hire office space, from single desks to whole floors, in a very flexible way. For someone who travels and works, the ability to arrive at a country and directly plug in to the local start up community and have access to resources without paying a huge overhead is a godsend.
I’ve always had an interest in co-working, as it reflects the changing nature of work, and a transition to a more modular economy. I’ve spent the past 12 months travelling and working with my partner, and I’ve made it my business to have a sticky beak at every co-working space I can. Below I’ve outlined my top five in order of ‘loved’ to ‘super-duper loved’, as well as some honourable mentions.
This was one of the most unique places we worked, being small, peaceful and unassuming. Whilst most successful co-working spaces are large and full of hustle and bustle, Mana was a small single room space run by a brother and sister. While it was small, it was really cute, decorated with lots of manga and toys (the pair are huge manga fans). The peaceful vibe led to us producing some really good work. Further to this, the owners brought hot tea and cold water every half an hour or so. The internet was also 50mbps per second, which was better than any of the other spaces around Chang Mai.
We also connected with Greg Hung, Podcaster and Videographer, and joined his podcast to discuss emerging trends in virtual reality.
Hubud is actually one of the longest running co-working spaces, and forms a big part of the ‘digital nomad’ sea-change culture. Remote workers from all around the world flock to Ubud for the great climate, culture and people. It’s visually stunning, constructed completely from bamboo, nestled in the heart of Ubud, a town filled with monkeys, temples and lush green trees.
Hubud has one of the most well developed communities, and the knowledge sharing programs were world class. They had events covering everything from bitcoin to cooking running nearly every day. We connected with people from all over the world, and actually collaborated with The Think Collective to create a 360 degree Dr Suess tribute while we were there.
[Detour — Boracay, Phillipines]
Lets divert from the listicle for one second — we actually didn’t find any co-working spaces in Boracay (probably because it’s a tiny tropical island), but we found some nice alternatives.
Coco Loco Beach Bar — We worked every day from here for about a month, facing the sea, drinking coconut milkshakes and chatting with the friends we’d made on the beach at night. The basic speed was 2mbps, but for 50 pesos, they’d upgrade you to 3. Sizzlin.
3. Freedom Kite surfing — [back on track — sort of]
So this was an interesting one. We were sitting at Coco Loco drinking our milkshake, and a guy I met the night before came to say hi. He needed help unmooring his boat for the season, and knew I had my divers license, so he got me to help out. Turned out, he had his masters in Virtual Reality and was going back to Hong Kong to do his PhD! My 15 minutes of underwater work turned into an invitation to sail with him for 5 days, as he took his yacht to a safe port for the stormy season.
It was a pretty amazing experience, which we dubbed Yacht Hack. For five days we worked on VR projects, whilst sailing through the Philippines. It was crazy because we actually got better internet than we’d had the whole time in Boracay, because every island had a cell tower that was barely used. There was unlimited solar power, heaps of booze, coconuts on demand and dinner cooked fresh from local produce every night.
Eagle labs is another place with a very unusual back story. It’s actually owned and operated by Barclay’s Bank. I worked at a bitcoin company for 2+ years, so you can imagine I’m a bit skeptical of big banks, but I really admire what these guys are doing.
Basically Barclays had closed a bunch of branches, and instead of letting them go to fallow, they set them up as community business hubs. The guys that were running the Brighton branch, were basically mad scientists, and had filled the place with 3D printers, engraving equipment and basically every gadget you need to get something prototyped. They also provide business support, and heaps of really interesting programs and courses.
Enklave was by far my favourite place to work. It’s an owner/operator space that wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s done in the industrial style common for Berlin (in that it probably used to be a warehouse or something), and sits smack bang in the middle of Neukölln (the place to be at the moment). It has got posters on the wall (with swear words on them), home made cookies at the entrance, community lunch every day, and a home cooked lunch made by a volunteer from the community every Monday.
A co working space lives and dies based on its community, and it’s not something you can fake. Enklave had probably the most eclectic mix of people, with artists, writers and academics all sharing the table with web developers, marketers and sysadmins. We ended up partying with someone on the board to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, an economist and a games developer (all in one night). They also have free beer on Fridays, which is a pretty fool proof way to get everyone mingling.
They were just beginning their community education program, so we took the time to present on getting started with VR. They’re now running and live streaming a few events a week, making them an awesome group to watch, even if you aren’t a member.
Getting Started With VR at Enklave Facebook LiveStream
Really reasonably priced, with two spaces in the the beautiful Palma, Mallorca. One more arty and eclectic, the other more corporate and slick, so something for everyone.
A free co working space with an awesome design aesthetic. Ended up hosting the VR event “The Virtual”, with The Think Collective team, who we’d met in Bali!
We only spent a day in Dojo, but it’s based in Canggu, an amazing surf town in Bali. There was a great atmosphere, air conditioning (which counts a lot in the heat and humidity), and the facilities were professional but relaxed. Definitely worth a visit if you’re working from Canggu.
I actually worked out of Teamsquare for over two years with CoinJar. It’s another owner/operator place (though they’ve grown the team immensely since I was there). The owners are a husband and wife, both ex-freelancers, that really understand the freelancer’s quest for Flow (uninterrupted high quality work). They are probably one of the most ambidextrous co-working spaces, in that they have large scale corporate offerings (they’ll fit out a floor with custom design in no time), while still giving enterprise tools to a freelancer working a day a week. We were one of their first tenants when they opened in a single floor on Elizabeth St, now they take up most of four stories in a beautiful bluestone building in the heart of the CBD, and I’m understandably super proud of them.
They’re also dog friendly, which is a big deal.
My home! I still share a studio with another agency back in Australia, and part of the Tesseract team works from there. They have VR parties on Friday and when I’m back in Melbourne you should totally come hang out!
Tightworks is so dog friendly we had a going away party for my dog when we left for our trip.
Depending on where you’re at professionally, working at a co-working space can be a transformative experience, no matter what the industry. It lets you connect with other people, surround yourself with others with similar goals, passions, and rhythms. It also gets you out of your pajamas, and into the real world.
Community trumps enterprise — no matter how clean and shiny everything is, a strong sense of community and comradery is a must.
Be prepared to be flexible in the short term — If you arrive in Cluj, Romania with a huge project on a week before Christmas, and the only place to sit is a ping pong table, then get the wifi password and get to work.
Don’t compromise in the long term. This means reliable internet, this means ergonomic chairs and workspaces, this means follow through in terms of community development and programs.
A few more desks
Husk Coffee, London
The Hen, Bangkok
We’ve also been documenting our adventures in 360degrees on Facebook at Chloe and Sam’s Totally Awesome Vacation, so if you want more behind the scenes, go check it out! Below is our adventure in Hoia forest, Romania, the most haunted forest in the world.