Coworking spaces won’t help you become a better nomad

Digital nomad in its coworking habitat

This post is part of my 200 words per day challenge that I am sharing publicly on Twitter in order to improve my writing and develop a writing routine. Feel free to join and comment.

Traveling while working is a dream to many. Yet, the precarity resulting from high mobility is an obstacle when you need to get work done.

Coworking spaces are presented as a solution. A place where 1) you can meet people at events organized throughout the year and 2) you can get work done.

Truth is, coworking spaces suck.

I advise you against not only some of them, but all of them.

Getting work done is all about your ability to focus for a long stretch of time, “Deep work” as Cal Newport puts it. Coworking spaces, on the contrary, are all about open spaces, which are a cancer for the 21st century worker’s ability to concentrate. What you end up with is a so-called collaborative space where everyone is either locked in small sound-proof boxes or having headphones on. It’s no different from a regular corporate office space, so why bother attaining the freedom offered by digital nomadism if it is wasted in such manner.

On the other hand, coworking spaces are expensive. The famous Dojo Bali costs 80$ per 50-hour workweek or 200$ for an unlimited monthly access, which is already more than a minimum wage in Indonesia. Needless to say, you won’t meet many locals working here, unless their companies are paying for them, and if they do, they won’t have time to “collaborate” with you.
I don’t know about you but I am not traveling to be constantly surrounded by the same cultural bubble. Traveling is all about meeting people fundamentally different, culturally and economically speaking.

Coworking spaces are popular thanks to the club effect around them, but paying for a monthly pass will neither 1) help you get work done in an optimal fashion or 2) socialize. Do not join a coworking space. Instead, establish the right work / social balance for you.

Make deep and impactful work from either home, libraries or coffee shops. In that order depending on the opportunities offered by your environment. Train yourself to work in those conditions. Develop your adaptability skills. If you are not born a digital nomad, at least you can become one.

For the social part, live locally. Go talk to locals and bar tenders. Attend free public meetups and social events. You even might attend events organized by coworking spaces for free, while avoiding all the negative fuss. Networking events are a good thing, but do you want to make or do you want to look like you are making ?

It might seem hard but keep in mind you don’t make meaningful connections and meaningful pieces of software without some sort of effort.

This is the real world. Don’t be trapped in the reality distortion field projected by the coworking hype.