After a few experiences as a community manager at coliving spaces in France and Germany, I was looking for another one before moving to the French Alps and make this long awaited coworking and coliving space project reality. Getting to know different places and seeing how people manage them has always been very inspirational so far. Having the Lofoten islands and its Arctic Coworking Lodge in my mind for a long time, I thought it could be the perfect timing to check it out. I got in touch with Stian and Rolf, the guys behind it and asked if they needed some help with its management this summer. Luckily, they said yes and I was headed to Norway a few days later for a bit more than a month.
The lodge and its founders
Stian and Rolf are not originally from the Lofoten islands, but decided to move there to basically improve their work life balance. After getting some inspiration while staying at Coworksurf a few years ago, they decided to open a coworking and coliving space on these Arctic islands. They got a deal for a building in Tangstad and renovated it from scratch. The space accommodates up to 12 people, in 2 dorms and 2 private rooms. There are 2 bathrooms available, a dedicated space for 6 co-workers (and an unexpected fiber connection!), a skype room, and a large kitchen and living room. The location of the building is quite exceptional, on the shore of a fjord, facing Himmeltinden, the highest mountain on the island of Vestvagoy. At the end of the road, fishes are slowly drying, hung to wooden structures. You can also buy them fresh (and cheap) from the boat next door, whenever it is back from fishing. The lodge also has 2 used bikes available for those who would decide not to rent a car. Renting a car is highly recommended though, if you really want to enjoy the island, and the lodge has good deals with a local car rental agency. There are projects to build a big terrace upstairs, and improve the outdoor area (with crazy ideas such as adding a skate ramp, a slack line and even creating a nice cafe next to it).
I have to admit that my expectations in terms of community before getting there were quite wrong. Being Norway, I thought that the people I would meet there would mainly be location independent people running established businesses and making lots of money. Obviously, people had enough money to settle there for a while, but the majority was rather focusing on their quality of life, some of them only working a few days a week, just enough to cover their cost of living. No need to mention that the coworking space was often quite empty when the weather was nice, as the activities available nearby are plentiful. Unstad beach, located a few kilometers away, is a major local attraction, home to one of the best surf spots in the country. Paddle boarding, bouldering, hiking are the other popular activities in the area. The fact that the sun never sets for a few months in summer adds a lot of possibilities; it is quite common to meet other hikers at 3:00 in the morning, or go kayaking to admire the midnight sun. People staying at the lodge are definitely into outdoor sports, but there were different profiles. Some people were working remotely and staying there for a few weeks, others had a part time or full time job in the area and were staying longer term. The last part of the mix was made of tourists staying for 4 days or more. Campers are also welcome and so are pets. Stian and Rolf live a few minutes away and are very integrated in the local community, and many people are passing by the lodge to say hi, drop freshly baked pastries or improve the plastic recycling machine for educational purposes at the workshop downstairs.
Community management at the lodge
As a volunteer, the community manager staying at the lodge is in charge of making sure that the people staying there are having a good time. This includes welcoming guests and explaining how everything works at the lodge, being available to answer requests or fix minor things and help them whenever possible. The founders are usually always around, and very reactive and available when needed. Daily operations also include regular checks, some cleaning and preparing the rooms when needed. Amongst all the coworking and coliving spaces I visited, the Arctic Coworking Lodge probably has the most self managed community. A lot of initiatives are taken by its members. The next day after talking about the fact that we did not really know which guests were coming and leaving, we decided to display a board with the current week’s moves and events. Same for the list of people currently in the house to help new comers remind names, etc. Different community members also suggest different kind of events, the most popular being the Saturday party in Henningsvaer and the tasty communal family dinners. Weather permitting, many other unplanned events happen on a regular basis, like surfing or bouldering evenings, picnics at the beach, skating sessions, etc. According to the vibe, family meetings (on a mastermind format) are also held every now and then.
The Arctic Coworking Lodge is probably the most Nordic coliving space on earth. Staying there, in the middle of the Lofoten islands is a truly unique experience of its kind. Its founders are very laid back and it was inspiring to see how the vibe they created contributed in setting up the conditions for a very smooth community management. Summer is definitely a perfect moment to spend time on these islands, but the northern lights and the wild landscapes make this place a very special one in all seasons. Even though I have no such plans for the near future, I really can’t wait to go back!