The Quest for Creativity

The discovery of coliving and coworking

Every hardworking designer or creative entrepreneur struggles with time and energy to create good work. To find a solution to this, you have to break the patterns. Doing so, I want to share a story with you about how I ended up relocating from the Netherlands to the East Coast of Spain and — at this very moment — processing the fact that I actuall did it. It all started out with my quest for creativity.

The past six years I spend most of my time building a design agency that could last. Therefore it needed to be driven by creative culture and purpose. As one of the founders, my job is to instigate and challenge the designers to make exceptional, qualilty work. In a highly competitive market where design agencies decline, you just have to stand out. On the other hand, you constantly need to enhance productivity to get money in the bank. The question is how to make award winning design and develop new viable business ideas while struggeling with clients and the daily pressure of meeting deadlines?

This paradox between creativity and productivity kept puzzling me over the years. It made me decide to investigate this further and, why not, go on a journey myself. I took upon a quest to find ways to be more creative, generate more output and be more relaxed doing so. Furtermore I needed time to think of new business models that could change our creative industry for the better. That is how I landed at Sun and Co, a coliving and coworking space in Javea, Spain.

Working with Thalassa, a fellow digital nomad from ‘the Travelling Freelancer’.
Working in the courtyard with Jon from Sun and Co.

Coworking, coliving
Sun and Co is situated in Javea at the Alicante region of the Costa Blanca. It is a small town closed in between beautiful cliffs and backed by a distinguishing landmark: the Montgo mountain. Nothing much happens here off-season, but is has everything you need. In October, right after the sun disappeared in the Netherlands, I stayed at Sun and Co for a few weeks. It was my first experience as a digital nomad.

Besides meeting inspirational people from all over the world, this is what I learned: when you are passionate about what you do, there is no separation between work life and personal life. For me it has always been intertwined. My ambitions and lifestyle just didn’t match my surroundings. And as I learned immediately at Sun & Co, I was not alone.

Looking back, in those days I had more focus and generated more output than many weeks at the office. I didn’t feel frustrated working ‘over time’ in the evenings and weekends; everybody did. But on a wednesday, when I didn’t feel like working, I drove up through the mountains and concluded my trip with a late evenening dive into the sea. Then really refreshed, back home, I hooked up with the co-livers again to elaborate on some new ideas. Even communicating with my colleagues back in Rotterdam felt more efficient. Planning was more structured and online meetings were more effective. I could get used to this.

Weekdays and weekends started to blend together. The co-livers work when they need to work and have fun when the work is done. For higher creativity you need to get in a flow, but also some mild distractions to boost new ideas. Having peers from all over the world around you creates the perfect setting.

Making the bold move
Commuting in co-working spaces was not new to me, as we founded our company in one of the first co-working spaces in the Netherlands, the Creative Factory. But in those weeks I encoutered digital marketers, developers and UX designers like myself, making very bold decisions: leaving their companies, cities, friends and relatives behind to seek another way of living.

This coliving phenomena was something new to me. The fast digitization of our world makes it possible to work and live in other, more attractive places in the world. You just need a desk and superfast Wifi.

Although doing business in the Netherlands is great, on my flight back home this new concept got stuck in my mind. You need to know that the Netherlands is one of the foremost countries when it comes to digital innovation. The startup ecosystem is blooming and most customers I work with thrive to make impactful digital products. But being stuck in traffic again, working over 60 hours a week, I made up my mind. Javea was calling. I was determined to make that bold move too.

The goal was to find a more permanent way to benefit from the concept of coliving and coworking, and at the same time make my company grow in a healthy way, without the constant race of getting stuff done, feeling tired and compromising on quality work. I have a motivated team of experts and supportive partners to back me up, a house I could rent out — as my home town Rotterdam is finally capturing some attention from the tourists — and no pets to keep me home. Offcourse the prospect of a mild winter and meeting my friends at Sun & Co again made my decision much easier.

The distinctive Montgo mountain

This time, at the end of January, I took the car because a roadtrip through France and Spain has always been a dream scenario. I packed two large suitcases and my racing bike and started on a 2500 km drive to my final destination and possibly my second home: Javea, Spain.

After two weeks, every moment here has been a confirmation that I made the right choice. Now let’s find out if it’s not a temporary deviation of the normal life — a workation as they say — and see if my experiences actually can help others designer and my colleagues and to get a grip on their own creative processes and entrepreneurial ambitions.

The next story will be about coworking and coliving and changing the rhythm of work to be more creative.