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What’s It Like to Try Co-living?

Have you heard of co-living? The concept is relatively new, but growing all around the world. What exactly is it? It’s a communal living space that attracts digital nomads, location-independent workers, and entrepreneurs who love to travel and choose to live intentionally. Take a look at our piece on what co-living is and why you should try it for more information.

In this post we have three fabulous women from the She Hit Refresh community who share their personal experience with co-living. If you haven’t tried it yet, be sure to put it on your list!

“Refreshers” Share Their Co-living Experience


Freya – Co-living in Barcelona


co-livingMy month of living UNSETTLED in Barcelona!

I have just settled into my new base for the month in Stuttgart, Germany, when I get the news that I won the FUTURE OF WOMEN contest and am invited to live a month with UNSETTLED in Barcelona. Wow- I am so excited and feel incredibly honored!

Barcelona. The city I lived in for 8 years… but this month will be a very different experience:

1. THE SETUP: Co-working, co-living, co-creating this month with 20 like-minded people from all over the world. People running their own businesses, working remotely, people on sabbatical breaks, people about to launch a new project- people from the US, Trinidad, India, Ireland, Germany, Saudi, Bahrain, Canada, Serbia,… an incredibly diverse and interesting bunch of people.

2. MYSELF: Left my corporate job in online marketing in Barcelona, gave up my flat, spent 4 months in India, a summer in Italy and launched my own coaching business INTO THE WILD Coaching, supporting others get unstuck and act on their dreams just like I had done, and am now at a completely different place compared to when I left Barcelona just one year earlier.

3. Two and a half weeks after having received the news from FUTURE OF WOMEN, on April 6th, I touch down in Barcelona. Ready for this new, very special experience. Excited to meet the other UNSETTLEDers and to begin this month of co-working, co-living and co-creating. What does it mean to live UNSETTLED? What will we do?

We kick off the month with an orientation day, filled with great exercises and fun games to get to know each other and to each set our intentions for the month. We write letters to ourselves at a stunning rooftop terrace with spectacular views over the city.

We share what we have on this journey for, what we’re hoping to take away from the month and what we are happy to offer to the group. Based on that we co-create an agenda of activities, excursions, workshops, festivities.

I offer my coaching expertise and am putting together a workshop called “THE NEXT CHAPTER,” designed for anyone ready for a change, for a new chapter in life and keen on exploring what that could look like… and on crafting a plan to take first action. I am hosting two editions, one at Juice Dudes a feel-good juice shop with best vibes and another one at a beautiful roof-top terrace with breathtaking views over Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.

Amazing new chapters are being written, titles range from Leveling up, Love actually, Reset, and Tapping into My Truth to name just a few. Love seeing how everyone dives into the visualization of their next chapters and witnessing that spark and refreshed energy when they share with the group after and decide on a first step to get there.

Besides crafting our next chapters, we listen to entrepreneurial stories, train our creativity muscles, learn about video making, hike to a stunning view point for sunrise, discover street art and taste delicious local-art-inspired food, go on a day trip to a close by wine region, have a birthday picnic by the beach, explore the city by bike.

I’m looking back on an incredibly rich month: packed with so many beautiful experiences, new friendships, inspiration and just so much more.

My personal highlights:

  • Being surrounded by all these wonderful, creative, ambitious people.
  • The input, inspiration, mutual encouragement and exchange with this group.
  • The lasting friend- and support-network we created, sharing my passion for coaching and inspired action taking with the group through my workshops 121 coaching sessions.
  • Getting to experience this magic and so familiar city from a completely different perspective the loving and thoroughly designed UNSETTLED facilitation that allowed us to focus on our experience and intentions for the month, in my case work and on having a wonderful time with the group – which I absolutely did 🙂

You can find Freya on Facebook at Into The Wild Coaching, on Instagram @into.the.wild.one, and on her website at Into The Wild One.

Valerie Speare – Co-living in Chiang Mai and Siem Reap

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Me with coliving housemates in Chiang Mai, after a morning hike up to a mountaintop temple.

I’ve always been a traveler…but a traveler of varying style. As a 33-year-old former banking compliance officer and road warrior from New York, I’ve stayed in my fair share of hotels. And as a person for whom international travel was the best escape from the pressures of everyday corporate life, I’ve stayed in my fair share of fancy Airbnbs in the French countryside. But as a self-employed digital nomad marketing consultant today, I think I’ve begun my love affair with co-living.

When I was traveling with the vacation mindset (not the “this is my life” mindset), I stayed in hotels – especially because I had platinum status from my previous career. But when I look back now, I realize how isolating that was…and oh my gosh, how expensive, too! Hostels never really appealed to me; you really never know what you’re going to get. And as someone who needs a relatively quiet and dedicated workspace now in order to pay for my traveling, I never felt like chancing it. At the beginning of my current “nomad” trip around the world (before I really knew about co-living), I was staying in Airbnbs. But I found that over half the time, their “strong” WiFi was anything but that…and a few had “desk space” that was not much bigger than my iPad. While in Thailand, I ended up checking out of my Airbnb and into a co-living/coworking space, where I got more work done in 10 days than I’d gotten done in the entire previous month.

As I write this, I’m sitting in my second coworking/co-living space: AngkorHUB, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I chose the first one (Hub53) because it was mentioned to me by an acquaintance who found out I was going to Chiang Mai…and it was incredible! After you get to your first one, not much more research is required on your part because tons of people that you’ll meet will have been to other co-living spaces and will have great recommendations for you. I have a list lined up for the rest of SouthEast Asia!

The best way that I can describe co-living is that it’s sort of like living in a sorority house full of responsible adults. There’s always someone to go sightseeing with, run an idea by, or to accompany you on a late-night ice cream run…but you still have your privacy, and everyone respects the fact that you need to get work done (because they all need to get theirs done, too). And for a night owl like me, it was super cool because I wasn’t up alone late at night…lots of people were required to work US hours, and at an 11 hour time difference, that meant they were working 8pm to 4am.

My housemates have been from all over the world…a group of digital marketers, drop shippers, online English teachers, coders, and crypto traders from Australia, France, Spain, India, and more…and they are by far the biggest perk of the coliving spaces. When I entered the workspace for the first time, the other people there looked up and smiled and introduced themselves, and even added me to the “house group” in WhatsApp, where we discussed weekend plans and were able to message if we needed help with a project, etc (which came in handy for me often, since I am not super tech-savvy…my housemates helped me figure out how to screencast, switch hosting for my website…etc). Immediately I just knew that I’d be productive there…and have a lot of fun in the process!

Aside from the productivity factor, this way of living has also made me immerse myself in the local culture more. I’m generally pretty fearless but sometimes I get a little shy when I’m traveling alone, so I might not go have an experience that I want to have. At co-living places, there is always someone who wants to go do whatever you can dream up to do – so it has encouraged me to branch out, because I won’t be going alone.

My best advice to someone who is considering a co-living space is to not care too much about your actual room. Honestly, the only time I spent in the room was to sleep. With strong wifi throughout the entire property, I definitely opted to spend most of my time in the common areas. In Thailand, there was a nap room and massage chair…and in Siem Reap, we have garden hammocks! So, I went for the lower-priced, smaller rooms, and I’m so glad that my intuition to do that was correct. No reason to pay twice as much for a twice as large space when you’re barely in there.

If you are considering a stay in a coliving space, I’d say (in the words of Nike) Just Do It. If you’re apprehensive, then just book a few nights (I’d say more than 1, to get a true feel), so you can try it out…and then, if you like it, extend your stay. I’m pretty sure that you will!

PS – I’d love to connect with you – and am happy to answer any questions that you have about co-living, or long-term travel in general! You can find me on Facebook and at www.valeriespeare.com

Vianessa Castanos – Co-living in Barcelona

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Last year I told myself that once I locked down a long-term, steady writing client I would pack my bags and go on an extended working holiday. I had been location independent for a while, and an experienced freelancer with the freedom to move around, but it was the first time that I intended to take my work with me and travel long-term.

I knew I wanted to live in Spain for a while, so I hopped on Google, locked down a co-living space in Barcelona and packed my bags. My reason for choosing a co-living space was simple: I can be really introverted, and by having housemates, it would be easier for me to be social and also network and talk about work with other people who were on the same page. I was 35 at the time, so of course I panicked at the idea that I would be the oldest person there and the odd woman out (same way I feel when I stay in hostels) – needless to say, the worry was all in my head.

During the time that I stayed at A Landing Pad Barcelona, my roommates were all working professionals ranging in age from their early-20s to their late-40s. They came from the United States, Canada, Italy, the UK and Ecuador. Some were single, and others traveled as a couple. None of them were creepy or giving me the side eye for being one of the older ones in the house; and one of them has even remained a very good friend of mine to this day.

I’ve traveled quite a bit more since then, but I haven’t stayed in another co-living location. Instead, I’ve booked my own living arrangements and started networking via Facebook groups and social media to build some inroads before I travel to new place. My room at A Landing Pad Barcelona was spacious and the location was amazing; while I think co-living spaces are great if you’re new to a city and want a guarantee that you’ll meet people, I do think that the cost of rent for co-living is rather high across the board when compared to local rents – especially given that you’re only paying for a room or bed, you don’t get a full apartment to yourself. So if you’re looking for a similar experience but on a budget, you could always book yourself into a hostel that has good wifi for a week or two. And no, no one will care that you’re the oldest one there either 😉

Follow Vianessa on her website geared towards digital nomads and freelancers, The Hustle Juice as well as on Instagram @hustle_juice and @vianessac.

Occupation: Scriptwriter & Content Producer
Currently in: Mallorca, Spain

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