KoHub coworking space puts Koh Lanta on the digital nomad map

KoHub

Ko Lanta might not be as widely recognised as neighbouring Phuket or Phi Phi, but it has become a hotspot for at least one traveller group. A picture of bliss, the Andaman island that feels like a blend of Bali and Laos (if you take away the temples) has established itself as a popular digital nomad destination. Its sweeping beaches and sunsets are fabulous, its roads are free of traffic, the crowds are mercifully absent, and there is a more mature feel about the place – ideal conditions for both chilling and getting stuff done.

Taking a few days recently to unwind on the island, I stopped by coworking space KoHub en route back to Krabi to see what it was like, having heard about it while attending the Digital Nomad Conference in Bangkok earlier in the year.

KoHubKoHub wasn’t an easy spot from the road, and I found it to be quiet when I neared the entrance, far from the hive of activity I had been expecting. But there was a good – and somewhat enviable – reason for the stillness of it all.

Greeting me at the door, KoHub’s amiable Polly explained that many of its members were out kayaking, as it was the weekend. Where else can you do that? 🙂 She then kindly took me on a tour of the work spaces and dining areas set amidst a tropical garden.

Established two years ago, KoHub has a swelling membership that comprises web developers, designers and online teachers, in addition to people passing by to connect with like-minded others (the average tenure is a month).

I was told that the transience is such that digital nomads hop from one established hub to the next within Southeast Asia, seeking out locations as the seasons (and prices) change. The circuit starts in Chiang Mai in Thailand’s north, before moving south to Ko Lanta, across the equator to Bali, and North again to Vietnam. I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time before other affordable locations join as pastures along the route, from Penang to Yogyakarta (someone who can shed light on this is Dave Cook, whom as I mentioned before, is leading a study into digital nomad behaviour).

Transience aside, there is a strong sense of community. KoHub is not a coworking space alone. Members can take Thai lessons and themselves teach English at a local school, and there are eco-friendly activities like upcycling.

KoHub activities

The environmental message came out strong: outings include the aforementioned kayaking and island tours, and Full Moon parties are organised on the nearby beach (a popular thing in Koh Lanta, apparently).

Indoors fun meanwhile included a games room with foosball and movies, in a setup similar to traditional offices (I was told it’s also popular for Skype calls).

All that foosball fun leads to hungry stomachs (or maybe that’s just me), and KoHub’s food offerings looked better than average. One of the biggest appeals of living in Southeast Asia is the food, which is among the best on the planet, and Thai cuisine in particular is renowned the world over. KoHub’s menu includes familiar favourites like tom yam and tom ka, alongside curries, fruit shakes and fresh juices.

While I didn’t see many members on the day, KoHub is becoming highly subscribed to the extent that a new space on the island is sought to accommodate more people. It has come a long way in two years, and a bright future beckons if more people join the digital nomad movement. Altogether now: ko ko, there’s ko limit…

From Bali to Barcelona, how the coworkation is redefining remote work

Coworkation in Bali

Way back in March, I travelled to Bangkok for the Digital Nomad Conference and heard a chap called Stuart Jones speak about Coworkation, a project focused on “inspiring people in inspiring places doing inspiring things”. Curiosity piqued, I sought to find out more from Stuart.

Can you tell us a little about Coworkation, and what led you to start it?

SJ: I have been location independent for the past 15 years and am constantly inspired as an entrepreneur by new places and cultures I experience. Working whilst you travel hasn’t always been an easy endeavour, so I was super excited when I discovered coworking spaces popping up all over the world, some of them even in exotic remote locations. I saw immediately the value of coworking and experiencing unique locations with people from different skill sets and backgrounds, and I thought “why not take this concept to the next level?”

How would you define a “coworkation”, and how is this different from ordinary “coworking”?

SJ: A “coworkation” is a combination of three major factors. You have a retreat from your day to day life or working environment, in rural, exotic and unique locations around the world, made all the more accessible because we take care of all the details.

There’s the experiential learning, through facilitated, in-depth, actionable workshops and activities, that send you home inspired, upskilled, connected, and able to inhabit the potential of a location independent lifestyle.

And lastly you have the community. This is probably my #1 value of a Coworkation. The people who attend a Coworkation are an awesome blend of established entrepreneurs, those who love to travel with purpose and with their tribe, and those wanting a taste of location independence.
Ordinary “coworking” is amazing – we just upped the ante!

Where are the exciting coworkation hotspots to look out for (existing and emerging)?

SJ: Bali is number one on my list, as it draws an amazing array of startup founders, digital nomads, spiritual seekers and small business owners to a gorgeous tropical island buzzing with vibrancy.

Thailand is taking off. Whether you’re in Chiang Mai, the digital nomad hub in SE Asia, or on the islands as we will be next year.

And in Europe, Spain is having a real moment as location independence is offering people the ability to work remotely and thrive despite the economic downturn they’ve experienced the last few years. Well, that, and the fact that the weather’s amazing, the food is phenomenal and the people are gorgeous!

How environmentally sustainable are coworkations?

SJ: That’s a really good question, and something we are working on constantly. Because there are different types of coworkations in different parts of the world, there is a wide variety of sustainability factors we try and take into account, and it’s an ongoing concern for us.

We have local retreats in the countryside of Spain, where people travel together (we always organise joint travel to limit unnecessary car trips) to the locations that we choose based on their attitudes and actions towards sustainability in their areas.

We have the further afield coworkations where people may attend from overseas and have to fly. Essentially, any form of air travel can be considered non-environmentally friendly. But we are encouraging people to experience the world and truly engage with it, and believe that most people, when they’re faced with the real environmental issues being dealt with in developing nations like Bali and Thailand, become more environmentally conscious and active.

Specifically, in Bali, we are engaged with an organisation called the Bali Children’s Project, which we chose after much searching for people who are providing tangible assistance to those who need it most. Our participants have the opportunity to physically help as well as donating. So the focus for us is on practical engagement in areas where we can actually see the impact we have.

We are working with Coboat on a couple of sea-retreats, and these are much more environmentally focused as we all actively clean the oceans when we’re out at sea.

What we are supporting is the ability to be able to work remotely, and that includes a decrease in people commuting for work to offices in cities, it encourages seeing the world as your home, and being more connected to it, which we believe will have a far-reaching positive impact on the environment.

What tips would you give to aspiring “coworkation-ers”?

SJ: Get out there! See the world! Be challenged, be scared, be inspired! You are not the person you think you are, and you never know who you will become until you expose yourself and your preconceived notions about the world, to the world! Through travel you actually become part of this beautiful global community that is breaking down barriers and taking us into a world of increased understanding and collaboration across borders. It’s not always easy to get out there though, so my tip would be come on a Coworkation and hang out with us! We’ll show you the ropes!

How do you see remote work – and attitudes to remote work – evolving over the next 10 years?

SJ: I love this question, this is something I’m really excited about. Basically, what we see occurring now is not only a shift amongst freelancers or entrepreneurs into location independent lifestyles, but we see employees becoming more empowered and employers becoming more flexible as they see how much value there is in remote work. Companies save money on office space, employees quality of life increases with a reduction in time commuting, reduced stress and anxiety, more family and home time, and above all this, people are feel in charge of their own productivity!

We all have different rhythms and work styles, and remote working allows people to work when they want, from where they want, however they want. This new management attitude is having a hugely positive impact employee satisfaction and job retention. Sorry, that was long-winded, but essentially, the next 10 years is going to see an exponential growth in remote work in many sectors.

Finally, it appears you have travelled a lot in your life. What and where would be your ideal coworkation?

SJ: That I have! But, tough question! I guess, if I was going on a coworkation myself, I would want to go somewhere I’ve never been before, somewhere that was really going to open me up to new ways of seeing the world.

Somewhere that the natural beauty of the land takes my breath away and clears my mind. It’s all about inspiration for me, and nature inspires me, it’s where I find tranquillity and clarity, so where-ever I go has to have this. But on the other hand, I’m a sucker for a gin and tonic on a deck at the end of a long day, so if I can combine my days of adventure with a soft bed and rainforest shower-head, so be it! And to be honest, wherever I can connect with like-minded people that stimulate me, my tribe I guess, that’s where I’d ideally be.

Blue-sky thinking in Portugal: Coworking retreat planned for September

Offsite Immersive 2016

September can be a month of mourning for many in chilly Northern hemisphere climates (I can confirm this as a Brit), triggering memories of the new school term and a hurtle towards shorter days. A week in Portugal’s sun-blessed south will therefore appeal to many, especially one that introduces a blend of leisure with exciting work possibilities, all against an idyllic backdrop.

Offsite Immersive 2016 will see 18 like-minded professionals interact in the beautiful, and apparently historic, surroundings of Guia (nearest beach a 14 minute drive away) through work and social activities. The co-working retreat is organised by Southwest Collective for the week 11-18 September, and will include the following (according to the website):

  • An inspiring location with everything needed to be focused and productive
  • A community of creative and passionate people that can help accelerate ideas and projects
  • Healthy food choices
  • Off-the-grid meaningful activities and experiences
  • Flash talk and deep-dive sessions with interesting topics to feel inspired
  • Stunning on-site shared accommodation (2/3 people per room) with ample space to work and relax
  • 3 day free pass to coworklisboa co-working space in Lisbon

Did someone mention wine? 🙂

While the accommodation – a traditional house with pool – looks stunning (you could almost imagine a top Primeira Liga player owning such a property), there are also pretty villages to escape to, we are told.

More information, including pricing, can be found on the website and via Twitter (@swcollectiveco).