Co-living is something most digital nomads have heard of or will hear of at some point in their career. It is a fun, easy, and safe way to meet new people and fellow digital nomads who share the same lifestyle as you.
The idea is more or less the same, regardless of the group you choose to go with or location you’re in. You have a group of 12-20 people, all living in close proximity to each other, or even the same house with separate dorms. The apartments are often shared, with the option to get a single bedroom. You live together, work together, and have fun together. It is an incredibly fun experience, where you can also learn a lot from others. However, for us introverts, it can be a bit overwhelming.
My Co-living Experience
After a lot of internal debate, last year I decided it was time to try a co-living, coworking experience for a month. I picked one based on location and date and some reviews I had read online, booked the flight and off I went. We stayed in a few apartments all located in the same building. Each apartment housed 4 people, with 2 getting private bedrooms and the other two sharing a bedroom. I decided to get the shared room option to cut down on costs and to challenge myself.
The experience was amazing. I can say I learned a lot about myself, others, different cultures and tolerance. I have lived in shared dorms before while in college, but it’s been quite a few years since then. Not to mention, during this experience, you are often with people from very different backgrounds; people you would probably never even meet otherwise.
It’s exciting and challenging. There were times when it became too much – too much noise, too many people, too many activities, too much FOMO, not enough time to recharge.
After the first two weeks, I was close to burning out. And that’s when I managed to find a proper balance and learned some great lessons that I think most introverts should consider before embarking on this type of journey.
1. Make it clear from the start that you will need me-time
This is something you have to do both for yourself and for your relationship with the others in the group. Do not start by thinking a month is nothing and you can do it all. If and when you finally realize you can’t do it all, you will crash and you will crash hard. If possible, try to figure out from the start what adventures and parties you want to attend and which ones you can skip.
I would also advise on carving out me-time during the work week. It can be easier than missing out on weekend adventures and everybody is working anyway. I found a nice co-working space that was close enough to our apartment so that I would not waste a lot of time going there. But it was also far enough to allow me to have a nice walk on my own through the city.
And don’t forget to let the others know you will be taking some me-time every now and then. This is to make sure no one gets upset about it and that they don’t feel you’re going away because you don’t like them. Make them understand it’s just how you are and that in order to be cheerful and energetic you also need to be a hermit every now and then. Most people will understand and will be more than willing to let you have your personal time.
2. Carve out a little space to call your own
If you have a private bedroom, things can be a bit easier since all you need to do is close the door and read a book or listen to your favourite song. If you share a room, try making it clear from the start that the space should belong to just the two of you. No parties, no outsiders.
Also, let your roommate know a sign for when you need me-time. For instance, it could be that you put on your sound-blocking headphones. This little thing can be a signal for your roommate saying: “I’m tired, I need silence, please stay out or don’t talk to me if you want to stay in the room.” Again, most people are more willing to compromise like this than you might expect. Especially once they see that after your little personal time you emerge full of energy and ready to have fun.
3. Recognise the activities you really want to do vs joining just for the FOMO
Here’s the thing: activities and adventures will vary based on the location and the group itself. Some of them will totally match what you dreamed of before you embarked on that journey. Some will feel crazy in a good way, the challenge you want to take. And some will feel less like what you’d like to do, but you’ll still be tempted to join if most in the group go.
So, how do you do this? How do you choose? Make a list of the places you absolutely want to visit at your destination before you get there. Once you get there and you all get to know each other, you’ll start making plans for visits and adventures. The ones that match your list are an obvious YES. Chances are there will be a few that don’t match it. Look closely at these options, read about each location, and see if they resonate with you.
It might help to make a list of reasons why you want to join and reasons why you have doubts about it. Does it challenge you in a good way? Is it something you’ve thought about doing before, but never got the chance? Then the answer is probably yes, go. However, if you find it hard to give proper reasons for going and your main thought is that if you don’t, you will miss out on a lot of fun, maybe you should think again.
Once you have all your activities planned out, try writing them down to get a real feel of how your schedule will look like. Remember to count all the work hours and to leave some space for spontaneous activities. If at this point you schedule looks packed every single day, chances are you need to cut something out. Listen to your intuition, it knows you better than you think. If you feel it’s too much, it probably is. Don’t question that again, because FOMO will start taking over and you won’t make a proper choice.
4. Approach the experience with an open mind
The truth is, no matter how much you plan, things might not end up the way you want them to. So while you make that plan, while you write down the list of things to do, remember to keep an open mind. Allow yourself to be surprised, to try out new things and to learn something new. Don’t try to do it all to the point where it is not fun anymore.
If one thing you wanted to do does not work out, let it go and enjoy the ones that did. The plan you make should help you find a balance between work, rest, and fun. It should not make you strict or set impossible boundaries. Let life take you by surprise, get to know others and yourself in the process and be open to all possibilities.