One of the great things about flexible workspace is that you can find a place to land pretty much anywhere; in a mountain ski resort, surrounded by palm trees, lakeside, a downtown penthouse, and even in the middle of a working rice paddy.
With thousands of coworking spaces across the world and more springing up every month, anyone keen to combine work with travel, digital nomad style, now has the perfect opportunity.
And that’s just what Robert Kropp has been doing for the past year.
Robert, of Cowork22, spent almost an entire year travelling across the U.S. and visiting close to 30 different coworking spaces, blogging about his experience along the way. Now back home in Tampa, albeit not for too long, Allwork caught up with Robert to learn more about his coworking tour.
What prompted you to set out and spend a year touring coworking spaces?
It started without a mission. About a year and a half ago, everything that could change in my life, did, including my job and my relationships. I had a lot of hard moments.
At the time I was working out of a coworking space, and by talking to my coworkers I started to experience a perspective shift. I moved out of my house and through friends at my coworking space I managed to find places to stay.
Lots of things happened during that time and I got into a certain mindset; I was experiencing some of the powerful things that can occur within a coworking space. Because of that, things began to fall into place when I needed them most.
Why did you choose to incorporate coworking into your travels?
The idea to spend time in different coworking spaces started small, and snowballed. I didn’t want to be in Tampa for a while, I wanted to get out and since I can work anywhere, I decided to go on a coworking journey. I packed the car up, put everything in storage and drove from Florida to Rhode Island. That’s where it all started.
How did you decide on locations or places to work?
My first step was geographic. I knew which direction I wanted to go in but my underlying mission was to experience as much as possible. I wanted unlimited flexibility and I didn’t have an end in mind until way down the line.
All I knew was that Sunday was moving day, Monday through Friday was work as normal and Saturday was exploring day. Apart from that it wasn’t mapped out, I just wanted to see different coworking spaces and experience as much variety as possible.
So far, your coworking journey has incorporated a lot of independent spaces. Why did you avoid some of the bigger names like WeWork?
I battled with this. I went by some of them, and the short answer is that I decided to focus on independent spaces of no more than 5-10 locations. I did, and still do, want to see some larger spaces to see how they do things differently to the smaller ones, how they manage size and scale.
I was looking for local coworking spaces that don’t run off other ideas, that aren’t particularly well funded – I like ‘boots on the ground’ people! I found a great energy in those spaces.
What did you learn from your year of coworking?
The biggest thing I learned is that no coworking space can provide everything for everyone. You can’t please everyone, and if you try to go after everyone…you get no-one.
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I learned that communities tend to have different segments. Every space has a core group, which provides sustainability and creates the initial culture of the space, and this core group really controls the culture of the space – they can help develop it, or stop it.
I found that every space is evolving. As the people in your space change, you need to pay attention to the needs of your changing community, to adapt and keep up. Every space is constantly shifting and you need to be willing to make constant change. Always ask questions and set up checkpoints, like how can you improve your space? Does it make sense? Do members want or need it?
I also discovered that the evolution of a coworking space is fun to watch!
You’re a real life digital nomad. What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome them?
I had a car, which meant I had to find somewhere to park it! About one third of what I owned was in there, so I would go out of my way to find good free parking. Once in Chicago I parked in a neighbourhood and got a ticket, but I fought it and was lucky to get my money back.
Did you have any problems finding accommodation?
I relied heavily on friends and the occasional hostel, and some people from the coworking spaces I visited also put me up. The coworking community really stepped up to help.
Over the first 3 months I only paid for 3 days of housing! The other main expense involved getting there, as I usually got to use the coworking space for free in exchange for promotion on my website.
Of the spaces you visited, which ones would you most like to re-visit?
Some spaces had really cool designs, but I had a great experience in the more simplified ones – they had great people. But all of the spaces I visited were willing to take me in based on a conversation, nothing more than that.
Any that you disliked?
No, none! I started out with zero preconception to see how the experience would unfold, and I always found a group of people that I enjoyed being around.
What are you doing now, and what’s next?
After a year, I decided I wanted a home base. I’m now living in Tampa and planning to do one-month jaunts to different places. I definitely want to go overseas and I’ve already booked my next trip, to Glasgow in Scotland. I definitely want to explore more of Europe and I’ve also got an invitation to Bali.
I’m curious to see how flat the world is! I’m also curious to see the variations between countries, especially as I’ve seen such huge variation within the U.S.
My ultimate goal in all of this is to increase awareness of coworking and to understand how we can do things better. Within a cultural community, we can all do things better.
Follow Robert’s journey at cowork22.com.
*Feature image grabbed from Cowork22 Facebook page.