Confessions Of A Digital Nomad: What It’s Really Like To Try Coworking For The First Time

People often ask me what it’s really like to be a digital nomad. To that I always respond that being a digital nomad can have it’s advantages, however it’s not as simple as just taking off and setting up ‘office’ anywhere (although technology does allow us to do that today). If there’s one thing I’ve learned by being a digital nomad is that the physical workplace really does matter; which is why finding the right space is extremely important.

This, however, doesn’t come without it’s own trial and error–and over the last year I’ve done my fair share of searching. I have worked from coffee shops, hotel lobbies, libraries, homes, hostels, at the top of a mountain, at beaches, in cars, and in many other places. Unfortunately, none of these options gave me everything that I needed to get my work done efficiently and successfully.

Which is why I eventually jumped on the (amazing) bandwagon of coworking. And I’ll never go back.

Whether it’s strong WIFI, quiet nooks where I can take calls, or camaraderie and community,  coworking spaces have proven to help me stay focused, get work done, and connect with a group of locals.

And although coworking can be fun, productive, and engaging…it can also be a bit ‘scary’ at first; like it always happens when you try new things.

So, let me tell you about what the first day as a digital nomad in a coworking space look and feels like.

First off, you need to find a coworking space suited to you and your needs. I tend to choose workspaces based on a number of different factors; however, the two most important elements to me are the location, as well as the feel (energy) and look of the space.

When it comes to location, here’s my ten cents:

I don’t like long commutes and do my best to avoid them. I try to commute less than 15 minutes each way; I  would also rather walk 20 minutes than drive 10.

As for the energy, vibe, and look of a coworking space; it’s’ hard to describe, as it’s such a subjective and personal element.

However, my process is easy.

Research the coworking spaces’ website and social media feeds. Social media seems to be more important as it has the most recent and raw photos that can give you a glimpse of the real space.

Always remember, though, that you can’t really know a space until you’ve worked from it at least a few days. While tours only tell you about amenities and the companies that are established there, they don’t tell you how people interact, what type of community the space has, and all of the subtle yet amazing nuances of coworking.

Now, to what it really is like to show up for the first time in a coworking space.  

Once you arrive, you are usually greeted by the owner, manager, or a coworker that will help you get setup with the basics:

Where is the coffee?  What’s the WIFI password? Where are the bathrooms?

Where can I sit and work?

I have worked in over 30 coworking spaces, often for a week at a time and usually in open or hot-desking sections. This meant that I was able to pick a new spot each day — which is exactly what I did.

I rarely sat in the same place twice. I found I was able to connect with new people and even the same people in a different way based solely on where and when I saw them. It was fascinating how just changing where I sat opened up doors to new conversations.

Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, you should do one thing on your first day: say hello to everyone you pass, sit next to, grab coffee with, see in the kitchen, etc. I don’t mean you must have a long conversation, just a smile and a ‘hi’ can open doors to so many experiences.

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The above was always my ‘mission’ on my first day. For some reason, I felt that if I missed the moment to say hello, I created a barrier that was more challenging and required more energy to overcome later during my stay.

Now it’s time to get work done.

Whether you own a software startup that doesn’t require a lot of time each day, or are a consultant with set hours, the benefits of coworking will help you through your work and personal journey. (Trust me, I’ve lived it.)

My recommendation for anyone looking to get started as a digital nomad or even as a remote worker in a coworking space is to stay in one place for at least a week. Only working in a coworking space for a day has it’s limitations. It can be useful if you need to move around a city or really just need a desk, however, it almost always took me a week to feel connected to the members.

Good luck on your first day!

Do you have any questions about becoming a digital nomad or how to find a coworking space that is a good fit? I’ve got the experience and am willing to share it, feel free to reach out!

If you’re a coworking space owner or manager and want to know how you can make your experience more welcoming to digital nomads….the same applies.

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