Imagine being able to meet up with an international group of likeminded digital nomads in an exotic location to work, surf, hike, party and collaborate. It’s just this dream Nomad House co-founder Arthur Itey is bringing to life with his partner Rebecca Males. Their goal? To change the way we work, live and travel.
In 2013, Arthur started his first business, “I dreamt about having offices around the world. My employees would be able to change location on a monthly basis. Guess what? I didn’t get any employees and then I failed.” He left the business behind to travel around Southeast Asia for six months. In the course of his travels he met Pieter Levels, founder of Nomad List, Remote OK and Colive, who pushed him to launch the Nomad House idea. “This is the beauty of being surrounded by like-minded people, it spurred me on to create this,” Arthur says. “Without that environment, this might not have happened. Thanks Pieter!”
The rise of the digital nomad (freelancers, entrepreneurs and creative workers, with the freedom and flexibility to work anywhere in the world) has been well documented. Arthur and Rebecca bring these global wanderers together at several day retreats hosted in exotic locations around the world to, as Itey puts it “coworkation” together.
For ten days, entrepreneurs, freelancers and creative digital nomads meet at a Nomad House retreat to live, work and have fun together. “People want to travel the world, be able to work and meet cool people.” explains Arthur. “Coworkations are the perfect way to do this since everything from accommodations, to activities and workspace are all arranged.”
But, Arthur emphasizes, the Nomad House concept is bigger than just a ten day retreat, “We create the perfect environment where people can grow. Both professionally and personally. Imagine Nomad House as an incubator with lights, food and water provided to make plants grow.”
Rise of the Digital Nomad
The growing popularity of the digital nomad lifestyle can be explained by a number of trends. In the EU, between 2010 and 2011, the number of freelancers increased by 82 percent to over 8.5 million people. Unlike previous generations, only seven percent of those born between 1980-2000 wish to work for a Fortune 500 company. They will account for 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. Digital technology, from social media to easier payments online, has made popular freelance marketplaces such as Elance-Odesk or Fiverr. As a result, entrepreneurship and freelance work is on the rise.
In addition, technology and transport innovation increase the ability to work remotely. Says Arthur, “Country borders seem to disappear. Airfare is getting cheaper. WiFi is getting faster- Bali went from 1 Mbps to 25 Mbps. When you combine these factors, it makes long-term travel much easier.” This allows a new generation of freelancers and entrepreneurs to work from wherever they deem convenient or comfortable.
A New Way to Work
These trends have all contributed to the recent rise of businesses aimed at servicing digital nomads. In the last five years, the total of coworking spaces has overtaken the number of incubators and innovation centers operating in Europe. The number of coworking spaces worldwide is growing rapidly. According to annual Deskmag Coworking Forecast, over 10,000 coworking spaces will be open by the end of 2016.
Co-living, in which individuals live together with other likeminded people, is also growing in popularity. “When I started there were only three co-living programs. Today there are 49,” says Arthur. “It is becoming easier to work remotely and the remote worker community is growing. “
Co-living is a new take on an old idea, reimagined by a millennial generation that values collaboration, social networking and the sharing economy.
Collaboration and Community for the Digital Nomad
While life on the road can be exciting and rewarding, many nomads struggle with loneliness, uncertainty and the challenges associated with constantly being on the go. Arthur discovered this during his own travels, “Traveling can be really hard after six months. Losing connections with our friends back home and struggling to find new like-minded people is a real thing.”
Arthur hopes to bring digital nomads together and help introduce them to a new city. “We gather together a group of people who are working independently, but who share values and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working and having fun with talented people in the same space.”
This kind of support, says Itey, “creates a strong sense of community and belonging to the group that can be lacking from the lives of many entrepreneurs and freelancers.”
What Happens at a Nomad House Event
The Nomad House team scouts out retreat locations in lively cities with well-appointed accommodations (no hostels!), solid Wifi and comfortable coworking space. Activities like skill-swap sessions, yoga classes and hikes are also organized for guests. Nomad House has hosted events in Playa Del Carmen, Budapest, Bali and Lisbon. The next retreats are planned in Playa Bejuca and Medellin.
Nomad House’s retreats attract a diverse group of attendees. “The beauty of Nomad House is there is no demographic. We have people from 23 to 46 years old, location independent to full time in a city, freelancers to yoga teacher to founders.” According to Arthur, the events bring together people with creative and entrepreneurial mindsets. This creates a great environment conducive to meeting like-minded people to travel with, learn from and connect to. Says Arthur, “We usually connect and stay longer in the city after the retreat. It’s great to know that you have like-minded friends around you.”
How much work actually gets done at these retreats? The organizers aim to provide attendees with a healthy mix of productivity and fun. “Our retreats are focused on getting things done and learn new things. I would say each retreat is a good sixty percent work, with activities like mastermind, sharing knowledge and cofound a project,” says Arthur.
The Future of Coliving & Coworkations
What does the future of coworking and coworkations look like? Arthur believes it is important for digital nomads to have a home base in the world, “Today, having an home while your traveling cost a lot. It’s hard to manage and make your journey stressful. I would love to see long-term rental around the world with many cool things like: having communal spaces, having your space rented when you are abroad, co-working included, nice restaurant downstairs and events organized in the building.”
Arthur plans to continue to expand the experiences Nomad House offers, “I would love to have a full solution for digital nomads, from weekend retreats to long term plans around the world.”
Attend a Nomad House Retreat
Soheila is the founder of Thinkstr.co and the Principal of Oppfinn Consulting. As a project manager and consultant, her interests lie at the intersection of innovation and societal impact. On Thinkstr.co, she writes about business, technology, travel and smart cities.