What's the Difference Between Good and Bad Co-Living?
Michael and I are digital nomads, indefinitely traveling the world as we write our novels. For the most part, we stay at co-living facilities -- places specifically designed for the digital nomad. In most of them, you have a private room, and then share common work and recreational space. The whole point is to live intentionally and be part of a community, since traveling to a city without friends or co-workers can be isolating.
What's the difference between a good co-living facility and a bad one?
We spent the winter at Roam, which is currently the "gold standard" for great co-living (with locations in Tokyo, New York, San Francisco, Bali, and Miami, where we were). And we spent the spring on Malta, in Cocohub, which is an good example of everything bad about co-living.
What's the difference? It all boils down to wastebaskets.
No, seriously. Roam has one in each room, along with regular housekeeping, where those wastebaskets are emptied.
Cocohub doesn't have wastebaskets in the rooms. Which means you're responsible for finding your own trashbag, and somehow awkwardly propping it up or hanging it on something, and then disposing of it when it's full.
Yes, this is a metaphor. Basically, it's the little things that make co-living a good experience. Roam isn't cheap, but they deliver what they promise.
Cocohub isn't that much less expensive, but it doesn't seem to care about the little things at all.
Here's a partial list of what annoyed us: a very, very serious infestation of mosquitoes in the rooms; cheap mosquito netting with holes; an infestation of flies in the work space; not nearly enough housekeeping in the common space, so the shared bathrooms and (especially) the kitchen are usually disgusting; almost no pots, pans, or other kitchen utensils; horrible, ratty towels that were obviously bought at a second hand store; couches that look and feel like they came directly from a frat house; instead of proper office chairs in the co-work space, a motley collection of old battered kitchen table chairs; furniture with no knobs, closets with no hangers; "community events" only once a week; little privacy in the bathrooms; lack of storage space in the kitchen; plumbing problems; lots of noise outside (after being promised it was quiet).
This is just a partial list. Seriously, there are tables that I don't think got cleaned in the entire seven weeks we were there.
Needless to say, we were never asked for our feedback, which was typical. Every single resident there had all the same complaints (and then some), but the proprietor seemed defiantly oblivious. He seemed to have no interest in improving, but he was very good at making excuses.
Basically, Cocohub is a hostel that's charging co-living prices. Or maybe a frathouse with less sex (mostly because of all the bugs).
Here's the thing. Digital nomads don't have homes, so our temporary lodging becomes our home. We're not on holiday, so we're not expecting fancy digs. Mostly, we're doing co-living for the community aspect.
But at the same time, we're not dirt-poor college kids touring Europe for the summer, just looking for a place to sleep while we party and see the sights. Most of us are established adults with functioning businesses.
We don't need comfort, but we want to be comfortable.
Basically, we're way too old to live in a sh*thole. Plus, we need to work! We can't afford to spend the day nursing mosquito bites and slapping flies.
The irony to all this? Despite the crappy, overpriced accommodations, we actually enjoyed ourselves in Malta. Why? Because we met so many great people!
Basically, the people who do co-living are so great that they (almost) make up for very crappy accommodations.