Natalie Tucker, a digital nomad from the UK, wrote this post. Natalie works as a social impact consultant and leadership coach. She is on a mission to help nomads build more meaningful social connections and lasting friendships through her community, the Happy Nomad Club. Here she shares reflections on her first experiences of coliving.
A couple of years ago, I realized I could do my work from anywhere and thought to myself, “why not go and explore?”. Since then, I’ve been on a series of trips to different spots around Europe and fallen in love with the location-independent lifestyle. Now it feels like a longer-term possibility. I’m thinking more intentionally about how to make it work best for me. I’m paying particular attention to how I find and build social connections while traveling.
The importance of social connection
As an avid solo traveler, I usually book a small apartment for myself. I especially appreciate the privacy and peace this offers. However, I also recognize the benefits of connecting with others and have found that my experience of meeting new people varies by destination.
“Connecting with others is more important than you might think. Social connection can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and actually improve our immune systems. We put our health at risk by neglecting our need to connect.” The Canadian Mental Health Association
Seeing coliving become increasingly popular and available got me wondering how it would suit me. If I’m completely honest, I was skeptical, but there’s only one way to find out for certain, right? So I decided to give it a go…
I wanted to visit Sicily but didn’t have a clear plan in mind. Searching on coliving.com, I quickly found two options that seemed to offer a gentle introduction to shared accommodation:
- Beet Community: A modern coliving space close to the historic center of Palermo.
- Cummari House: A female-only apartment in the heart of Catania.
Both have just three private rooms with desks, and shared spaces, including a kitchen and co-working space. They felt like a good match based on my need for privacy and a quiet workspace, paired with the opportunity to meet fellow travelers and socialize when I wanted to.
Experiences of coliving as a digital nomad
I was pleasantly surprised by how positive the whole experience was! Overall I found that:
I appreciated having other people around for day-to-day chit-chat: Sometimes, my work can be quite solitary, so it was nice to have others to chat with over breakfast or coffee each morning. This helped create a feeling of being 'at home’.
My hosts and fellow guests had fantastic tips on what to see, do, and eat locally: This meant I could make the most of my time in each city without having to invest the usual time in researching.
My ‘colivers’ were both diverse and like-minded: I had the opportunity to meet people from different parts of the world with completely different life experiences – students, remote tech workers, and entrepreneurs – all of whom shared an appreciation for discovering new places. I enjoyed going out for dinner and getting to know them.
I instantly became part of wider communities: At Beet Community, host Marco invites guests to join a WhatsApp group of local friends who share advice and invitations to events in Palermo. This group meets regularly for ‘apero’ which I had the chance to enjoy on my final night in town, getting some great recommendations for the rest of my trip.
Cummari is a Sicilian word meaning "female friendship that feels like family” and over time, founder Michelle has built a supportive community of women travelers who keep in touch and arrange meetups around the world.
My fears about coliving didn’t come true: Before my trip, I worried that coliving would be noisy and messy or that other guests might be difficult to share with. On the contrary, both apartments were kept clean and tidy thanks to clear guidelines and regular cleaning. They were also quiet, and my fellow guests were considerate and welcoming.
The verdict on coliving as a solo nomad
Would I do it again? Absolutely! While I wouldn't do it all the time, I definitely think it has a place in my travels. I'd be most likely to consider it for:
- A first stop when arriving in a new area and looking for support to get orientated.
- Taking a break from a solo trip to make sure I'm getting the connection I need to sustain long-term travel.
- I take shorter trips when I have limited capacity to plan and want to make the most of my time.
- When I need a good workspace and a reliable WiFi connection.
I can also see how coliving fulfills different needs, for example, for travelers who are nervous about arriving in a new place, traveling alone for the first time, or looking to put down roots somewhere and wanting to meet new people.
Choosing the right coliving
I think part of why my first experience was so positive was that I picked the right places for me. My biggest piece of advice for anyone looking to try coliving would be to get clear on what you need and want, then see if both the description and reviews of a place match what you’re looking for.
I’d definitely recommend coliving to other nomads looking for somewhere to connect with like-minded fellow travelers, and I’m already looking forward to my next stay!
You can find Natalie on Instagram.