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Co-working retreats are the hot new workspace for ‘digital nomads’

It seems like paradise, but what problems do they expose within our own working communities?


Ally Byers


Posted on Feb 3, 2016   Updated on May 27, 2021, 6:50 am CDT

Epic phone bills. Working every weekend. Mundane side jobs to make ends meet. Social lives and relationships disrupted. Sleeping on friends’ sofas and in parents’ spare rooms. Make no mistake. Being an entrepreneur is tough.

Yet entrepreneurialism is often seen as the ultimate in work/life goals. Groundbreaking people unafraid to live life on their terms. Silicon Valley startups and their crazy perks are no longer the cutting-edge symbol of this lifestyle, however. Now, it’s the co-work vacation.

The concept is simple: The vast majority of entrepreneurs and startup businesses are online-based; therefore, they can work from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection. Why not spend a few months working from, say, a beachfront in Bali? So, the logic goes, living costs will be so much lower that moving out there for a few months will not only allow you to focus on your goal undistracted, but you’ll actually save money you’d otherwise be spending on sky-high rent in San Francisco or Brooklyn.

That’s the key thinking behind a sweep of new businesses like Co-work Paradise in Bali, Coworking Camp in Tunisia, Hacker Paradise in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, and Hubud, also in Bali. Each specializes in creating and curating remote co-working/living environments in foreign and often exotic locations.

As for the Instagram shots, the “another day working in paradise” Facebook marketing, and the lifestyle blogs pushing this idea of the constantly working, constantly traveling nomad? Any experience that involves relocation to a hot place inevitably attracts the perception of escapism and simplified living. But look closer and the co-work paradise may reveal something a little less sunny. 

Have we really fostered a society where increasingly self-employed, increasingly isolated individuals see moving to the other side of the world as the only way to cope with the stress and living costs of work? Co-working retreats seem to be fun, educational, and a clever way of achieving work/life balance in a world hell-bent against it. Yet despite the positives, demand for this rare balance also raises questions of how today’s work economy functions closer to home. 

Image via Simon_sees/Flickr (CC by 2.0)

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*First Published: Feb 3, 2016, 10:00 am CST