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Everything You Need to Know about Volunteering in a Coliving Space

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Forget WWOOFING; working in a coliving space might just be the ultimate volunteer abroad position. 

Since I have arrived in the Azores, I feel like my days have been stretched out. Looking at the sheer number of people I met so far, all the events and days spent outside, makes me realize how much was accomplished in just a bit over a month. Most days here are filled with activities: Wednesday is morning surfing, Thursday grocery shopping for the communal dinner, and Saturday hiking.

All of that while working remotely and living in a community of people from all walks of life.

The concept of coliving isn't new.

It can be seen as the natural extension of the coworking space: a shared office targeting remote workers that provides a common space to facilitate connections, other than an alternative to the four walls of home.

Colivings take a step further in the same direction. They typically offer private rooms or shared dorms alongside communal areas, such as a shared living room, kitchen, gym and office. The idea is to provide stable accommodation to whoever lives more of a nomadic lifestyle, creating a space that feels like home rather than a sterile hotel. From digital nomads to long holiday takers, travellers and wandering souls, colivings gather an interesting array of human beings, offering not only accommodation, but a community.

I came to understand the importance of the latter when I began my volunteering experience in a coliving in the Azores. A friend of mine that I met along the road suggested the place to me. She was just coming back from a few weeks in the coliving and knew that they were often looking for new volunteers. I promptly emailed them expressing my interest and curiosity about community living. Similar opportunities are regularly advertised in volunteering websites such as workaway.info and worldpackers.com, or on platforms that exclusively focus on colivings, such as coliving.com and nomadlist.com.

My role as a volunteer is a social one.

I'm what's often referred to as "community manager." I'm the person that makes sure everyone feels comfortable and part of the group, by organizing activities, giving tips and recommendations and generally serving as a reference point for the other residents. The tasks can vary depending on the coliving, but the volunteers are generally an auxiliary figure, someone that helps the general manager create a pleasant and enjoyable environment.

In my case, I was given quite a lot of freedom in planning my own schedule and deciding how to fulfill my role at its best. We opted for a weekly planning where we keep track of all the organized activities. These are decided together with the other residents or proposed by me when the week looks a bit too uneventful, and then noted on a whiteboard in the communal area. As the owner is not currently on the island, it’s also my job to make sure everything is running smoothly, which means restocking the kitchen when necessary, giving all the essential info to the new arrivals and reporting any problems that might arise.

The best part of it? It’s a chance to create meaningful connections, often with people who most likely wouldn’t cross your path otherwise.

It’s not uncommon having very skilled professionals in the house: software engineers, entrepreneurs, NGO employees; people from different fields end up sharing the same office, and house, giving the opportunity for very insightful conversations and the chance to learn about different career paths.

We often organize skill-share evenings where anyone can give a presentation on a topic they feel knowledgeable about. Some of my favourites so far have been a workshop about SEO techniques and another about multi-day hiking. Overall, I must admit that my productivity has really improved, and I believe it's due to being in contact with other motivated professionals. Sharing our professional goals and seeing each other work every day definitely helps to stay focused. The whole environment tends to lead people to support each other, which can be a nice change for those used to working on their own most of the time.

Volunteering in a coliving is a bit like a working holiday: there is a lot of fun time and a lot of time to work on your own projects. Finding the right balance between the two is perhaps the most important skill to best succeed in the role, just like engaging with the community and working on your organization skills. It can be a great chance to have a sneak peek into the digital nomads life, or a convenient way to take a break from a life on the move. Connections with people are definitely at the core of any coliving experience, which, in the end, regardless of the places you see or the daily activities you engage in, is what makes an experience truly worth living.

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Enrico Belcore

Enrico Belcore is a freelance writer, currently volunteering in the Portuguese Islands of the Azores. He deals with culture-related journalism, alternative lifestyles and travel. His work has been featured in Bridge, The Trip Magazine, Melograno and Fortelier.

Website: https://www.clippings.me/users/enricobelcore

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