It’s nine in the morning in Nicaragua as Julia greets me over skype with a refreshed ‘Hello’. As soon as the picture from her webcam charges I can see her happy grin, long braided hair, tanned skin, in a hammock. She quickly turns her phone around and shows me that she is indeed sitting in a hammock on the deck of their house in the Nicaraguan forest. It’s been really hot and humid she tells me and adds, with another twist of the phone to show me happily, that they have a pool.
Julia is not on holiday, she is working and creating with her Co-Founder Diego a workspace for others in the co-living community ‘the WiFi tribe’ which has been moving locations since April of this year. The WiFi Tribe is facilitating a workspace, co-living and travel experience for twelve remote workers, such as graphic, motion and UX designers, web and iOS developers, consultants and marketers, just to give an example what kind of jobs they have. The application process is a short application form, followed by a quick phone call/interview so that they can get to know each other a bit better. Once accepted they invite people for one location first (e.g. Portugal). The final stage is an invitation into the long-term tribe after participants have stayed with them in that first location. Once in the long-term community, travelers can join any location at any time, as long as there’s space! This group is currently in Nicaragua, sharing the house for living and working and sharing the experience of being in a new environment. Julia and Diego attract young entrepreneurs, digital nomads, to join their long term travelling community: To work together, to learn from each other and to have a rich personal development experience through this work-and-travel.
The idea for this collective arose in January, in March the website announcing the WiFi Tribe was launched and only two weeks later a first group has formed in La Paz, Bolivia. Since then the tribe has moved north, is now currently stationed in Nicaragua and planning the next trip to Portugal in a few weeks.
Comparing the WiFi Tribe to other programs, it stands out for its flexibility and for the selection of the individuals. Julia tells me that they aim to always be moving having people come in for two weeks or longer, and then move on to join another tribe when they please. During our conversations there are many more interesting insights she shares with me.
Who joins you in the tribe?
It’s not the typical digital nomad, the cliche of a travel blogger but all kinds of professionals who can work location independent: There have been marketers, developers, designers and various consultants with us. People who have already started a company, who failed and can talk about their experiences and a lot of freelancers that work together with different clients.
Most of our tribe members have already worked remotely, location-independent, but have encountered the problem of finding a good location to work from. When travelling alone you stay in a hostel or an airbnb because you need to stick to a budget yet at the same time want to be surrounded by people but you have the problem that you are in a beautiful location, surrounded by people who only want to travel, backpackers who look at you strangely and ask “What you are working? Come with us, we’ll go out for a beer” which makes it hard for you to be productive and efficient.
So they have tried to work location independently but haven’t found the right environment for themselves or want to be surrounded by like-minded people, who have the same spirit as me, who are in the same situation, with whom they can exchange thoughts and ideas, hold discussions and the day dream in the same world. We have seen that this group cohesion is motivating, creates productivity and keeps the spirit alive.
Do you think that other than working location independently the group has something in common?
Yes, we share the same values. As a great group experience is very important for us we try to look for a good fit, a good mix.
Our tribe members need to be team-oriented, to be able to share things with others, to take care of her or himself….The values that are important to us are camaraderie, respect and social awareness – to support and give back to the community.
How do you select the people?
We have a strict application with an online questionnaire and then a detailed skype call because we want to create a great community experience. We want to have a mix of people so that the participants can get the most of this experience.
The most important for us is that participants have had the experience of sharing, of living together, in a shared flat during college years, for a longer stay in a hostel or spending time in a similar co-living space and that they are used to travelling. We do not organize a strict trip with a pre-made schedule that we stick to, but rather we go with the flow and things evolve naturally, so we need people that are travel-savvy, that are laid back in that sense. Digital nomads are very independent, self-sufficient and flexible even when it comes to relationships so on the weekends, when we do trips, it often happens that the group splits up. One wants to go kayaking the other wants to climb a volcano, another goes sailing – It’s a nice experience to have this mix, to go our own ways and come back together. It’s intuitive and we don’t have to prepare a program beforehand – the spontaneity is kept alive in that way.
Why do digital nomads join you?
Because they are looking for more than just work. With the WiFi Tribe you become part of a community:
- You can continue your work and you are enriched by others, like minded professionals and you are motivated by the presence of other smart people working on great things,
- You can continue to travel and yet you get to share this experience, to establish as strong connection with locals and fellow travellers and opt out whenever you want and
- You are surrounded by interesting people who are looking for the same lifestyle, sharing the same worries and probably asking themselves the same questions in life so you create a very tight personal bond.
You are in a new place but with us you can experience a sense of belonging. Your own tribe. You are in a new place but we make you feel like a local.
Do the tribe members move around with you?
Yes, but we are just starting so I am sure we will see more of this hopping from one tribe to the next in the future.
We are a long term community, we aim to create a network of people who can support each other, give different services and work together. We are a tribe, a family, where we know each other. Even if you don’t know a specific person you have a common ground and a way to get in touch for example through our facebook group – you interchange information, people meet..
We have seen different people work together – like a designer helping another person with the launch of the website – and some even have met again in Colombia and on the nomad cruise in this short time.
Whenever we are here in our house there are workshops, skill exchange and we want to facilitate this.
What are your next plans?
We are planning next our next destinations in Europe: Portugal, Italy, and then probably a country in East Europe. Right now Budapest is really trending for digital nomads, we will see and then as the next step we will head south to Africa – to Tanzania and to South Africa.
Our goal for next year is to have five locations going on at the same time. On every continent there will be one tribe that moves within the continent and our members can hop from one destination to the next, stay for three months with us in a specific continent to get the most out of the locations or even move a whole year throughout the world.