I wrote this post in 2020, just after I decided to focus on coliving. I'm sharing it so that you can understand what deeper drives and stories moved me into this scene - and how the main reason for pushing the coliving scene forward wasn't coliving in itself, but rather the transformational power behind it.
I few years back, I would have never imagined to become a coliving expert and operator. My background was in the startup and tech industry - I was passionate about creating large-scale impact and saw the potential that startups had of “changing the world”.
In 2015, I heard the term “coliving” for the first time when my friend Thomas Despin created a coliving space called StartupHouse in Budapest. Thomas was on a worldtour with his bike and got stuck in Budapest during the winter time, when he decided to rent out a large AirBnb and host a two-month coliving space for entrepreneurs.
I loved the idea and wanted to help him build it out in other cities like Paris, but my focus shifted back to the startup scene, and Thomas continued his own journey. For me, that meant being part of a new startup and focussing on it full time.
Until I got overworked and depressed. And ended up in a breakdown.
That was the turning point in my recent years and led me to change my life radically.
Following that breakdown, I left the work environment, sold my belongings, became a minimalist and nomadic. And decided to take the next years to go on my own healing journey across the world.
What I didn’t know was that coliving would become a core part of my world without knowing it.
In my first month as a digital nomad, I decided to attend the Mindvalley University event in Barcelona. It was a one-month program with 500 participants from around the world, who gathered in the Catalan capital to attend personal and professional growth classes.
At that time, I was low on cash flows and remember seeing an ad on AirBnb: 1800€ for a shared bed on a roof in the worst location imaginable. That was a no-go for me.
So my best friend Renat, who attended to event as well, came up with an idea: what if we rent out of a big space, sub-lease it to participants, and create our very own coliving space?
10 days before the event started, we made a Facebook post in the attendee group and asked the question: “who is still looking for housing?” The result: more than 30 people commented desperately on the post. We knew we where onto something.
We then put the idea into action: in the span of one week, we hired a virtual assistant who called up all Barcelonan real estate agencies, found a gorgeous 300 m2 apartment on Passeig de Gracia (Barcelona’s most expensive central street), came up with a website and coliving concept around personal growth, and got 15 people to commit to the experience.
We named the coliving space the Lifestyle Engineering House, inspired by a mastermind that my friend Renat himself created and that focussed on implementing lifestyle design techniques.
The Lifestyle Engineering house was a pure success. We hosted workshops, slumber parties, jam sessions, family dinners, and made some of the most beautiful connections of our lifetime.
But then the event ended, and we moved on. On my side, I left Barcelona, continued touring across Europe and the States, and focussed on building out my marketing agency.
For the next year, I believed that building out my marketing agency was my core focus. What I didn’t realize was that coliving became a side-project of its own.
While in Mexico, Renat and I took a villa for four months and opened the second Lifestyle Engineering House. It was a low-key coliving space for 5 people only, and we invited friends only. But it did its job, and we created our own culture and rituals within that space - of gratitude, love, and belonging.
After a few solo travels, we ended up at the Mindvalley University event of 2018, this time in Estonia’s capital Tallinn. Not knowing where to go next, we did what we already knew: we convinced 8 people to move with us to Barcelona, moved into the same space that we rented the year before, and opened the third Lifestyle Engineering House.
This time, it was a longer coliving experience of three months, and we started professionalizing the experience: we created a chatbot for resident selection, organised weekly house meetings, created a collaborative budget, and had a beautiful onboarding experience that included personalized welcoming cards and real Catalan chocolate.
Truth is, the coliving space was still a side-project, made out of my necessity to live somewhere, and to live well - with great amenities, and more importantly, surrounded by people I love and that inspire me.
It was only in November 2018, at the end of the Barcelona experience, that it hit me.
“I just had the most transformational time of my life.”
“I found my soul partner.”
“Gui, last week was the most productive week I ever had.”
“Thank you. I found purpose in my life again.”
Those were the feedback I received from people who stayed at the place.
This was when it all came together - coliving wasn’t a side-project anymore. Coliving rather was the one project I was looking for to really immerse myself in it.
The realisation that coliving can be transformational and create such profound impact on people made me dig my nose into the subject. I realised that growth and belonging are two fundamental needs that our society often doesn’t give us - and that coliving was an answer to both of them.
Since that realisation, I decided to create my very own coliving space, which took place in Bali. Under the name of Evolve Coliving, I hosted a coliving experience focussing on personal growth, hosted workshops from breathwork to coaching sessions, and built out the local Bali community of like-minded people.
At the same time, I started reaching out to people in the industry. This led me to talking to more than 100+ coliving experts and operators around the world, giving me key insights into what is happening and how coliving is becoming a major real estate trend.
Eventually, I realized that coliving is still a new phenomena. While flatsharing and student housing have been around for decades, coliving as a service for “normal” professionals is rather a new trend, which has the potential to become one of the world’s largest industries.
This led me to creating Artof.Co, a news platform in which I educate on the coliving scene and showcase resources around coliving operations. And now, I just started a 6-month coliving worldtour, in which I will be interviewing operators on best practices, to eventually publish a book on how coliving spaces can be thriving.
All of this journey started with one fundamental issue: not knowing where to live, but knowing that I didn’t want to live by myself.
Now I know that myself and many others can create such spaces that embody strong community and affordability. I truly believe that coliving can solve both the problem of rising real estate prices and of increasing loneliness in cities. It’s just a matter of time and of allowing more people to create those spaces - it it has hence become my mission to foster the coliving movement, believing that coliving can be the norm instead of the exception.
Reach out to me or read more about coliving if you’re on the same path. And if coliving is new to you, I can only recommend one thing: try it out, and experience it yourself.