Two months at Nine in Tenerife— my first Coliving Experience
One fine socially isolated November day I had enough. I decided that there must be a better way to enjoy life. Even during a pandemic. I was missing social interaction. I was craving sunshine. I wanted to meet others who felt the same way. I started googling and found the term “Coliving”. Living and working with likeminded people under the same roof. The concept seemed to be tailored to my needs. Only hours later I sent a booking request to Nine Coliving in Tenerife for a stay of two months — and got a confirmation right away.
This article summarizes my experiences and insights while staying at Nine at the beginning of 2021.
Nine Coliving is located in La Orotava, a picturesque town in the North of Tenerife. It is “the hilliest town in Spain” and about 10 minutes car drive away from the sea. Spain’s highest mountain, El Teide (3715m above sealevel) is enthroned majestically in the centre of the island and can be seen from almost everywhere. Including Nine’s rooftop terrace.
Nine can host up to about 15 people. Plus Lara, everybody’s favorite quadruped. There is a beautiful and well-equipped coworking space, a spacious living room, 2 rooms for calls, a shared kitchen, a patio and a large rooftop terrace with a magnificent view. Most people have their own room, but shared rooms are available too.
Breakfast is included in the price and is served every day from 8–11AM. On top of that, there is a family BBQ in the garden every Sunday evening. In addition to these meals, 1–2 family dinners or similar were taking place every week during my stay. These dinners are cooked by either the host or a coliving member and cost extra.
Members post on the Nine Slack channel frequently when they are going for a beach, walks or hikes and ask others to join. It would be fair to say that something is going on almost every day. There is even a weekly lunch for practicing Spanish and during my stay a masseur came 4 times and relaxed any stiff areas for as little as 25 EUR per hour.
One reason that I chose Nine rather than any other Coliving that I saw on coliving.com was the yoga practice: there is a 1 hour yoga session on the rooftop (or in case of rain in the living room) every single day. If you have ever been to a yoga retreat, you can appreciate what a luxury that is. I participated between 2 to 4 times per week.
Can you actually work there?
Oh yes. Actually I worked more than back at home in Switzerland. After all, I saved so much time not needing to clean, doing less groceries and barely any to organize my social life. I will never forget how on my first night two people asked me to come out for dinner with them right away.
On top of that I really liked the workspace. People were quiet and respectful of each other’s time. Whenever I missed not actually having more time to discover the island I envisioned my alternative reality back at home: foggy outlooks and a solitary flat. Looking at some palm trees in the sun from the inside did not feel so bad then.
Tenerife is the biggest and most populated of the 7 Canary islands. The others are Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hiero. I have not set foot on any other island, as there is plenty to do on Tenerife itself. I daresay, if you were to take a holiday of 2–3 weeks, you will have seen more of the island than I did. After all, I did not come for holiday, but simply shifted my home-office from Zürich to… a holiday place.
- Transport: Having a car in Tenerife is advisable. Public transport works well, but if you want to go to the South from La Orotava, this will easily take you almost 3 hours and 2 changes of busses. I mainly did not get a car, as I would have used it way too little and somehow, when the group undertook an activity such as a hike, there were always enough cars around.
- Language: my Spanish is… non-existent, but I survived outside the house thanks to a few standard-phrases. For something a little more challenging like a Spanish pre-paid simcard, however, I was really glad that one of Nine’s staff had time to come wtih me. English is not widely spoken in the North of the island, which is much less touristy than the South.
- Climate: I was surprised at how often I was cold in Tenerife. Night temperatures in La Orotava could go down to about 10 degrees in this exceptionally cold winter. Generally, the weather hardly stays the same for an entire day in any given place on the island. This leads to an ever-changing scenery, which is enchanting, especially when you go on a hike. Rain was rare. I can barely remember 3 rainy days in 2 months.
- Things to do: Tenerife is a hiking paradise and hiking was a favorite pass-time for me and many of my housemates. Surfing, kite-surfing and paragliding are available too. When I arrived, restaurants with outside seating areas were open and shortly after, we could even dine inside with up to 6 people at one table. On my last weekend, we even attended a live-music session in craft-beer pub in Puerto de la Cruz.
- Food: while I was not a big fan of Spanish food (too oily!), Tenerife changed my mind, especially Guachinches — a type of restaurant typical for the canary islands. I loved to eat the local cheeses, savored the meat-variety (goat stew is yummy!), croquettas filled with ham or fish or tortillas. At the coast, seafood of course is a treat as well. Obviously, not the most vegan/vegetarian-friendly options, but those were well catered for at all family dinners at Nine. Even I at some point opted mainly for the vegan option at the dinners. Having a lot plant-based eaters around made me more aware of how many yummy vegetarian options exist. And while I would not forgo meat and especially seafood entirely, it does not hurt to eat less of them.
- Atmosphere: overall, the vibe on the island was relaxed. In the South, people tended to be a little less strict about the pandemic rules, while in the North, people took wearing masks and sticking to curfew times rather seriously. I never felt much restricted by those rules: on the plus side a curfew at 10 or 11 PM guarantees that you get enough sleep. The relaxedness also showed on the road: drivers barely honk and its possible to ride with your scooter on the highway! (did such a ride once — quite impressive).
- Costs: coming from Switzerland with its notoriously high costs of living, living in Tenerife was heaven. I hardly every paid more than 15 EUR for a dinner, wine included. Bus-rides are cheap too (<10 EUR to get around pretty much the entire island) and so are groceries. My weekly shopping never exceeded 30 EUR, but I have to add that there were often left-overs from dinners in the shared compartment of the fridge at Nine, so I simply did not need to go shopping a lot.
Effects on me
There is a couple of things that struck me as surprising. As this was my first coliving experience, I can not judge whether those appeared thanks to Nine, the digital nomad spirit, the specific constellation of people or a combination of all of them:
I became much more relaxed
I truly enjoyed the fact that I did not need to devote time to organize my social life. It took care of itself. The Nine community was really inclusive and I could be sure that if an activity was coming up, I would know about it. Or, if I had an idea, that I would find people to tag along.
It happened more than once that I started my weekend without much of a plan and ended up with the most amazing activity. Of course even on Tenerife you every now and then make a plan, but mostly you decide on the spur of the moment. A girl’s weekend with more than 5 ladies on the other side of the island? Time from idea to realization: 1 week.
I started taking myself less seriously
People in Nine were a broad mix of professionals from Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, mainland Spain, UK and others. I instantly felt that we all had something in common. At least the conscious decision to decide against our home countries to make most of our lives. Age? Hardly talked about. Boasting with achievements? Who cares. Sharing what we are passionate about? Absolutely!
Often, when I meet friends and acquaintances at home, it is due to a conscious effort and for a limited amount of time. Only at Nine I realized that this has lead to me often trying to fit a lot of things into such encounters. At Nine, there is time to get to know one another and there is no need to squeeze things into conversations. Did not manage to talk about a topic during breakfast? No worries, do it later at lunch or dinner. I realized how my focus shifted away from me towards the group. I guess this is likely to happen, if you live together with other people. For me, having lived alone for the past 6 years, this was a revelation.
(Almost) only meaningful activities
My days consisted of work (mostly), work-outs (high-five to my boutique gym in Zürich which has been doing great live-stream trainings for a year now), yoga and conversations. “What else?” You might ask. Remember cleaning, planning, texting, cooking, scrolling and overthinking? Of course they did not disappear completely, but these activities were reduced to a minimum. I woke up energized most mornings, as I knew I could look forward to my day filled with meaningful activities. Clearly, being in love with your job helps with this. I was called “work machine” or “workoholic” and clearly, I missed out on a couple of activities, as I have given preference to building up successful businesses. But I did not mind. The alternative back at home was to miss out on even more activities and do even more meaningless things.
Actually, the first sentence of this paragraph is wrong. Another activity I pursued a lot more often, was reflecting and being thankful. I wrote postcards to friends at home, painted my emotions or simply took in the sunshine on the rooftop terrace with a big smile. These are all solitary activities. I prefer to pursue them when I am surrounded by people, as it means I am consciously choosing them rather than filling time.
Less is more
There is a good deal of clothes that I brought to the island, which I never wore. The winter 2021 was surprisingly cold in Nine and the house is not meant to keep the cold out. Needless to say, not all those shorts and shirts saw the sun a lot. But even less so did my tons of clothes back at home in Switzerland. Did I miss them? No. In fact I sensed a feeling of heaviness when I thought of them.
I am looking forward to my next clean-up session when I will dispose of a lot of them. Clothes are a mean of self-expression for me and walking by the windows of designer stores, they still attract my attention if I can identify with a style. Yet, at least in the coliving set-up they have been downgraded to secondary actors in the play of self-actualization. Being surrounded by people all day long, the way for me to integrate was through stories, ideas, experiences and questions and little much else.
No bad vibes
There was a complete absence of bad-mouthing, judging or sarcasm at Nine. Maybe it is because we are in this all together and therefore it is more apparent than ever that there is no value-add from such activities. Or everyone shares a similar mindset to begin with — that’s why people gather in this place in the first place. Or maybe it is simply impossible to give off bad vibes in such a beautiful place? Whatever the reason, the absence of bad vibes leads to a lot of positive stimulation: curiosity, creativity and exchanges of ideas are ever-present.
What is next?
You probably guessed it by now: I have become a fan of coliving. If it is well managed, which it was at Nine. For most parts it felt that the community took care of itself and little management was needed, if any at all. Yet, I am convinced it is the overall set-up and years of experience of the founder, Anne that have lead to this. Clearly, if I had just wanted to stay anywhere in Tenerife to work and enjoy better weather than at home, I would have found many cheaper options. What I came for, though, was exactly what coliving at Nine offered: social life, like-minded individuals and new inputs. All my projects benefitted from the latter a lot thanks to the many great inputs I received from Nine coliving. Back at home, I am very keen on getting some of these vibes in coworking spaces in Zürich*.
I am keen on trying other coliving spaces or coming back to Nine. For me, Tenerife lost its image as a run-the-mill German-British holiday paradise. Instead I will forever remember it for the highest versatility in landscape and weather I have ever encountered in a place. I am still longing to climb El Teide, do many more of the countless hikes around Anaga, Masca and in the Teide National Park or … discover more secret beaches!
The next stop? Château Coliving in the Normandie, in May 2021. I am very much looking forward to meet many Nine alumni there and enjoy the experience of living and working in a castle!