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Why Coworking is like an Epic Road Trip

On the road with Groundwork!

On the road with Groundwork!

There’s nothing quite like a fine road trip, and I’ve had my share. I drove to the West Coast with my dad while listening to Kerouac on CD. I’ve meandered through dive bars in the deep south with a college roommate. I’ve explored the coast of Uruguay in a rental sedan drinking copious amounts of mate, and I’ve been up and down the bumpy Carretera Austral in Patagonia in a pickup with a revolving cast of hitch hikers.

Most recently, I piled into a car with three other Groundwork! members and headed to Philly for the weekend. As the hours passed in the car the conversation ranged from silly jokes to serious conversations, to vulnerable confessions. I realized that there is a common thread that makes all road trips so epic: that special bond that forms within the close confines of a vehicle hurdling through space.

So how does this all relate to the dynamics of coworking? I’ve parsed my road trip experiences into a set of guidelines, which, interpreted correctly, relate to social aspects of a coworking space. Here they are:

1. Riding shotgun? Don’t take it lightly.

First of all, don’t fall asleep if you’re in shot gun. Your job is to navigate, control the music, and unwrap snacks and goodies for your driver (and serve the mate if that driver happens to be me). It’s an important role. Road trips are a team effort, and so is your coworking space. So don’t forget to chip in: make coffee, empty the dishwasher, chat with new members… do your part to make everybody’s experience better.

2. The soundtrack is key. (And it will involve some compromise.)

I have a good friend who is very controlling about the road trip music. He would hop in the car, plug in his own iPod, and sing loudly while playing air instruments for the duration of the journey. Fortunately I’m pretty tolerant and I liked most of his music. But in most cases, we have to cease control from time to time. Most of us join coworking spaces because we like some noise in the background, but it’s not always ideal. Coworking teaches us to be flexible and roll with the punches, while also being considerate of others.

3. Don’t be afraid of silence.

It can be tempting to fill all the space with conversation, but sometimes staring out the window and listening to music can be pretty awesome. There’s something powerful about sharing a unique, individualized experience in the presence of others. This is very much a part of coworking. I’m amazed at the bond that forms simply by working side by side with another person. In a matter of weeks, I feel like I’ve known them forever.

4. Look outside for inspiration.

I get my best ideas on the road. The visual stimulus of the world rushing by outside a car window is my muse. I will always be happy on the road. You may not have the same muse, but road trips can still be a reminder to go out and connect with whatever it is that inspires you.

5. It ain’t about the destination.

So obvious, right? The best road trips are the ones where you’re actually sad to get out of the car. The journey was that freakin’ good. Work should be the same way. I believe that coworking culture is ultimately about choice, and about finding work that excites us. Sure, there are boring moments like that long stretch across Kansas or updating your P&L every month. But even in Kansas, I saw the most beautiful sunset ever. And even in the most mundane moments of running Groundwork, I feel pretty damn satisfied.

Road trips, coworking… these guidelines could apply to a lot of experiences. The point is to go out and find one that works. Remember to take care of your traveling companions, and enjoy the ride.

Patagonia Road

Somewhere in Patagonia.

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