I know what you’re thinking:
Believe me, I know. I’m a first class introvert myself. I need my me-time to recharge my batteries on a daily basis, especially after hanging out with a large group of people. Sometimes I don’t feel like interacting with anyone for a whole day or three.
Which is why you can believe me when I say: Coliving can be a wonderful experience for introverts.
But let’s start from the beginning.
What exactly is an introvert?
A lot of people mistake introversion for shyness. But introverts aren’t necessarily shy at all. They simply prefer to obtain their energy from within by reflecting in solitude, whereas extroverts gain their energy from without by surrounding themselves with a lot of people.
After a long week, an extrovert enjoys decompressing with a bunch of friends at a crowded bar, while introverts prefer to recharge solo on a relaxed night in, maybe with a partner, or a friend or two at the most.
This doesn’t mean introverts don’t enjoy social interaction or shy away from it. There can be very social introverts and, on the flipside, very shy extroverts. Most introverts, in fact, love hanging out with people - just in smaller doses than extroverts.
In a large group of people having fun all around you, finding opportunities to recharge can be extremely difficult. Which is why the idea of coliving can appear like a horror scenario to an introvert.
But it really doesn’t have to be!
Firstly, there are certain measures you can take to make sure you get those chances to recharge and don’t become overwhelmed, no matter how many people you live with. Secondly, coliving can be an enriching experience for introverts in quite a few ways.
How coliving can help you grow as an introvert
Most introverts aren’t antisocial creatures. In fact, we much enjoy the company of others. But our tendency to withdraw from the world can sometimes take on hermit-proportions. Especially if there’s nobody there to draw us back out of our comfort zones.
In a coliving situation, becoming a hermit for too long is impossible. Even if you’re taking a well-deserved me-day, you’ll interact with your room- or flatmates at least on the most basic levels. You can be alone but it’s hard to feel lonely, as can happen when we enter hermit-mode. And you’re more likely to reenter the world again of your own volition, just to join in the group shenanigans. At home, you’d probably just hermit out for days on end.
Despite living with a large group of people, you don’t have to hang out with all of them all the time. You still get to decide which activities to join and when. You’re never under any obligation to participate. You’re only under the obligation to figure out how you feel about joining right now. You can always say no. And you can always say yes. Interestingly enough in my case, once I realized this, I felt the need to say no far less. I learned to read the signs for myself, take those mini me-breaks and then make the group activities count.
Which leads me right to the last and best part of coliving as an introvert: you get to know yourself on a whole new level. You learn to listen to your body and mind. You find out that you’re actually a far more social person than you thought, even if you sometimes need a solo recharge. You learn to say no to things that seem important but actually aren’t right now. You find a way to claim even the tiniest space as yours and to make any coliving quarters your home. You learn to compromise. And, best of all, you make new friends on a deeper level than you probably have since high school.
With that all of that in mind, let’s talk about a few different ways to make yourself comfortable in a coliving scenario.
1. Find or make your own cozy space
This is fairly easy as long as you have your own private room. Make that room your safe haven, your private retreat, your cozy den to withdraw to, where you feel comfortable and relaxed, where it’s quiet and you can lock the door on the outside world and just be you.
This becomes more challenging when you’re sharing a room, like some people opt for on WiFi Tribe chapters, me among them. I’ve shared a room with other Tribers on every chapter. While I had some concerns about sharing a room with strangers in the beginning, I’ve found my ways to cope with it and embrace it.
As long as you can set up your own little corner in the shared space, you’ll be fine. This will likely be the area around your bed. Claim it (without encroaching on your roommates’ spaces) by making it as comfortable as possible and adding a few personal touches to it. Unpack. Set a favorite photo on the nightstand or make sure your noise-cancelling headphones are within easy reach.
On that note, noise-cancelling headphones are a great way to retreat from the world even in a shared room. Get a pair now. You can thank me later.
If necessary, set up some shared ground rules with your roommates. This can be anything from a strict “please no other people in our room” to “please don’t disturb me when I’m wearing my headphones”. Of course you all have to compromise, but your bedroom shouldn’t become the community hangout space if that’s not what all of you want.
Explain to non-roommates trying to encroach on your room that you need your peace and quiet and then it’s okay to send them away. Most people understand the need for privacy so don’t worry about hurting their feelings. In a coliving community where people have their own projects to work on, they'll have even more of an understanding of needing time to hide and get on with stuff or have downtime alone. They will get it, I promise.
2. Take time for yourself
In the beginning, I found it difficult to find time for myself - and to realise that I needed time for myself.
You may struggle with this at first, too. In the beginning, everything is new and exciting. You do so many things together: go on trips and adventures together, go out at night together, go to breakfast, lunch and dinner together, find the next cool cafe to cowork from together. Someone is always doing something fun that you can’t wait to join. And you don’t want to be the party pooper that doesn’t go along with it all.
But if you keep going in introvert-overdrive, a crash is inevitable. One day you’ll wake up and feel exhausted. Irritated and irritable. Antisocial. Depressed, even. At this point, it’s high time for some you-time.
Withdraw to your room. Go for a long solo walk. Find a workspace just for yourself. Do yoga in the park. Spend the evening reading or meditating. Watch your favorite TV-show. Have dinner alone at home or even alone at a restaurant. Whatever you do, don’t worry about what the others are thinking about you not joining them, because this is time you need to recharge.
If possible, don’t let it get to the crash. Take small breaks from the group every day or whenever you need them. Hang out with just a few people from the group, not everyone at once all the time. Listen inside yourself when someone suggests doing something - do you really feel like joining in right now? It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to not join and do your own thing instead.
Learn to read the signs: exhaustion, irritability, anxiety and depression are some of the most common. Understand your limits and be okay with them. Let go of that vision of yourself being the life of every party, going on every adventure, and participating in every group activity.
And most important - and usually the most difficult - of all:
3. Let go of the FOMO
Fear of missing out (=FOMO) is any introvert’s greatest challenge. How do you enjoy your “boring” alone-time when the rest of the group is out and about, tasting new foods, visiting the sites, dancing the night away, rafting down rivers, and in general having all the fun - together.
Without you. Because you’re sitting at home alone, hoping to recharge your batteries even as you’re obsessing about all the cool experiences everyone but you is having right now.
That’s FOMO. And it’s a bitch. Because feeling it won’t let your mind come to rest the way it needs to. Recuperating will take longer if you hold on to the FOMO.
So let it go. Wish the others fun and joy with all your heart and then focus on you. Find something fun to do by and for yourself that will bring you joy. Bask in your own company. Then by the time the others get back, you’ll be excited to see them again, to tell them about your amazing solo day and to listen to the stories of theirs. And next time, you’ll feel up to joining them again.
4. Live with great people...
The concept is simple and I've put it as our last point for today because it will make all of the first three points, easier.
Do your best to find coliving spaces and groups that share the same fundamental values as you. It just makes your life far less awkward because underneath it all, you have a greater chance of already understanding one another.
Don't be afraid to 'test drive' groups if you can. At WiFi Tribe, prospective members who aren't sure, can come and meet some of our members if they are in the area. Once you've spent an evening getting to know a few people, you can make a good decision about whether coliving with us is the right thing for you right now.
If you like the look of coliving spaces by companies like Roam or Outsite, why not try staying for a little while before you fully commit? Finding the right place and group for you is key to enjoying the coliving experience as much as an extrovert would.
If coliving sounds more intriguing to you after reading this, why not join the best coliving group in the world. Apply here to join WiFi Tribe on one or more of our many wonderful chapters and find out why coliving is amazing - even for introverts like us. If you've got any other top tips, or you're encouraged by this post as an introvert, please leave your comments below!
Pia Newman is a copywriter, translator, virtual assistant and novelist. She finds her inspiration in many things, but above all in traveling around the world as a digital nomad and a happy member of WiFi Tribe. Follow both her novel writing- and digital nomad journey on her English blog, or find out more about her services, as well as her guidebooks on virtual assistance and earning money online on her German website