Ep2: Surfing New Waves with Anne Kuppens, founder of Nine Coliving

🌟 New episode alert! 🎙️ Join us as we chat with Anne Kuppens from Nine Coliving in Tenerife, one of Europe’s pioneering colivings. 🏝️ Discover Anne’s unique path from biology teacher to coliving trailblazer, and her insights into the evolving world of remote work.

In this episode, Anne talks about the challenges and thrills of setting up a coliving in a new country, her surf-themed pop-up colivings from Senegal to Sri Lanka, and how she’s revolutionizing remote work and community building. 🏄‍♀️🌍

Get a glimpse of Anne’s adventurous spirit and innovative ideas in transforming the coliving scene. Tune in for an ocean of insights and waves of inspiration! 🎧

Read Anne's Interview

Cesar: Hello, everybody. Welcome to Colivers Club, powered by Mapmelon. I’m Cesar Alberca, and today we have Anne Kuppens from Nine Coliving. Originally from Holland, Anne is famous for her coliving space in Tenerife, one of the most amazing places on earth. I’ve visited a few times and absolutely love it.

She’s also an educator, teaching others how to start their own colivings and has given several talks on community building. Hello Anne, how are you doing?

Anne: Hi, Cesar. Thanks for having me. I’m doing very well, thank you.

Cesar: Great to hear! You’re not only managing the coliving in Tenerife, but now you’re venturing into something I find fascinating, and I’m sure our listeners will too – pop-up colivings. Could you share more about this concept?

Anne: Absolutely. It’s an organic concept, stemming from my passion for surfing and desire to explore new places while sharing the experience. We recently did a surf-themed pop-up coliving in September in Senegal. We stayed on Angor Island, a small, off-grid location near Dakar. It’s remote in the sense of limited infrastructure but still close to the mainland. The island lacks certain amenities like consistent electricity and water supply, but it’s incredibly beautiful and we stayed in a surf camp there.

Cesar: That sounds amazing. With the strong community you’ve built at Nine Coliving, and referring to previous guests as Niners, it seems like a natural progression. It’s cool that you can organize these unique experiences like the surf pop-up in Senegal. Any other similar events or future plans?

Anne: Yes, one of our ex-Niners, Ethan, who’s been a significant part of Nine Coliving, is collaborating with me for a similar pop-up in Sri Lanka this April. It’s a more known surfing destination, but new to me. We’re looking to blend surfing with remote work, ensuring better facilities for working remotely, unlike Senegal where it was a bit challenging. The plan is to accommodate about 10 to 15 people for either two weeks or a month, focusing on both surfing and providing a conducive work environment.

Cesar: That sounds like a great opportunity for the community. As an organizer, what do you provide to participants of these pop-ups?

Anne: It’s still very much an evolving concept. For Angor Island, we collaborated with an existing surf camp, which helped with the structure – like meals, surf equipment, and transport. For Sri Lanka, we’re considering renting a larger property to manage more aspects ourselves, especially to enhance the co-working experience with designated spaces and better facilities for calls. The aim is to create a community experience for a small group, focusing on both work and leisure.

Cesar: And how can people get involved with these exciting plans? Is there a platform or a way to sign up?

Anne: Right now, we’re focusing on bringing our existing network to these pop-ups, especially with the success we had in Senegal. Working with Ethan, we might open these events more to the public, but it’ll mostly be through our networks – Nine’s Instagram, newsletters, and word-of-mouth. We haven’t decided on a specific platform for broader outreach yet, but it’s something we’re considering.

Cesar: That makes sense. The Nine Slack channel is always buzzing with updates and plans from Niners all over, including Tenerife and beyond. It’s fascinating to see the community’s vibrancy and reach.

Anne: Absolutely.

Cesar: It’s exciting to see how colivings are evolving into these themed pop-ups. Do you envision a network of colivings offering these thematic experiences, like a surf-focused month in one place, then something else in another? Or is it more about seeing where the opportunity takes you?

Anne: I love exploring new possibilities and collaborating with others. That’s how Ethan and I started planning together. I’m definitely open to working with other colivings. We’ve even discussed the idea of a summer camp-style pop-up with a few colivings. It’s a lot of work and still in the early stages, but it’s an exciting prospect. Right now, my focus is on surf-related destinations that aren’t mainstream. However, it doesn’t rule out other themes like cooking, dancing, tech-focused retreats, or even month-long learning experiences, which Ethan is keen on exploring.

Cesar: Surfing is a cool theme. I might need to brush up on my skills to join one of these adventures!

Anne: In Senegal, we had beginners too. We offer surf lessons, so it’s open to everyone, not just seasoned surfers. It’s particularly appealing to those new to surfing or looking to improve.

Cesar: I’m more of a web surfer, so maybe I’ll join next time. Currently, I’m in Madrid, not traveling much. But I’m intrigued by the idea of establishing a base, like you did in Tenerife. Many nomads I meet don’t have a fixed base. What’s your take on having a home base?

Anne: It varies from person to person. Most remote workers enjoy the nomadic lifestyle for a while, but eventually crave stability. We see many Niners returning to Tenerife to establish their base here. Some live here most of the year, others for a few months while continuing to travel. Having a community and familiar places can be important. It was for me. After five and a half years, I’m starting to crave travel again, hence the pop-ups. But having a base is crucial for me.

Cesar: Let’s delve deeper into a few topics. You started Nine Coliving in Tenerife, not being a local. How was that experience? Any challenges in setting up a coliving in a foreign country?

Anne: When I arrived, the town wasn’t very touristy, and there were few foreigners starting businesses. The locals were very welcoming. The main challenges were the language barrier and navigating the local bureaucracy, which is quite different from the Netherlands. Understanding the paperwork, the system, and how things work here, like going to multiple offices for different documents, was a learning curve.

Cesar: I empathize with the challenges of navigating different systems as a Spanish citizen and web developer. I know it can be complex.

Anne: Indeed, but that’s part of the experience. If I wanted simplicity, I would have stayed in the Netherlands. Despite the complexity, the locals here have been incredibly helpful and friendly, even at the town hall and the bank. Speaking Spanish upon arrival was a huge advantage, as English isn’t widely spoken here. Overall, I’ve felt very welcomed.

Cesar: You’ve traveled extensively through South America and even lived in Colombia. That’s where you picked up Spanish, right?

Anne: Yes, my travels across South America and living in Colombia helped me learn Spanish. It was enough to get by and, of course, to dance salsa!

Cesar: Tenerife seems like a fusion of Spanish mainland and South American cultures.

Anne: Absolutely, it’s the perfect mix of Latin American and European cultures. There’s a diverse mix of Europeans, Spaniards, Canarians, and Latin Americans. I love the blend of everything here.

Cesar: And you mentioned being established in Tenerife for five and a half years. How do you see the next five years unfolding for Nine Coliving or your personal ventures?

Anne: I have some ideas. I’m open to what comes my way. The pop-ups started as I craved more travel and exploring surf spots. I enjoy creating communities and bringing people together. I can see myself organizing one or two pop-ups a year, possibly exploring themes beyond surfing. At Nine, I’m transitioning more into roles like teaching yoga and cooking, thanks to a great team handling hosting. I’m also moving towards consulting or coaching for people wanting to start businesses abroad, balancing lifestyle with business challenges. It’s something I’m passionate about.

Cesar: It’s admirable how you’re using your entrepreneurial spirit to guide others. I’m sure your social media links will be helpful for those interested.

Anne: It’s still in the works, but it stems from a video course on starting a coliving. I’m excited to help others create offline businesses in foreign countries.

Cesar: Creating and sharing knowledge is indeed satisfying.

Anne: Definitely. My family has always been about creating businesses. Right now, I’m more interested in guiding others in their ventures rather than starting another Nine myself.

Cesar: Let’s talk about community building. How did you manage to create such a vibrant community at Nine, with people even relocating to Tenerife?

Anne: Good question. I think being clear about what I wanted was crucial. I enjoy creating spaces for community building, and I believe that when you align with your strengths and desires, things fall into place. The location of Nine, the town, and the island all contribute to creating an ideal environment for digital nomads. It’s a combination of connection, nature, and comfort that attracts people. Once a few people stay, it encourages others to move nearby, fostering a growing community.

Cesar: My experience at Nine was transformative. It’s such a special place, and Tenerife’s diversity makes it even more appealing.

Anne: Each Canary Island is unique, but Tenerife offers a blend of everything. It’s the ideal place for different activities and experiences.

Cesar: It’s interesting how colivings in remote areas like Nine become successful, attracting digital nomads seeking authentic experiences.

Anne: Digital nomads and remote workers seek authenticity and connection, which is why less touristy areas appeal to them. They value community and unique experiences. The less touristy the location, the more intriguing it becomes, especially since digital nomads have the flexibility to explore various destinations.

Cesar: How do you think this trend of choosing less touristy, remote locations for colivings impacts the digital nomad lifestyle?

Anne: It provides digital nomads with more authentic experiences. They’re not just tourists; they seek deeper connections with places and people. The choice of less touristy areas aligns with their desire for unique, meaningful experiences and community building. It’s about exploring the world beyond traditional tourist destinations, thanks to the limitless possibilities of remote work.

Cesar: It’s fascinating how colivings can rejuvenate remote villages that were fading away, creating sustainable tourism alternatives to the overcrowding seen in popular destinations. What are your thoughts on this, especially considering your experiences with Nine and the Olive Inn in Tarif?

Anne: It’s true that digital nomads and remote workers have different needs compared to traditional tourists. Colivings like Nine cater to those who are willing to share spaces and build connections, which might not appeal to the average tourist. Hotels are still necessary for tourism, but colivings offer a sustainable way of traveling and living for digital nomads. However, I think we should distinguish between catering to tourists and catering to digital nomads.

Cesar: I believe even regular tourists might enjoy the coliving experience, missing out on the opportunity to connect and interact with others.

Anne: We might be biased because we’re so ingrained in the digital nomad lifestyle. For someone working in an office year-round, their holiday needs might be completely different, seeking solitude or just time with family, rather than a communal living experience.

Cesar: That’s true. Some people might appreciate the coliving concept on holidays, while others may not.

Anne: Exactly.

Cesar: I noticed in my research for this interview that you studied animal husbandry. How did you transition from that to running a coliving and creating community spaces?

Anne: Life happens, I suppose. I initially wanted to work with horses and then became a biology teacher in the Netherlands. However, traveling changed my perspective on what I wanted from life, especially regarding my lifestyle and cultural environment. The Spanish and Latin American cultures resonated more with me than the Dutch culture. My entrepreneurial background led me to the concept of coliving. It wasn’t just about the career change; it was more about creating the lifestyle I desired.

Cesar: And the skills from teaching, do they translate into running a coliving?

Anne: Absolutely, teaching skills are incredibly relevant in a coliving environment.

Cesar: Maybe in the future, you could combine your background in animal husbandry with coliving, like a coliving focused on animals.

Anne: That’s an interesting idea for the future, combining different passions.

Cesar: It’s been great talking to you. I’m excited to see what you’ll do with the pop-up colivings. Thanks for joining us on Colivers Club, powered by MapMellon.

Anne: Thank you so much, Cesar. It’s been great discussing these topics with you.

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