Professional growth is not only a result of your hard work. The most successful people know that even professional growth comes from the synergy of your personal and professional life, environment, the impact you leave, the people you surround yourself with, the energy that you claim…
This philosophy is exactly what inspired the creation of FEM coliving – a place that connects all those who want to explore and create their paths with others; all those who realized that success is much deeper than an accomplished monthly target.
Surrounded by nature and simplicity, colivers in FEM can find their inner peace and growth by sharing thoughts, skills, experiences, and stories with others. Nature is both simple and complex, and being surrounded by it can inspire us to find the same balance within ourselves.
We spoke to FEM’s founders, Joan and Elena, about their story and the creation of FEM, their beginnings, and where they take inspiration from. We hope you’ll enjoy the interview!
If you missed the previous interviews that we did, you can check them out.
How it all started
“The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself”
1. Could you tell us a bit more about you and your partner and the journey that led you to FEM Coliving?
– FEM was born from having believed the story that success is professional success and, despite having achieved some goals, realising that we were still exactly at the same point from a personal point of view.
Then, there comes a time when you realise that, perhaps, you were looking outside or in the professional field for things that are actually much deeper and are much more linked to the impact that we generate on other people, the environment, the relationships we establish…
We can say that FEM is a search for coherence and integration between our professional interests and concerns and what impact we want to generate in our environment.
We are Joan and Elena, common people with an obsession of uniting innovation and quality of life. In this sense, FEM is not just a coliving and coworking space in a rural place, but a way of doing things; more leisurely, more from the soul, with good intentions. FEM materialises in a coliving, but it could be anything that seeks to generate a positive impact on society and the environment, anything that seeks viability close to nature, respecting the rural world and supporting it whenever possible.
Joan Massó is a branding consultant and service designer born in Barcelona. He has been working as a freelancer for many years and now he is having the opportunity to do it from FEM Coliving while pushing the project forward with Elena.
Elena de Arana, also a native of Barcelona, comes from the world of advertising and public relations. She is also a ski instructor, which she loves because it allows her to work in contact with both nature and people. She also had the opportunity to work on the FEM project, that they took on two years ago, with great enthusiasm.
2. When and why did you decide to open FEM Coliving? Can you tell us a bit more about the history of your place?
– FEM Coliving was born during the lockdown. Although obviously, it was already in our minds from before.
During the lockdown, we realised that changes were coming and there were two ways of taking it: in a proactive way and deciding how we wanted to live it or resigning ourselves and waiting for everything to return to normal. We decided to act.
3. Have you ever stayed in some other similar accommodation before you decided to open your own? Did you take inspiration from some places?
– When we developed the idea of FEM, we didn’t know about the concept of coliving. We realised after some weeks of working on FEM Coliving that there were similar projects that were called coliving.
4. Do you remember what was the most challenging for you when you started as a coliving?
– The biggest challenge was finding a farmhouse that met all the requirements we had. We were searching for an inspiring place, well connected and with excellent internet connection. We searched a lot and were very lucky to find La Folcrà, a beautiful farmhouse from the 14th century, surrounded by nature and, in turn, very well connected with different towns.
In addition, we share the outdoor space with Xevi, Gemma, and their little cow farm. They are one of the reasons why we decided to start the project in this location. Living close to them allows us and our colivers to learn from them. Sharing the day-to-day with them allows us and the colivers to better understand the primary sector, the culture, and the lifestyle of those who live in this rural area.
5. Have you had the opportunity to visit some other coliving places since you opened FEM Coliving?
– We haven’t visited any other coliving yet, still we are in touch with the main rural colivings in Spain, it always helps to exchange opinions and ideas with similar dreams and situations.
6. What is the story behind you choosing Spain for opening your coliving space there?
– We are from Barcelona (Spain) and we were already living in the Pyrenees!
FEM is a space where professional development is at the service of quality of life and not the other way around. We were living in this area loving the lifestyle and the fact of being in contact with nature, so we always imagined FEM being part of this beautiful place in the Pyrenees.
7. What are some advantages and disadvantages of having a coliving in a rural place?
– It’s hard to find a downside. This area gives us a lot, we have friends, beautiful mountains where we can walk, ski, ride a bike, rivers during summer, and, in addition, FEM allows us to share it with restless, creative, and open-minded people.
Plus, we are not far from Barcelona, just 1h30 by car and we also enjoy going to the city from time to time.
8. What is your relationship with other colivings in Spain?
– We have a good relationship with other rural colivings.
“We have an infinite amount to learn both from nature and from each other.“
9. How much are you involved in the community and daily activities at FEM Coliving? Do you consider yourself an equal part of the community?
– As we live in the same house and share the common spaces with the other colivers, we are a part of the community and have a very close and friendly relationship with everybody. After two years we can say that one of the most beautiful things that FEM gives us are all these new friendships.
10. What additional activities are included for people who stay at your place? And what approach do you practice when organizing those events?
– FEM Coliving is a space where we all learn from each other, there is a lot of knowledge exchange. An interesting activity are the workshops that the colivers organise for the other colivers.
Also, we do a lot of activities in nature like mountain biking, skiing, trekking for two or three days along the Pyrenees where we camp in the mountains, barbecues, paellas, community dinners…
“Nature is the purest portal to inner-peace.“
-Angie Weiland Crosby
11. What is the profile of people who are most likely to stay at FEM Coliving?
– We have a big mix of people who work in different sectors. It is interesting because people with different skills get in touch, live together, and learn from each other. That makes FEM a place with a lot of knowledge exchange and synergies arise.
12. What is the motivation behind people choosing FEM Coliving?
– People who come to FEM Coliving are remote workers, freelancers, or entrepreneurs who want to do so from a calmer environment, surrounded by nature and other creative and innovative people who are in a similar moment in life.
In addition, a high percentage of colivers come to FEM since they are considering leaving the city and going to live in a rural area permanently, FEM is for them a bridge between the city and the countryside, a place to try living in the mountains and to get to know the area and make networks in order to settle here in the future.
13. What is the average age of people who are visiting your accommodation?
– Between 25 and 40 mostly.
14. How long do people usually stay at your place and do your visitors tend to return to your place?
– We are convinced that living and working in contact with nature improves the quality of life and, therefore, the result of our projects and the way they impact the community and the environment.
For this reason, we offer stays between 1 and 3 months of accommodation and coworking in an emblematic farmhouse in the Catalan Pyrenees with people of similar interests in a slow, creative and innovative environment.
Most of our colivers end up staying with us for 3 months and this year, our second year, we are happy to start seeing people returning to FEM.
15. Is there some trend where people from specific countries come to your place?
– Most of the people who come to FEM are locals, they come from Barcelona and other places in Spain since we address people who are considering leaving the city and settling permanently in a rural zone.
That does not mean that on many occasions we also have foreign colivers who find us and are interested in living an immersive experience in the culture and way of doing things in the area.
Although our official language is Spanish and Catalan, both Joan and I speak English and our colivers too.
16. Do you have some special offers? (For start-ups, longer stays or group bookings, etc.)
– We are committed to slow experiences, for this reason, the minimum stay time is one month and depending on the time of the year we do special offers for the people who want to stay 2 or 3 months because we believe that it is the way to truly get to know, understand and enjoy the area, the people and nature.
About the Coliving Movement
”Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is a success.”
17. Do you think that coliving is only dedicated to a specific group of people such as freelancers, digital nomads, and remote workers, or do you think there is a possibility to gain popularity beyond that group of people?
– We address people who are entrepreneurs, remote workers, and freelancers since we believe that it is important that the people who come to live together are in a similar personal situation and share certain habits so that everyone can be comfortable.
Anyways, lately, we’ve seen other ideas around coliving such as spaces for elders which we think is a nice alternative to residences, where their autonomy gets compromised.
18. Do you think coworking is a crucial component of coliving?
– Yes. Even knowing that coliving is a way of cohabiting and that there are many different options, we believe that the coworking space is an identity sign of colivings because it ensures synergies and a creative landscape.
19. One of the main selling points of colivings is the possibility to meet new people, share experiences and maybe even develop new partnerships. Is that also the situation in FEM Coliving?
– Yes, it’s very frequent that this happens. In FEM we have seen some partnerships and collaborations built up and, naturally, this happens if we take into account that very valid people with similar interests and different knowledge live together, share time and become close friends.
Obviously, if you are developing a project and you need other professionals, if you are living with one of them, you will tend to count on these professionals rather than going “outside” to search for one.
An example: some months ago we had with us Daniel, a South African coliver owning an outbound marketing company. At the same time, there was Jordi, an SEO magician, and Olga, who among other things is dedicated to copywriting. Things ended up developing in such a way that Daniel hired Jordi for the SEO of his company and Jordi ended up collaborating with Olga for the copywriting. This is what we call a circular economy, isn’t it?!
20. Do you have some examples where people who had the opportunity to meet at your place later managed to develop successful partnerships or relationships?
– For sure, a beautiful story is the one of Franco and Mariona, they met here, in FEM half a year ago, nowadays they are a beautiful couple living together in Sant Pau de Segúries, the town next to us. We are neighbors and good friends, the local Fem Coliving community grows which is one of the things we like the most.
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