Just after 8am on a very humid morning in Bali’s jungle-fringed town of Ubud, Samuele Onelia kicks off his thongs outside a bamboo building and walks inside. With a backpack slung over one shoulder, he climbs up wooden steps to a loft, slides open a glass door marked ‘Quiet’ and pulls out his laptop at a desk. Onelia’s working day has just begun.
Onelia is from a small town in Italy. He owns a website that teaches digital marketing and, after realising it could be run from anywhere, decided to try working abroad. Bali — with its reputation as a global hub for digital nomads — was a logical choice. Today he’s the first to arrive at Hubud, the longest-running coworking space on the Indonesian island. Since opening in 2013, it has seen 7500 barefooted workers walk through its doors.
It’s a place where “How was your weekend?” is traded for “Hi, where are you from?”; desk views of concrete urban landscapes are replaced with green rice fields; and suits are definitely not required.
Despite the background noise from 50 or so workers trickling in, the energy across its communal tables, cafe and outdoor patio is productive. Its location — near the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary and a quick scooter ride from a Hindu temple — adds to its exotic feel. “Our goal is to make people feel unlike they’ve felt anywhere else on Earth,” says its co-founder, Steve Munroe. After a decade working at the United Nations, Munroe gave it up to move to Bali with his family. There, he worked on other ventures before launching Hubud with two parents he’d met at his children’s school, Peter Wall and John Alderson. “Bali was filled with people who were there at a transitional moment. They’d quit a job, taken a sabbatical. What would be possible if they were all put in the same place?”
Hubud’s obvious appeal — monkey sightings on morning commutes, fresh lunches that cost less than $5, and beanbags to send emails from — also makes for an environment that’s truly conducive to meeting people. “Early on, we realised that what we are selling is a place where meaningful connections can happen,” says Munroe. From then on, they worked hard to create organic situations that would allow such connections to happen.
Last year alone, Hubud ran more than 440 events. These activities were chances for members to bond. Jungle-style office digs coupled with the opportunity to make a lifelong friend over a smoothie bowl, or even share sunscreen with a potential business partner, proved to be a winning formula and one that spread across Bali. Munroe estimates there are now 12 to 15 coworking spaces on the idyllic island.
While Hubud’s proximity to yoga studios makes it popular among yogis, Dojo Bali in Canggu — walking distance from pumping waves — is known for attracting surfers.
Opened in 2016, Dojo Bali features a pool and showers for post-surf rinse-offs. Close to Hubud is the Outpost coworking space and there’s also the more traditional office digs of Kembali Hub in Seminyak. Nearby is Coworking Legian, which is set around a hotel.
Dojo Bali’s founder, Perth entrepreneur Michael Craig, believes these communities could eventually grow large enough to deliver real change.
“We’ve got smart people working on things like artificial intelligence here,” he explains. “When [Dojo Bali community members] get together, the conversation becomes, ‘How do we change things?’ “Hubud and Dojo Bali both believe that coworking spaces could change the world.”
To book your flight to Bali, visit https://flights.virginaustralia.com/en-au/flights-to-bali-denpasar