Review: Pilot Project Coworking / Coliving / Mindfulness Retreat in Aachen

Photo by  Jay Ngai

Photo by Jay Ngai

I’m currently sitting on a train, being carried away from a month-long retreat in coworking, coliving and mindfulness that was both different and so much more than I ever expected. In just 30 days, I’ve grown in ways I wasn’t even looking for, both on a personal and a business level. And I’ve made wonderful new friends, who have been the most supportive, loving and generous group of people I’ve met in a long time - possibly ever.

Ultimately, the retreat is the reason and inspiration behind this very website, Mindful Nomad Hacks. I feel like Mindful Nomad Hacks has been waiting patiently in the back of my mind for the perfect moment to stalk closer and spring itself upon me. For that - and other reasons I’ll get to in a bit - I’m grateful about a whole chain of events that lead me to participate in this project.

Kicking off that chain of events was the fact that living and working in beautiful Croatia with my wonderful WiFi Tribe in June cost a lot more than anticipated, which brought my bank account into the red for the first time since the beginning of my digital nomad journey. To get out of the debt-hole I’d dug for myself, I set strict spending goals that I adhered to for the next couple of months. Things are looking up, but my self-set goal is to keep watching my spending like a hawk until the end of this year. So after an amazing month in Budapest in August, I was looking for a new, cheap location for September.

The Universe Knows Best

Completely by chance, a digital nomad friend that I met in Cape Town in January sent me a contract, asking me if I could take a look at it, since it was written in one of the few languages she actually doesn’t speak. The contract was in German, outlining the agreement for an extremely reasonable, month-long living contract in Germany.

Photo by  Jay Ngai , yoga class led by  Elke

Photo by Jay Ngai, yoga class led by Elke

Curious as to why she’d be staying in Germany, I asked her about it. She told me about this retreat that was set to run in September, striving to combine coworking and coliving with mindfulness.

My ears and heart perked up at that last word. I’d been feeling more stressed and anxious than I had in a long time, mainly because of the money situation. I used to meditate regularly, but had lost that routine a while back and was trying to get back into it. A month of regular yoga and meditation in a group of like-minded people at a bargain price sounded like a sign from the Universe, telling me this is where you need to go!

So go I went. And once again I’m glad I laid my trust in the Universe, because it was absolutely right. This retreat, with this focus and these people, was exactly where I was supposed to be last month. In Aachen, of all places.

How The Project Came About

There’s no real reason for anyone to know this little German city close to the borders to both Belgium and the Netherlands. Its biggest claim to fame is the world-renowned technical university that brings forth a new batch of those famous German engineers every semester. Oh, and there’s a cathedral. Otherwise, Aachen isn’t anything special.

Photo by me :-) of the Aachen Rathaus

Photo by me :-) of the Aachen Rathaus

And yet it was the perfect destination for this pilot retreat, conceived of by Christina, our indomitable group leader. Only a couple of months earlier, she’d met her now-business-partner Oliver at a random vegan brunch. His interest in her digital nomad lifestyle ultimately lead to them collaborating on this project, for Oliver could provide the solution to the one challenge Christina hadn’t solved yet in making a trial run happen: the accommodation.

Oliver runs PreStep, a boarding house in Aachen that takes in students from all over the world. The boarding house is mostly empty during the semester breaks, and Oliver has big plans on how to grow and further develop it - including the possibility of turning it into a coliving space for remote workers. Basically, Christina was looking for cheap accommodation to conduct her pilot retreat, and Oliver was looking for remote workers to give him input and feedback on what best to do with his boarding house.

Coincidence, or the Universe at work again? Either way, the two of them quickly decided they’d found the perfect project partner, and Oliver even offered for the participants to stay at the boarding house in exchange for hardly more than our expertise on coliving- and coworking spaces. How generous is that?!

So What Exactly Did We Do?

So, so many things!

DigitalHub Aachen

DigitalHub Aachen

  • Meditation and gratitude practice every morning

  • Yoga three mornings a week, taught by Elke Sanders, Lara Sosanwo, Marie Heintges and Christine Wiechers

  • At least two workshops per week on a wide spectrum of topics ranging from business- to mindfulness-themed

  • Retrospective look and goal setting at the beginning of every week

  • Worked at the Church of Coworking, DigitalHub Aachen - yep, it’s in an actual church!

  • Worked with our assigned accountability buddy

  • Held brainstorming sessions together

  • Enjoyed lots of wonderful vegan food prepared just for us by Lisa Forbes

  • Took weekend trips to Maastricht, Düsseldorf and Cologne

And what exactly did we learn?

Just to give an idea of the extent of our collective knowledge and what every single person was able to bring to the table, here’s a list of the workshops we held or participated in:

Photo by me :-)

Photo by me :-)

Photo by  Jay Ngai , workshop held by  Rosie Bell

Photo by Jay Ngai, workshop held by Rosie Bell

  1. Wordpress Workshop, held by Ellie Shedden

  2. Photo-Composition 101, held by Jay Ngai

  3. Our Sexual Brain (Tantra), held by Ine Van Eeckhout

  4. How to Write a Traffic-generating Blog Post, held by Rosie Bell and Yours Truly

  5. Photography Walking Tour, lead by Jay Ngai

  6. How to become a VA, held by Yours Truly

  7. Instagram Workshop, held by Marie Heintges and Christina Spörer

  8. Personal Freedom & Positive Psychology, held by Rosie Bell

  9. How to reach important people & LinkedIn Workshop, held by Andres Moretti

  10. How to write your own Meditation, held by Elke Sanders

  11. All about Chakras, held by Elke Sanders

Prepared, though never held by expert Birthe Menke because she and the retreat simply ran out of time, was a Pinterest Workshop. But since we all shared our presentations with the whole group, not even Birthe’s knowledge will be lost.

Photo by  Jay Ngai , food prep by  Lisa Forbes

Photo by Jay Ngai, food prep by Lisa Forbes

Is this the only such retreat?

Surely not! Christina plans on organizing such retreats on a regular basis, both in Chiang Mai in our winter months, and back in Aachen in the spring and summer. Follow her on her IG-Account @christinaspoerer to not miss out on the next retreat - I can’t recommend it enough.

In case you still aren’t convinced of the awesomeness that was this retreat, here are my very personal thoughts on the entire experience.

My Testimonial

I gained so much more from this retreat than I was expecting. I signed up in the hopes of getting back into a daily meditation routine and try out and possibly add yoga to my routine as well, while continuing my client work and getting more writing done.

I got all that - but also so much more. I'm impressed and humbled by the friendship and support, the mindfulness and positivity everyone in the group has offered and given freely. We've learned far more from each other than we could ever hope to learn alone, and I've grown more in both my personal life and my business than I expected. I have new goals for both my personal life and my business that I hadn't even conceived before joining this retreat, and I’ve gained the courage to step out of my comfort zone and try many new things.

Christina did a great job of inviting the right kind of people to the group, and of organizing our weekly activities from yoga-, meditation-, and gratitude practices, to the myriad of amazing workshops we each held and took part in.

I'm incredibly grateful for the new ideas and momentum my life and business have received during this retreat; for the realization that "mindfulness" goes far beyond meditation and yoga; and especially for the people who participated, who gave so much of their loving selves in the interest of the group dynamic and individual support of each other, and who have become close friends.

Thank you and Namaste

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