Martí Guixé may be the ultimate nomadic worker. The 36-year-old design consultant has no office, and he has either two homes or no home, depending on how you look at it: Sometimes he lives in Barcelona; other times he's in Berlin, staying at his girlfriend's flat. Ideas, Guixé's stock-in-trade, are completely intangible — and therefore perfectly portable. He never carries a computer when he travels, yet he does all of his work on the road. "My Internet home page is my office," Guixé says. "My business card has only one piece of contact information: my Web address. It's the best and most reliable way to reach me."
Call him a wanderer. Guixé has collaborated with Camper, the funky, cutting-edge Spanish footwear company, to design stores in London (where shoes are Velcroed to the wall), Milan (where visitors write graffiti on the walls), and Barcelona. He was recently commissioned by the furniture company Vitra to hold a workshop where participants design not a chair or a table, but a snack.
Now he's developed a set of principles — a nomadic worker's manifesto — intended to help people travel smarter and work better on the road. It's part of an installation he created for Workspheres, an exhibit at New York's Museum of Modern Art, which is on display through April 22. Conceived by Paola Antonelli, MoMA's architecture-and-design curator, Workspheres examines the changing nature of the workplace and features imaginative tools and environments commissioned from six international design teams. For his part, Guixé fashioned a set of pill-sized capsules that embody concepts from his nomadic manifesto. Here are 6 of the main tenets (there are 21 in all), as described by Guixé in an interview with Fast Company. His guiding principle? Reinvent your perspective, and you'll reinvent the way you work — and travel.
I think if you want to travel better, you have to understand that nomadic work is ultimately personal in nature. The most valuable thing you carry when you travel is yourself. Conversely, your most valuable take-away is that you've been there personally.
Because people don't focus on the real purpose of travel — to interact in person, face-to-face — they invariably carry too much with them. Think about it. You know you're going to a hotel where there will be plenty of tissue and soap, so you don't need to carry those things. Similarly, information is accessible virtually anywhere, anytime — from hotel computers to Internet cafés. Knowledge workers' tools have evolved to the point where we can uncouple ourselves from the information itself.
Now that all the data you need can be placed on the Internet, you don't need to weigh yourself down with a computer. The only work tool you really need is your concentration, and then you can work from anywhere — with tools that you find there. You can always scratch an idea on a napkin. Remember, you're traveling for the immediate experience of meeting someone — not to exchange data.
Give Memory Gifts
I don't give souvenir gifts. I collect good stories, and when I return, I give the people I care about stories instead of objects. By doing so, I help them discover another way to see the world, and I transmit not only ideas but feelings as well.
In the end, objects are material, so they're difficult to carry. Objects weigh you down. They fix you in a place. Nomadic culture is an oral one; it's about speaking, communicating, exchanging cultural information — not accumulating objects. Above all, nomadic work is about ideas. Ideas are by far the most valuable commodity on the market. I'm in the business of creating something that has value — but that is completely intangible. So I've found that I offer the most value by giving immaterial gifts, both in work and in life.
When you're traveling, don't think of yourself as "away from home." Don't think, "I have a fixed place in space and society, and now I'm away from it." You aren't traveling, you're just moving. It doesn't matter where you are, because everywhere can be home if you consider it so.
Our notions about home are completely outdated. For example, if you call someone "homeless," you're using that person's lack of an address as a shorthand to say that person doesn't belong to proper society. But with mobile communications, it's possible to be "homeless" — to be entirely mobile — while participating fully in society. Home, as we conceive it today, is not a necessary construct. Ten years ago, people needed a home — an address, a phone line, a mailbox — in order to receive information. That is not the case today.
In fact, the idea of home could be erased entirely, except, of course, that families with children need a physical base. Maybe the next generation will grow up knowing that they can be entirely mobile, because home isn't so much a fixed location as it is an emotional state. When you banish the idea of home, you suddenly realize that you can work or live anywhere you go.
Consider Everywhere an Interior
Most urban places are like interiors — they have incredible amenities. So be comfortable wherever you go. One of the principles in my manifesto is "concentrate everywhere." Another is "write everywhere." And "relax everywhere." You don't need sophisticated tools or offices to do any of those things. All you need is the ability to focus your attention, whether you're on a train, on a plane, or in a lobby.
I also think that people should consume. I don't mean gorge — I mean take in small amounts of those things that set you at ease. Buy a coffee at a café. Pick up a magazine. Buy a pack of chewing gum. Make a telephone call. Consumption isn't bad — it's normal. We live in a consumer society, and we need to consume in order to interact. Use the services around you when you travel. There are plenty of small comforts you can get with money, so do so.
What is the one thing you really need with you at all times, particularly in generic spaces such as airports and hotels? Your identity. Identity is deeply rooted in culture, and one of the most enduring artifacts of culture is a sense of humor. It's like regional spices in food. You can speak English, French, or German; you can dress casually or formally; you can speak about the Internet, plastic, or plants. But in the end, the quality that makes you different is your sense of humor and your perspective.
If we were nothing but machines for doing business, we wouldn't need a cultural identity. But I think identity and humor give us an advantage in business and life, and benefit us by enabling a give-and-take that transcends the transfer of information.
If you're truly nomadic, you have to have some form of home. Your original home is where you come from, how you were educated, the culture in which you were raised: It's your identity. When you meet someone for the first time, one of the first questions you ask is, "Where do you come from?" If you have no home base, you reply with your cultural identity. You say, "I grew up in Barcelona." Your identity is the home you keep with you at all times, and it is private and unique to you.
Approach and Flirt
Speak with people casually when you travel. Don't be so focused on work that you fail to absorb other information that is equally important. Remember, in the end, the reason that you're traveling is to gain firsthand knowledge, to experience being there. You're traveling in order to bring another reality closer to you, and to share your reality with others.
Also, flirt when you travel. I'm not talking about the kind of flirting that involves physical attraction. I'm talking about playful human banter, the enjoyment of talking with a person in a more intimate and relaxed way. Objects can flirt too, you know. They can communicate playfully and intimately with you.
When I arrive in a place where I'm going to do business, I always make a point of chatting with strangers. Casual information about a place is incredibly valuable. If you understand a culture, you can break the ice in conversation, make a joke, or construct a speech better. Your negotiations turn out better, because you know the character of the people with whom you are doing business. The better you know a place, the more easily you can do business there — and the more sophisticated your business relations can be. And the better you know people in general, the better you can navigate the world.
Exchange data with Martí Guixé by email (Marti@Guixe.com), or visit him at his virtual office (www.guixe.com).
A version of this article appeared in the April 2001 issue of Fast Company magazine.