What is a Rural Coliving Safari and how does it look like?
The history of an epic, chaotic and magic nomad adventure in a road trip to Galicia
Nearly one month ago we came back from our first Rural Coliving Summer Safari mainly on the road to rural Spain. A Rural Coliving Safari is a way of touring “nomad-friendly” villages where there are rural coworking and/or coliving spaces, startup incubators, rural activist, local projects or NGO’s already working and living there. A great opportunity for reconnecting with nature and rural life, for working in your stuff remotely, for stopping, slowing down, creating space or just doing nothing. A gift for recovering the clarity we all have lost since our childhood. Becoming one with nature, feeding the mind with beautiful sceneries and the belly with yummy local food. And then, just then, we can restart again far more productive than before.
The last Safari happened in summer and it was a trip that deeply impacted all of us somehow. We had the chance to interact with startups and nomads already living in rural areas, colive with alternative communities, getting to know masons, alchemists, majors and artists. We where more than 1 month travelling around villages from Barcelona to Galicia, finalizing one of the wildest and most intense adventures that we have hosted.
It’s been a first year of packed programs with tight schedules and few spare time. But this time and for the Safari we wanted to create a lot of space in between for magic and serendipity to happen. Embracing uncertainty and sometimes chaos, we have learned to be more patient, humbled, flexible, strong, resilient and open to the unexpected. It’s been a truly nurturing and sometimes a not so easy exercise, we can tell!
Looking back now, this crazy adventure that let us for 24 days, 8 different locations and 8 stages. A special group of +20 amazing souls were gathered during the whole safari, whom were joining either for one or more of the 8 stages. Every single stage was special because of the participants, the people and projects we encountered.
Some of them left when others arrived and participants were joining till the very end of this adventure.
Here goes a binnacle of the whole adventure. We know is long, but believe us, it is worth reading ;)!
Stage 1: Coliving with makers in the abandoned village of Solanell (La Seu d’Urgell, August 5–7)
The Safari started by a weekend in a stunning abandoned village that is being restored by a private coop called Reviure Solanell. We were a small group of makers coliving with some of the coop members such as architects, lawyers, plumbers and bio geneticists. They delighted us with yummy local food, philosophical conversations, excursions and swims in the frozen village stream. We volunteered in the village recently restored organic orchard and the stone movements. We were taken into an historical guided walk to the main village buildings and settlements such as the Romanic Church, the sightseeing spot where the very first family lived in Solanell in the prehistoric era, they carved draw themselves in a rock. We slept in the recently finished hostel El Gall Negre, rebuilt from a fully collapsed house less than a year ago.
Stage 2: Exploring a rural region surrounded by water in Riba-roja d’Ebre (Tarragona, August 15–22)
This was a very special location for Pandorahub, since is where our very first pilot experience took place last summer. We slept in camper vans, caravans, stone made houses and tents, hosted by the organizers of Riba-Rocks Festival, Chris and Sarah. Our workation spots where the rural coworking space of the village, called Zona Líquida (one of the very first rural coworking spaces with optical fiber in Spain), the village swimming pool and the bbq area in over the dam. We enjoyed delicious organic meals and dinners cooked and hosted by our special local hosts. We enjoyed local parties with fireworks and giants, soaked in dams, drove small boats in a sea of sweet water. We enjoyed a walk to a templar castle in the beautiful village of Miravet, observed the full moonrise, visited a villa for sell, listened to the owner’s history and swim in the beach next to the villa. We went to the hidden water temple of les Olles de Bot, where we soaked up to the river during the whole day standing in awe in front of this natural stunning river pools. We joined the party of the nautical club of Riba Roja eating a yummy communal paella, vermut and dancing some great old hits played by a local Dj. We were joined by Saul, founder of abandoned village rebuilding project of Reviure Solanell and his family for the most unexpected and accidental trip to the lost paradise of Matarraña, breaking one boat engine, losing part of us and gathering all together again in a middle point. The beautiful Camping Port de Massaluca became our safe port for the night where we slept in tents. We could finally reach Matarraña, the Caribbean river side of Ebro river the next day, where we enjoyed a whole day of laughter, fun and swim. On our way by boat to Matarraña we couldn’t avoid passing twice by twice the church of sank village of Fayó. The last night we finally had the chance to talk to Ana a local entrepreneur as well as some of the members of the local government as we walked to the Roman walls, the sightseeing spots and most ancient buildings in the old village of Riba Roja.
Stage 3: Discovering the traditions and the oldest sites of Oliete (Teruel, August 22–25)
In Oliete we stayed in a civil police headquarters built in the 1800, a typical Spanish rural house in the center of the village, in the church square. The daily “pregones” (criers) where our daily reveille. We soaked in semi abandoned dams, took part on the main villge Party and fireworks, night dance, bingo, visited the youngsters in the “peñas” area, discovered the oldest part of the village in the Iberian ruins and museum, scouted the more than 1000 olive trees recovered by our local host Apadrina un Olivo, and visited the nearly finished olive oil mill built thank to a recent crowdfunding campaign that exceeded their goals. Our local host, the founder of Apadrina un Olivo, took us in an excursion that just 2 more people seem to have ever done in the area. A walk to the most ancient valley in Aragon, a million years old landscape that has been kept mostly unseen for its difficulty of access. A mixture of colours, green from the olive trees, red from the clay soil, yellow from the dry grass due the lack of rain, all mixed with the pink of the sunset. We had to take our shoes off several times to cross a river in order to keep on the trail, we had to keep our balance to cross waterfalls, we even had to climb an old dam. Unfortunately we couldn't take pictures as our cell phones were out of battery, but we are sure that Simon and Thomas, keep sort of a “mental record” of this epic hiking. We interviewed with the village major, scouted potential rural coworking spaces, empty village houses and stunning abandoned villas for further rural coliving adventures in the area. We couldn’t avoid to repeatedly eat in a local restaurant where we were served an organic tomato salad and a 1Kg organic steak that literally blowed up our minds
Stage 4: Connecting with Masons and artists in Molinos (Teruel, August 21st and August 24th)
Despite we couldn’t stay over the night in Molinos as initially planned for lack of capacity in our accommodation´s local host, this village has caused a profound impression to all of us. We literally fell in love with Molinos, its historical, intellectual and cultural print and its singular villagers. We first visited the mind blowing crystal caves of Molinos where we experienced a minute of pitch black silence that let us to a some million years trip back on time as staring the stalactites and stalagmites. We had 2 eye-opening interviews in 2 different visits to this unique rural settlement in the midst of Teruel mountains where muslims, christians and jews lived in peace for 4 centuries starting in the Middle Ages. The first one with Neus, a well-known Catalan plastic artist that started following the sun cycles while she was living in Barcelona, ended up abandoning the city forever, filling her car with books and few belongings and started a search for rural settlements in different villages, acquiring and rebuilding a 500 year old abandoned farm near Molinos that she turned into the multidisciplinary spiritual retreat Q Centro. We were really touched by the purity of the air, the clean of energy and the light atmosphere of her place right just after we crossed the house door. A place where you could feel non external interferences, nor wifi neither electromagnetic waves in the middle of a natural reserve where wild animals can run free without fear of being hunted. After listening to Neus radical rural return history and the fact that she finally choose Molinos because of an interview with whom was the by then, we had it clear: we wanted to know the ex-major. And we did. 2 days after we were subpoenaed to a meeting under a “fainting tree” at the village pool with Mateo, a cultural anthropologist that successfully ruled the village for nearly 20 years after another 30 years ruled by his father and his grandfather. During his role, he created the area brand of Maestrazo under which he was able to manage 400 cultural reactivation projects in the villages around such as opera and classical music tours, connecting the region with the international cultural and intellectual community, attracting artists and entrepreneurs from around the globe to live there turning the village into an innovation and cultural hub. What was just going to be a short interview ended up in a full day guided trip to the history of Molinos, with him showing us the secrets and hidden symbolisms of the oldest buildings of a village that was the shelter for spiritists, witches, anarchists, republicans and Masons before the Spanish dictatorship. Maybe this is why we were not surprised when he answered to our question that if still there were Masons in the area and if we could interviewed one?, and he reply whispering “Yes, you have one in front of you, and so was my father and my grandfather”. We were literally trapped by the charm of Molinos in such a way that we will be coming back soon with a small group of international rural activists for a silence, yoga and meditation retreat in Neus’ retreat and a coliving stay in an old corral recently turned into a coliving residency by Belgian artists.
Stage 5: Learning how art & culture can revive a village in Barrios de Salas (León, August 25–28)
We made our trip to León coincide with Villar de los Mundos Festival, a yearly gathering of multidisciplinary artists from an specific region on the planet that brought life back to Barrios de Salas. This is a small group of villages that were semi-abandoned just 5 years ago before the promoter of the festival, a cultural activist, decided to return to his 500 years old family “casona”. This year the festival was mainly devoted to Middle East artists. Concerts, films and poetry readings took place inside of the main buildings, showing to the newcomers the village from the inside and literally opening it up to the rest of the world. We took part in a stock motion workshop facilitated by a Palestinian refugee in the organizer’s casona, watched a documentary about the Middle Ages expulsion of the Sephardi jewish from Spain in the basement of a winery landlord’s mansion, listened to the lyrical concert of a Galician poet inside an old winery cellar, attended a dance and drums concert of an African Band in the street and an opera concert in the living room of the old mansion of an aristocratic family. Bierzo region is also known for its high quality wineries so we couldn’t leave before visiting a eco-vineyard and doing a wine tasting in the historical cellar from Vilafranca del Bierzo. Once we were there we contacted with the owner of the village Castle, Cristóbal Halffter, a well known international classical music composer and orchestra director. From this stage we were delighted by the daily cooking of a professional chef that joined the safari till the very end. After a few days of thick and typical Spanish food made out from local products got in the local market, we sort of gained weight (and happiness).
Stage 6: Discovering the magic of community living in O’Couso (Galicia, August 28 — September 1st)
After more than 10 days on the road, our decompression experience started in O’Couso with a 24h digital detox in a 500 year old farm that was found abandoned and acquired 2 years ago by the main promoter of O’Couso, a philosopher, cultural anthropologist and writer, while he was doing the Camino de Santiago in the search of a settlement where to recreate an utopian community with other two friends. The O’Couso project is the result of his 10 years research on alternative communities around the world before he felt in love with the subject matter of his doctoral thesis: the utopian communities. We colived and volunteered with an open-minded off the grid community where everybody is welcomed during 4 intense days, meditating in group and sharing emotional feelings every morning, cooking vegetarian food, building a wooden house in the forest and cleaning the paths of stones. We were especially touched by the hospitality, generosity and tolerance of O’couso community. We learnt how opening up in group circles of consciousness can change forever the way we tackle personal and professional relationships. We also dedicated the time to walk half day of Camino de Santiago, jumping in the frozen Oribio River, entering the huge convent of Samos, discovering other hidden alternative coliving projects in old and semi-abandoned rural settlements around and visiting the house of a mineral alchemist in the old farm where he was born and grown up by his grandmother, a well-known witch (meiga) whom he saw levitating 1 m over the floor several times. We spoke to some pilgrims staying in this meiga house who seem to have encountered with the meiga spirit standing in the corridors.
Stage 7: Advocating for the Location Independent Movement in Sant Salvi (Montseny, September 5–7)
Back in Barcelona, we co-hosted a 3 day workation retreat together with our friends at Coworkation in a recently rebuilt Franciscan Monastery with more than 700 years of history. This time a great mixture of startups, entrepreneurs, coaches, nomads and career shifters were gathered in a very intimate escapee experience were a wide range of workshops and informal talks and presentations took place in the infinity pool and the breath-taking outdoor surroundings on topics such as the location independent movement, meditation, relationships and connection, clarity and the non inducted authentic state of flow, the art of listening, how to deal with uncertainty and conflict, how to embed purpose into your routines, role playing among other topics. We also had the time to work on our own stuff, do daily yoga and meditation, practice ecstatic dance, discussing on the importance of space and silence for the true self to arise, enjoying night bbqs and talks on female entrepreneurship fear and vulnerability with a well-known Spanish journalist and thought leader on this topic.
Stage 8: Connecting urban with rural startups in Forallac (Costa Brava, September 13–14)
We extended the safari one more stage after our local coliving host invited us and a small group of startup friends to stay in the old rectory they manage in Forallac, a stunning rural region in Costa Brava. The rectory was inhabited by monks and used as the place where clerics of the area divided tithing. This stone made rural settlement is strategically located between our partner coworking space Nexes Forallac and one of the most beautiful villages in Catalonia, Peratallada, just 10 minutes from the emerald water beaches of Costa Brava. Our main local partner, the coworking space and incubator is the success history of a rural activists that has managed to fill up the coworking space and convinced well known startups originally based in Barcelona to move to the village. We had the chance to mix our friend startups living in Barcelona with other consolidated startups and small businesses based in Forallac such as the authentic trips app Vivelus, the craft beer Brava Beer or the tea brand that mixes teas with local herbs Te de Gust. We have dinner in a bucolic yummy local restaurant and went on a night walk during an electric storm in the village of Peratallada. We visited the Roman and Greek cities of Empúries founded 1 b.C. A walk in the stunning beach in front of this settlement and guided walk over more than 2.000 years of the history of 2 lost civilizations was the closing for this stage and thus for the whole safari. What else could we have asked for such an epic 24 adventure?
You can check the full Rural Coliving Summer Safari gallery
The Rural Coliving Autumn Safari is here
With such and maybe more magic, chaos, serendipity and nomadism, our next Rural Coliving Autumn Safari is about to start (Starting Sunday October 16th with internal scouting trips and November 11th open to few more people, lasting till December 2). This time the trip will let us to the South of Spain via the East Mediterranean Coast stopping in rural coliving and coworking spaces, ecovillages and other singular rural settlements. We will be touring during 5 weeks to 10 Spanish villages in Catalonia, Teruel, Castellón, Alicante, Almería, Cádiz, Huelva, Cáceres and Huesca.
IMPORTANT: A rural coliving safari is not for everyone. This is a crazy nomad adventure for 100% self-reliant individuals who are ready to face with radical uncertainty, chaos and daily unexpected situations. This is why we like to keep the safaris quite intimate mainly for our team, friends and close collaborators but few more brave ones are invited to join. And we have made it up flexible so you can pop up by days or join the full road trip.