A unique coliving experience currently located in heavenly Vallehermoso on the small island of La Gomera is perfect for everybody ready to challenge themselves and learn something new by sharing their lives with the community.
At the center of the concept are nature and the preservation of natural treasures, as well as collaborative governance – a unique way of organizing and managing the communities.
Take a look at the interview we did we the founder – Sonia Amroun, and dive deeper into her vision.
Interview sections Hide
How it all started
“We should have more “third places.” More places where people can get together that’s not work, not home, and where they can interact with people who are different from them”
1. Hi Sonia! Can you introduce yourself to our audience and give us a couple of words about your journey so far?
– I am a serial entrepreneur born in Algeria and moved at 8 to France.
I started my career as an actress and part-time worker in high-end hotels and restaurants in London and Paris.
After that, I decided to apply my knowledge and opened my first vegan and slow fashion brand called La petite Kabyle to show the reality of North African culture in 2017. With this experience, I tested a very special concept – gustative and cultural conferences, which were the starters of my research around coliving (vivre ensemble) and the Third Place.
Followed by more than 10K on Instagram, La Petite Kabyle created slow fashion products, cultural events, books for children, and jewelry.
Besides this, I became a business developer for ecological start-ups in order to get a sustainable cash flow.
I am passionate about solutions to help the Earth to survive in the massive industry era. In 2020, after canceling my third festival about sustainable food and slow life cultures (Covid restrictions), I decided to take some inspiration from the Canary Islands because of its Berber roots. But, during my research, something unexpected happened – I fell in love with one specific island – San Miguel de la Palma.
2. When did you decide to start hosting this type of coworking retreats, and what was the driving force behind your decision?
– I started my journey with a coliving called Casa Benahoares in La Palma, in collaboration with Nacho Rodrigues, founder of Repeople.
For three months, this shelter company allowed me to incubate my ideas and we hosted 40 colivers and coworkers from all around the world.
In May 2021, I decided to manage the house alone, and Awid Aman Conscious living was born.
Awid Aman means “bring me water” in Tamazight ( north African language). As we are composed of 82% water, it is a way to represent the collaborative aspect of the project; bring me water means bring me yourself!
First, I created a women’s 21-day coliving retreat in July. So far, so successful. I was about to open a new place and a coworking place. But mother nature decided to change my plans. A volcano erupted at only 1 kilometer from where the coliving was, and I had to close it in less than 24 hours.
After two weeks, when the grief went away, I decided to change the concept of the brand. The new purpose was not to be a place but a lifestyle based on collaborative governance and reconnection to mother nature and the others.
I made the first trial in Tenerife, but La Gomera, or more precisely, Vallehermoso, offered the same combination of nature and cultural connection as La Palma.
Currently, I am hosting my fifth group, and I am about to co-create a program with the local community.
3. Have you ever had the opportunity to stay in some type of coliving space or any type of shared accommodation before you decided to start your own project?
– Yes, I started my journey as a digital nomad, first in Portugal, then in the south of Spain, and then in Canarias.
I also have more than ten years of experience in hospitality and event organizations which gives me a solid vision of how hosting people should be and how it shouldn’t.
4. Can you tell us a little bit more about the Awid Aman concept? What is the main difference compared to standard coliving accommodation?
– Awid Aman is a collaborative experience where people are keen to find a new way of living, more connected to nature and their true selves.
We decide how we will live together and make decisions during the experience by co-creating the rules. I am mentored by a governance specialist who helps me find the right balance.
Every group is different, so we are never bored. Collaboration means that there is no leader in the project. At Awid Aman, everyone can be the leader for at least one hour.
I believe that coliving is like a small world, our world or family. The vision is to create a new way of living where improvisation, acceptance of others, and gratitude are the keys to creating a better world.
I created this concept by taking my North African roots like a map. I used three words to build it:
- Awid Aman – to share my will to learn from others
- Tuiza – that pushes every participant to help others
- Tajmaat – the democratic governance that we find in all Berber villages of my country.
5. Do you remember the first retreat you organized, and what was the most difficult thing for you?
– To please everybody. But it is a project that attracts very grateful people most of the time. Sometimes as a founder and host it is hard to receive very demanding and critical people. But it is part of the hospitality game.
The other challenge was to host people during the covid time and protect all the colivers. It was a big responsibility to introduce new people every month. But I am happy that no one got Covid in any of my colivings in La Palma, Tenerife, or La Gomera.
6. Is there something that you wished you knew before starting this project?
– I wish I had known my mentor Sacha, the founder of Governance integrative. A community project is challenging, and knowing different techniques of governance is a real bonus!
We are working on creating tools to give the opportunities for every group to learn about new ways to make decisions and become unique in their way to function and make decisions.
7. Have you had the opportunity to visit other similar coliving/coworking places since you started yours?
– Not yet! But, I want to visit four communities this summer to see how they can manage a bigger one!
8. How do you choose the location, and what is the story behind choosing Spain for your project?
– I chose to start my project in La Palma and then in La Gomera because they are both protected biospheres.
Bringing people here is the best way to show them what nature is and why we need to protect it. If you know, it will become a treasure you will want to protect. The same goes for the culture. If you are curious enough to learn about the culture of the place you visit, you automatically have more consideration and want to share its beauty.
On top of that, the Canarias have North-African roots linked to my own origin, the best European weather, and are a hub for digital nomads. It was the perfect match ever!
My dream is to offer experiences to a maximum of 10 people in towns of less than 3000 inhabitants, surrounded by protected nature with a permaculture farm not too far.
9. What are the advantages of hosting this type of event in a remote rural place, and are there any disadvantages?
– The advantage is that the community must engage more with the locals in their language (no one speaks English here), and the participants are the only ones with whom you can share big discussions so you get to know people very well and quickly. We are a unique community of digital nomads in the area.
The disadvantage is that some people feel overwhelmed to be disconnected from their city life so much. They sometimes feel the need to have big parties or to meet many more people. Slowing down is not easy. But most of them said that this experience changed their life.
Awid Aman Community
“You will enrich your life immeasurably if you approach it with a sense of wonder and discovery, and always challenge yourself to try new things.“
10. What is the profile of people who are most likely to stay at your place/ be part of your coworking retreats?
– I would say curious, open-minded, easy-going, and conscious people with the ability to accept that it will never be perfect.
I have had 160 clients so far, and I still have five stars on Google. But like Americans say: Shit happens. Sometimes the group doesn’t go very well together. In other cases, a colivers lies in their purpose to be there. Sometimes the team is tired and not perfect.
So I think that the best client is the one who takes this experience as a challenging experience where we will all learn something and thrive together. I don’t offer service with plastic rules that people need to follow like the Bible.
We are here to learn, grow, share and make mistakes.
11. What is the average age of people who are visiting your accommodations?
12. How long do people usually stay, and do your visitors tend to return?
– Minimum 2 weeks and up to 5 months.
13. What activities are included as a part of your coworking retreat?
– I always include: a permaculture class, a weekly family dinner, a tour by an eco guide, and a team-building activity (brainstorming, cooking class, creation of an object, mastermind by a coliver).
14. What do you think is the best value Awid Aman has to offer?
– Humility, deep connection, and conversation. You can show your real self even if it is hurtful. We change all the codes of big cities!
15. Do you have some special offers for startups and group bookings?
– At the moment, I want to focus on solo entrepreneurs, freelancers, and creatives, not groups.
About the Coliving Movement
”You can’t force people to care about the natural environment, but if you encourage them to connect with it, they just might.”
16. 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?
– Living inside a community is a must-do. It is a great school for people who need to relearn how to live together.
Big cities have changed a lot in the way of seeing communities. For a lot of people, it is just having likes on Instagram. No. A community is a smart collective intelligence that can be a great support system to face big challenges and make us grow as human beings.
So definitely a coliving experience can build great humans and teams.
17. Do you think that coliving cannot exist without some type of coworking?
– I think having a coworking in the same city as the coliving is really nice. It helps not to be at home all the time and gives the colivers a routine.
18. One of the main selling points for the coliving movement is the possibility to meet new people, share experiences, and maybe even develop new partnerships. Is that really the situation?
– Yes, you create a deep connection. So definitely an experience to find partners with whom you can travel and work!
19. Do you have some examples where people who had the opportunity to meet on your retreats later managed to develop successful partnerships or relationships?
– Yes, every group sees the birth of a strong friendship. Some started to live together. Others started to work together. But more often they become a partner in travel and visit each other in their respective countries.
Secure yourself the best coliving experience
- italki – Why not learn some Spanish before your trip and make your coliving even better? italki is the perfect platform for that! You will find more than 3500 native speakers are waiting to help you with your Spanish.
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