Coliving Spain 2022: #1 Awid Aman – Sustainable coliving in La Gomera

National park Garajonay

This March, we started our journey inside the project “Coliving Spain 2022”, and the first community to open its doors for us was Awid Aman.

Located on a small remote island of La Gomera in the Atlantic Ocean, Awid Aman gave us the opportunity to have a glance inside its sustainable coliving and share with us its vision.

We’re very grateful to have the opportunity to share this experience with you!

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What is sustainable coliving?

Sustainable coliving means sharing your accommodation with like-minded people while practicing a sustainable way of life. That means recycling, not over-consuming, eating fresh locally grown produce, avoiding mass-production, and giving back to nature as much as you take.

Permaculture garden in Hermigua, La Gomera
Field trip to the permaculture garden

A coliving is a great way to start living sustainably because it teaches you how to act towards this goal in a group. A group is a very influential factor so having the support and examples from others will help one learn their way in this way of life.

Even though you can practice sustainability everywhere, being surrounded by nature and candid culture is definitely more inspiring. Living in a village makes local produce more accessible, and mass-production products less accessible and more expensive.

In villages, a lot of people practice a sustainable way of life even without knowing it, so being in this environment can inspire one to see that a modest way of life can be easy and satisfying.

In the past couple of years, people have started to go back to the villages and modesty. It has become apparent that city life can be smothering and unhealthy, so many people are starting to take interest in living for at least a few months in villages.

On top of that, over-consumption took its toll and many people realized that we’re harming the planet so badly by not living sustainably. Because of that, people started to reach for solutions.

Many colivings that have opened in the past year or two are practicing exactly this way of life and acting as a solution for this problem. They are opening their doors in rural places and focusing on slow and conscious living.

One of these projects is Awid Aman – conscious coliving – that we visited in March 2022, and we want to tell you all about it.

What is Awid Aman?

Awid Aman is a concept created in 2021 with the idea of making a valuable community that will leave an impact. We spoke to the creator of Awid Aman, Sonia Amroun, about her vision and ideas in the recent interview we did, so if you missed that, check it out.

Awid Aman Community
Awid Aman’s 5th group in Vallehermoso

Awid Aman first started as a retreat, an event, where women came to live and work together for 21 days and learn and share experiences during that time. After that, the house Casa Benahoares opened its doors to all interested in this lifestyle, and who wanted to experience living in a community.

The coliving was located in La Palma and was a huge success until an unfortunate event took place causing everything to be shut down. A volcano erupted in 2021 and brought the end of Casa Benahoares.

Sonia’s ideas didn’t go down with it, and soon she continued working on the project and finding a new place to make an inspiring home for people searching for communities.

In March 2022, we decided to visit Awid Aman’s new place and experience this vision ourselves.

La Gomera – Awid Aman’s new location

We joined Awid Aman in Vallehermoso on the island called La Gomera, a beautiful small island that belongs to the Canaries.

If you have never heard about La Gomera before, then it’s about time! A hiker’s paradise and the uncanny beauty of the mountainous slopes will leave you speechless. But, let’s start from the beginning.

La Gomera Island

La Gomera is one of the eight main islands that form the archipelago that we know as the Canary Islands, located in the Atlantic ocean. Even though they’re so far away from Europe and their closest neighbor is Morocco, the Canary Islands are Spanish territory and a part of the EU.

La Gomera on a map
A mural in San Sebastian showing the map of La Gomera

La Gomera is the second smallest of the islands and has around 20,000 people.

The island is rich in extraordinary nature and biodiversity and was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. In 2012, UNESCO also proclaimed the island’s capital San Sebastian de La Gomera a Biosphere Reserve.

La Gomera climate

In La Gomera, the climate varies depending on the region. Even though this island is only above 350,00km2 big, its dramatic relief creates microclimates all over the island.

On the coast of La Gomera, in the capital San Sebastián de La Gomera, the climate is subtropical and mild, and mostly sunny throughout the year.

Lake in La Gomera
Beautiful scenery in La Gomera

It receives very little rainfall and is normally a nice vacation spot from May to October. From December to March, the temperature can fall to 10 degrees celsius during the night, but it normally stays above 15 degrees celsius during the day.

In the interior of La Gomera, the climate is a bit different than in the coastal parts. The interior of the island receives much more rainfall and winds, and the temperature gets lower with the altitude getting higher. From December to March some parts of the island can get very misty and windy.

During our stay, the weather was not the best. We had heavy and long rains for a few consecutive days, and only a few sunny days. Although Vallehermoso is in the interior part of the islands, such bad weather is not usual.

When coming to La Gomera, we would definitely recommend preparing yourself for wind. Bring a wind-proof light jacket and a raincoat just in case. You should also always pack a pair of hiking boots because there are some worthy hiking spots.

La Gomera towns

Speaking about La Gomera’s towns, there are quite a few charming places that you could visit. Here’s a small list to get the idea.

  • San Sebastián de La Gomera – capital and the biggest town on the island.
  • Valle Gran Rey – the most popular place to visit during the summer days. Taking into consideration all the beaches in La Gomera, the beaches in Valle Gran Rey are the most beautiful ones.
  • Vallehermoso – a beautiful village abundant with greenery and one of the biggest towns in La Gomera. This is where the coliving was located.

How to get to La Gomera

The easiest way to get to La Gomera is from Tenerife, the closest Canary Island to La Gomera. From Tenerife, you can come by ferry (Tenerife South) or plane (Tenerife North).

Ferry to La Gomera

The ferry from Tenerife to La Gomera is approximately 1 hour long, and it costs between 30 and 50 euros per person in one direction. Two ferry agencies do the route – Fred Olsen and Naviera Armas.

If you take the car with you, you can get a round trip card for about 80 euros. We came with the Fred Olsen company and paid 45 euros for a one-way ticket each. They didn’t have any discounts on the round-trip ticket, and we didn’t have a car.

The other company – Naviera Armas – has a discount for the round ticket and they might have some perks if you’re taking the car with you.

The ferry leaves from Los Cristianos port in Tenerife and arrives in San Sebastian de La Gomera in La Gomera.

To come from San Sebastian de la Gomera to Vallehermoso, you can take the bus to the bus station. It costs 4.5 euros and takes about an hour to get to the village.

Plane to La Gomera

Another way of arriving at the island is by plane from Tenerife North or Gran Canaria (another of the Canary Islands). The airline that does this route is Binter Canaria and you can find affordable tickets from and to all the Canary Islands.

The bus from the airport to Vallehermoso will cost around 10 euros.

And now you’re here – in Vallehermoso!

The neighborhood

When you arrive in Vallehermoso, you will get down to the city center. There will be a small plaza with restaurants and supermarkets. The whole valley will be rounded by enormous green mountains. The sight is beautiful.

Vallehermoso streets
A view on Vallehermoso from the rooftop of our coliving

The village is tiny, but very well organized. There are three supermarkets (Spar, Coviran, and Suma) and a few local shops in the city center. It also has 5-6 restaurants very close by with some delicious food. There is also a bank and a small farmers’ market.

Nearby, there is a pharmacy and a clinic in the city center, and the school is just a few minutes down the street.

Our house was only three minutes walk from the city center and all these necessities.

Unlike in typical Spain, during siesta hours, the supermarkets are working. Also, on Sunday, Suma is open.

So, all in all, this small village provides everything you need to feel comfortable and situated.

The house

As we already mentioned, in the period we visited Awid Aman, we stayed in a house in Vallehermoso called Casa Gara.

The house consisted of 3 bedrooms, one double and two shared rooms, with 12 beds in total. Not counting the bathrooms and the kitchen, the house had two communal spaces where colivers could hang out – the living room and the rooftop terrace.

Rooftop terrace

The rooftop was huge and an amazing place to soak up the sun and breathe in some fresh mountainous air.

Casa Gara by Awid Aman rooftop
Catching a bit of sun on the rooftop of the house

When the weather was nice, a lunch or a snack on the terrace was the perfect decision. Unfortunately, we didn’t have many sunny days during our stay, but some people knew how to catch the morning sun for some yoga and stretching.

Living room

The living room was quite nice and cozy, but a bit on the smaller side. There were not many different nooks, so when more than 5 people wanted to be inside, it could get a bit crowded. We organized games, group activities, and movie nights in the living room, and we were almost always 5 to 6 people at the time, which I think was the perfect number for the space.

Workspace

This particular house didn’t have a designated working area. We would often work in the living room or our bedrooms, but that was not always ideal. When the working area is also the dining area and the living room, there are so many distractions that can make work harder.

However, even though that working area was not IN the house, we had access to a co-working space just around the street. This space is a public space for local events and needs, and Awid Aman was the holder of one key. While we were there, not many others were using this space, so we would mostly be there alone and could concentrate on the work.

Coworoking in Vallehermoso
Coworking space provided by Awid Aman

The place was well-equipped with a reliable and high-speed internet connection, free water, coffee, and tea, and you could be there for as long as you wanted and come in and go whenever you wanted.

So, even though there was no working area in the house, the co-working area nearby was a great option, especially if you wanted some privacy.

With Awid Aman, the focus is not as much on work but more on the community and creating new experiences together. If you’re the type that works a lot during the day and you require a lot of privacy and alone time to focus, you might not fit in perfectly.

Who we met there

The average age of people that decided to join Awid Aman is between 30 and 40.

All the colivers that decided to come here loved nature, traveling, hiking, and enjoyed peace.

Awid Aman community
Awid Aman community hanging out in the living room

Common interests were nature, sustainability, veganism, meditation, and yoga.

Most people were either freelancers or working remotely.

During our stay, we had the opportunity to meet people from Latvia, Italy, Canada/Romania, France, and Algeria.

Activities offered at the coliving

Activities are one of the pillars of coliving. They are the thing that makes the difference between a standard accommodation and a coliving.

Awid Aman also had organized activities that the colivers should attend, and here is what they were during our stay.

Permaculture class

At the center of Awid Aman’s concept is sustainability. Living, eating, and acting sustainably is what this experience helps you learn, and one of the ways of doing that is by visiting a local permaculture garden.

Through a local partnership, colivers can experience a true eco-garden with fresh, healthy, and chemical-free produce.

Family dinner

It is a popular communal activity in many colivings, and it was in this one. Family dinners have many benefits in making the community stronger by building trust among the people, telling stories through food, and enjoying a nice tranquil time together.

Family dinner in Casa Gara
Family dinner looking delicious

Dinner is a good activity because everybody can fit into it.

Family dinners are the best when everyone prepares something they like or something from their country. This way, people not only enjoy the food, but the food also sparks conversation about one’s culture, likes, opinions, etc.

Another aspect of family dinners, especially when all participants prepare food, is that all people are equal. There is no one marked as a leader, as a host, no one that feels like a guest.

Eco-guide

On Saturday, we had an organized tour around the island with the amazing local tourist guide Rebeca. Rebeca’s interests as a guide are focused on the natural treasures of the island, and so was our tour.

Garajonay national park - La Gomera
Garajonay national park

We started our tour from the Garajonay national park, where Rebeca told us all about animal and plant species native to the park. We had a nice short hike to the waterfall and enjoyed the forest.

After that, Rebeca took us to see the fortress of Chipude. She told us a bit more about the fascinating history of La Gomera, as well as El Silbo Gomero, a whistling language native to the island.

Then, we took a stroll to a local ceramics museum to hear about an old tradition that is living on the island to this day.

After that, we went to the Mirador de Los Roques to see the Roque de Agando, a massive rock formation that looked like it was floating in the mist. We finished our day with some local food while enjoying the views in Las Hayas.

Rebeca also gave some hiking tips and secrets so we could go ourselves.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming was an interesting activity we did as a group. The principle is to have a few people sign up to talk about an issue they have or an obstacle, or anything really that they need help with.

Then, when the session starts, the person explains their problem, and others try to brainstorm the solutions. However, the form is very strict, with limited hours of speaking and a strict pattern to follow.

The strict plan might seem unnatural in the beginning, but it is actually very productive and inspires conversations that will continue in the next few days.

This activity is very helpful for bonding with the group but also for sharing different views and skill-sharing.

Movie Nights

We tried to organize movie nights as often as we could. Movies were a voluntary activity that we came up with as a group. They weren’t pre-organized, and there were no obligations to joining.

However, almost everyone joined every time. We found that activity to be inspiring and to have a good impact on the group.

The philosophy behind Awid Aman Conscious Coliving

The philosophy behind the concept is building the community on the principles of shared governance; a community without a leader.

Vallehermoso nature
Inspiring view of the Vallehermoso landscape

This means that the group will come together and make decisions about managing the space and the group. Everybody will step out and take a role, and everyone will be in charge of something.

Also, the philosophy is tightly related to sustainability and nature preservation, as well as reviving small towns like Vallehermoso.

The idea is that when people find themselves in nature and see its beauty, they would understand how important it is to preserve it.

The period we stayed there was a trial period for a project that Sonia (the founder) is currently working on. Even though our group might have not completely succeeded in the philosophy of shared governance, we did come out with valuable insights and learned a lot about nature and the importance of sustainable living.

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