Voluntary work: our debut in Spain (and in the world)

On our way through Spain, we visited Córdoba, a city that before arriving we knew almost nothing about. It Is not within the great world capitals of tourism and does not have the fame of other cities in Spain, such as Madrid or Barcelona. Because of this, sometimes it does not appear on the list of travelers or its considered worth only a visit for one or two days. But when we arrived to Córdoba we fell in love with this white and ochre city instantly and we were more than happy to know that we were going to be there for sixteen days. How did we know in advance how many days we would be? Because we had an agreement to do voluntary work that we got through the Workaway platform.

Some of the many streets of Cordoba that we love

As we arrived a few days before the date we had agreed to start our work, the first three days we were staying on our own in a house from Airbnb. This was our first contact with the Cordoban courtyards, which are the main attraction of Cordoba and they drive me crazy.

The patio of our first house in Córdoba

During those first days we made life of “tourists” but in a very calm way, because we knew that we still had many days ahead to explore the city at a slow pace. Among other things, we visited the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba:

When the fourth day arrived we moved to the new place, where we were going to stay for free in exchange for working fifteen hours a week. There were many questions that were in the air before arriving, many things that we did not know: How will the place be? Will we like it? Will there be other volunteers? What work will we have to do? All of which were answered little by little.

The house we found was very interesting, huge and with a lot of potential. It was also very old, from the thirteenth century, built on Roman bases, like most houses in the historic center of Cordoba. This causes them to need a lot of maintenance constantly. And that’s where we came in: our work was going to be mostly painting and some little cleaning of the apartments that were rented inside the house, which was also a house-patio. Here I leave a small text that I wrote at that time, about what it meant for me to live in a patio house:

One of the things I like most about traveling is being able to understand / feel / live how people live in each place I go. That is why I love this life-journey, which, unlike previous trips, is being very slow and conducive to generating these experiences.

Without knowing it previously (like almost everything on this trip) we arrived at this authentic house-patio of Cordoba where we lived 13 days. At first it was strange, but it quickly took on flavor and I learned to enjoy each instance of this different way of life.

Omar defined living in a patio house as a hybrid between camping and living in a “conventional” house. And I think it’s a pretty accurate definition.

Living in a patio house means experiencing every state of the climate in a very deep way, because most of the life takes place outside: the icy breakfasts in the morning, looking for the first rays of sun to hit our face so that cold tremendous be lighter; lunches under a very strong sun and temperatures so high that they continue to surprise me; equally cold dinners than breakfast and the climate cycle that begins again.

Living in a very large house-patio, like this one, makes every movement count, that means thinking very well what to take on each trip from the room to the kitchen, from the inside to the outside, from the pseudo-heat, to the cold, or vice versa , according to the time of day.

To live in a house-yard, means to suppress the first natural impulse when one arrives from the street to a house, that is, to take off the jacket. Here the jacket is still on and the patio is still a little piece of street, a little piece of heaven, that slips inside the house.

Here are some images of the patio of our house:

And here Omar in full work and on the right the newly painted room.

Regarding what we earned in return: we had a private bedroom for ourselves and a semi-open kitchen, shared by all the volunteers, which ended up being just for us because the third volunteer, Marco, a twenty-one-year-old Brazilian, never showed up around there. The first day it took me a while to get used to the idea of ​​outdoor cooking, especially because of the cold in the morning and at night, but quickly and with a lot of clothes on, I got used to it and had great moments there.

The work schedule was very flexible, we usually arranged it the day before with Carola, the owner of the house, a German woman who had lived in Córdoba for more than thirty years now. It was also very good that once we finished our schedule, which was respected with strict punctuality by her, we were totally free to do what we wanted until the next working day.

This flexibility on the one hand and exactness on the other, was excellent for our plans and we were able to accommodate our schedules as we wanted. So, instead of working three hours every day from Monday to Friday, we worked more hours on fewer days and we made… a long weekend! (Yes, weekends rule, also while traveling). Among other things, that “long weekend” we visited the monumental ruins of Medina Azahara, which is eight kilometers from the city:

During our days in Córdoba, even when working, we had a lot of time to explore the city slowly and without hassles, as we like it. We also had time to work hard on our projects, writing, editing photos, drawing, etc. Here I leave some Instagram post that I wrote during those days:

We also had the opportunity to generate routines, which we both need and like so much. We were able to feel at home. Being two weeks in one place, allowed us to make longer-term purchases and cook delicious things, so much that Neil, the English mason who also worked at Carola’s, used to peek at our lunches and tell us how good they looked. He said it had nothing to do with what volunteers usually eat. Some of the tasties things we ate there were spanish potato omelette and vegetable couscous.

To say goodbye, one night Carola invited us to share a wine and some tapas in the patio. It was very interesting to listen to her stories and how she originally got there. The next day we cooked pasta with vegetable sauce and we shared it at lunch with Carola and Neil. It’s good to have met such nice people during this experience! The day of our departure, Carola said goodbye with a big hug and left us the doors of her house open, for any time we wanted to return to Córdoba.

We were very lucky to have had such a good first experience in the field of volunteer work and we continue with the feeling that it is a great option to save on accommodation, travel slowly and get deeply involved with the local culture, especially on long trips, such as our.


PostScript 1: If you want to help me to continue with this project, don’t forget to share!

If you have any questions, queries or suggestions, you can leave it in the comments below. And if you think someone can serve or interest this information, I thank you very much for sharing it!

PostScript 2: do you want some more practical information about slow and low cost travelling?

You can find data and practical information on this topic in this post:

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