I haven’t written a blog post in over a year (stopped in Australia as decent internet connection on the road became a big issue!) but since I am now traveling alone again I thought I would keep people updated. I left England 3 days ago for sunny Spain, to join a HelpX in Cantabria, in the north of Spain. Before I left many friends and family were asking what is helpx and is it safe etc so I will give a brief overview of the site and what I am doing here!
This is the actual website for help exchange; http://www.helpx.net
Its a very simple idea in that people who want to volunteer (helpxers) create a profile similar to facebook, describing themselves, what jobs they are good at and what they like to do in their spare time, where they want to travel and for how long. Similarly, people who want to have helpers come into their home/business create a host profile with what help they need, what the accommodation is like and how much work per day.
It’s an exchange because volunteers usually work for 4 hours a day in return for free accommodation and food, though sometimes this differs depending on hosts’ needs. It costs 20EURO to join for 2 years.
I knew I wanted to go to Spain as I wanted to improve my Spanish language, it has been 5 years since I lived in Madrid and I feel like I am forgetting it all without practice! Since I had already explored Madrid and surrounds and quite a lot of the South I chose to come to the North. My host had advertised that she has been learning English for the past 5 years but wanted more help in pronunciation and to practice speaking fluently. I have a TEFL certificate, have previously taught English in Thailand and conversation classes in Madrid, plus have a British accent and want to practice Spanish too so it was a good match! We emailed each other explaining what we were looking for and my host had space for 10 days in August so here I am! HelpX is also great in that you get to be a part of a different culture and live how a local does.
I am staying in a cute house in the countryside in a place called Puente San Miguel that is almost at the end of the FEVE (local train) line from Santander.
Here is the view from my room; behind that hill is the sea!
There are lots of cows here, I ran past these guys this morning…
I flew in to Bilbao airport and my flight arrived at 11pm. My host had found a bus from Bilbao centre that arrived near her house at 1am but I didn’t think there would be enough time to collect my luggage etc and get to the city so I decided to book into a hostel and go to hers on Monday morning. Luckily I did do that as the bus leaving the airport dropped me into town and then metro had already closed so I was looking for a taxi to get to the hostel instead and didn’t arrive until 1am there.
On Monday morning I caught an ALSA bus from Bilbao coach station (San Mames on metro) to Santander bus station which took about an hour and a half. I recommend booking in advance in the summer as I didn’t and I was lucky enough to get the last seat for 7Euro. From there I caught the FEVE (local train) to Puente San Miguel (about 45 mins and cost 2.50euro) where my host, Jane, met me. Straight away she was kind and talkative and took me for tapas in a local bar. We had a clara (like a shandy) and tortilla espanola con atun, a tuna and potato omlette. Her husband, Francisco picked us up in the car and took us to their house! Once settled we went for a walk around the surrounding countryside and it is stunningly beautiful. Lots of green hills, cows, sheep and trees. It is also very peaceful. In town we stopped for another drink before heading up the hill back to the house for dinner. Jane had prepared a salad, chorizo, lots of barbecue meat and all was delicious. We sat up to the table and talked for hours, in a mixture of Spanish and English (both Jane and Francisco are fluent in both.) I even had a quick spanish lesson into wines and some lovely tasters too. After staying in a hostel and late arrival the night before I had the laziest sleep ever, and didn’t wake up until 13 hours later. Cantabria and the countryside is so peaceful!