I wrote earlier this year about my first ever coliving experience, which was at Sun and Co in Javea, a small town on the east coast of Spain. I had such a wonderful time there, that when I heard they were doing a pop-up experience in another part of Spain in May 2023, I jumped at the chance!

So, where Sun and Co’s main offering is a permanent coliving space for most of the year (its building converts into a hostel during summers), the company also has a pop-up coliving experience that it runs for 6 weeks in total in a gorgeous villa in the Basque Country, northern Spain. This pop-up concept is very much like its parent counterpart, except that the main site is flexible and you can check in on any of its opening days and stay for at least 10 days. Whereas the Basque pop-up only takes in cohorts of colivers on specific dates at two-week intervals – this means that several people are meeting at the same time and getting to know each other for the same length of time, rather than the usual experience of people coming and going. This format also facilitates the idea of sharing food and cooking together, which I’ll go into more later in this post, but it’s needed due to the remote location.

Accommodation and Location

I decided to stay for just two weeks because this was my first time doing this very experience, so I was apprehensive to commit to too much just in case I happened not to like it! The best dates for me were the last two weeks, and so I ended up staying in the last cohort of this 6-week coliving experience. I chose the quad room, which is basically like a dorm for just four people, but certainly one of the fanciest of dorms I’ve ever stayed in! They were all single beds rather than bunk beds, so that made it nicer to not have to climb up and down ladders. It was the cheapest option, but it was cosy, I was happy with what I got and my roommates were lovely (two other women and a man, so it’s mixed gender). This was the biggest room, as every other room was for either one or two people, some with ensuites and some without. It was located next to quite a busy road, so there can be some noise from the traffic, but this didn’t personally bother me – it sounded ambient to me! However, I’d recommend ear plugs if you’re a light sleeper that’s easily disturbed.

My bed in the quad room, with welcome wine and booklet 🙂

The room I stayed in didn’t have an ensuite, but our bathroom was conveniently located right outside our bedroom. The bathroom itself was nice, but it’s single occupancy (rather than multi occupancy like the Javea coliving bathrooms are). Since the four of us in the quad room, plus the person in the private room next to us, all had to use this same bathroom, this meant that there was often a bit of a wait to use it, especially in the mornings. You would have to either get up extra early to catch the bathroom first, or just go do other things like have breakfast or do some work until the bathroom was free. Not ideal, but not the biggest deal – one of the pros of flexible working where you live!

As for the villa as a whole – it was wonderful! It’s a rather beautiful, quaint and clean building in a small rural town called Gautegiz Arteaga. This villa is a very pleasant place to stay, and so big that it felt like a mansion! It has three floors (I’m British, so I say ground floor instead of first floor, just so you know), with bedrooms on every floor. On the ground floor is the big spacious kitchen and a living and dining room where you could chill or work, and there is a focus room / TV room on the first floor where you can of course, work and/or watch TV. There is also a huge garden and a swimming pool outside, which unfortunately wasn’t heated, so I didn’t go in it because I can’t stand cold water!

Coworking

Since this is a villa owned by another company that Sun and Co rents from, it’s not especially made for coliving – it’s likely more for holidays and retreats. However, Sun and Co evidently made good efforts to adapt it so that we could work effectively. A workspace was set up in the villa’s TV room and dedicated the “focus room”, where you can come to work without chatting to others. However, to be honest, I did find it a bit strange to have a focus room in the same room as the TV room, but I guess we managed and it mostly worked. Extension leads were provided here and in the ground floor’s dining room, which was a popular place to work if you don’t mind a small bit of chatter with your coworkers. The swimming pool deck has tables and chairs, and it was also nice to work here whenever it was sunny (it’s northern Spain, so the climate here isn’t as warm as southern Spain, much to my chagrin!).

There is only one bookable private spot – the chapel room on the third floor. The room itself is very pretty and well decorated. However, there’s no desk, so you’re just sitting down casually on chairs with small tables. It serves the purpose fine of having calls, although not ideal if you did prefer to take your meeting at a proper work desk.

Out hiking with some of the other colivers on our first full day

Community

Sun and Co are just brilliant at organising and executing events and nurturing a community. The way they did it at the pop-up coliving was very similar to how they do it in the main house in Javea. On Monday evenings we would have a family meeting, led by Sun and Co host Fer, to decide what activities the group would carry out that week – both leisure and professional events that we could opt in or out of.

Food and Cooking Together

Something that was unique to this pop-up is the idea of doing “Food and cooking together”. The villa is located in quite a remote area that isn’t within walking distance to any supermarket. So Sun and Co decided to give colivers the option of whether they want to share food with others in the house. Basically, the first part of it is that we would all put money in a pot and add to a group shopping list, and then the host would use these to order a bulk grocery delivery to the house. The food gets stored in the kitchen and you can freely pick and choose what you want for eating and making your meals with.

The second part of the “Food and cooking together” concept is that on Monday to Thursday nights, we would all cook dinner and eat together. We arrange ourselves into 4 teams at the start of the week on Sunday evenings, where each team decides what meal they want to make that week and on what day. It’s also decided which team cleans on each evening, since there is a lot of clean up after 12+ people dine together! I found this activity so wonderful, because it really ramped up the community feel to another level. It takes teamwork to set it all up, and then at the end we sit down and literally enjoy the fruits of our labour.

The jollof rice meal that my team and I made for the house. Trust me, it tasted better than it looks!

It was a great opportunity to share new ideas with each other too. For example, I decided with my team in the first week to introduce my coliving housemates to Nigerian food, which I personally feel is highly underrated. We cooked jollof rice (rice cooked in a sauce of tomatoes and red peppers) with chicken, and puff puff (a deep-fried dough snack) for dessert, and these literally went down a treat! These were people from all over the world (USA, Canada, Romania, Netherlands, Brazil, Poland, England and Slovakia) whom previously never had these foods before and they all loved it, so much so that there weren’t any leftovers for me the next day!

I also felt it was so easy to eat healthily here – one team even did a salad bar one evening, which I found surprisingly diverse, delicious and filling! Nobody here seemed to be into pizzas and McDonald’s, haha. I’m currently on a journey of eating healthier and losing some weight, so it was great to be in an environment where it was so easy to to do this!

You could of course opt out of the “Food and cooking together” option, which I guess some people would if they have special dietary requirements, odd eating times and/or have a car to drive to the supermarket. But everyone in my particular cohort opted in, and it worked really well for everyone!

Another of the tasty and healthy group dinners that we had, cooked by Sun and Co host Fer

Professional events

As arranged at the Monday family meetings and in a shared spreadsheet, the group would discuss and vote on what skillshares and masterminds we wanted to take part in that week and who would volunteer to host each one. I attended skillshares and masterminds in playfulness and creativity, and boundaries, sustainable living, non-violent communication and career change. I learned lots of interesting things and also helped my housemates wherever I could.

There’s no obligation or pressure to attend any of these events if you don’t want to or have something else you need to do. But certainly when you get the chance of just going to at least a few, it’s really worth it!

Admiring the street art of Arteaga

Social life

At the Monday family meetings and online spreadsheet, we also arranged some leisurely activities to do with each other throughout the fortnight (and some stuff also happened which wasn’t planned). I was one of two people to lead the welcome BBQ on the very first night, which was a great way to start the coliving experience and meet everyone. The next day, host Fer took us on a hike of the local area, which was great to do to explore the wonderful surroundings of where we were staying. There’s lot of nature here and pretty buildings. We also saw a lot of street art, which I wasn’t expecting in a place like this, but I loved it!

Jessica from England and I arranged a night out for the group on the first Friday to go for pintxos in the nearby larger town of Guernica. I hadn’t ever heard of pintxos (or pinchos) before I’d come to this trip, but it turns out they are basically the tapas of the Basque’s country. They’re usually a piece of bread with a small piece of cooked meat, vegetable or cheese skewered on top, and served with an alcoholic drink. So they made good snacks to eat casually, and I enjoyed trying a variety of them throughout my time in the Basque country.

Savouring the local delicacy of the Basque Country, pinchos

The next day, some of the colivers went to a festival that was happening in another town. I opted out because I was so tired, and just stayed in that Saturday to make more jollof rice (yum!). Then on the Sunday, I had a lovely day visiting Laga beach with Fer and his friend. Later that week was also a fun trivia night where my tendency to remember everyone’s dates of births came in handy here, haha. Then our very last meal on the final Friday, it was luckily lovely sunny weather so we had this meal outside, which was also combined with Canadian Deanna‘s skillshare of a wine tasting.

Conclusion

Visiting Playa de Laga on a sunny day

The Sun and Co pop-up coliving experience is in some ways the same as the Javea coliving, but in other ways different. The rural location of the pop-up may not be as exciting and convenient as being in a town or city, but I did enjoy it for the short time I was here. There is lots of nature literally on your doorstep to explore. The villa is a wonderful and comfortable place to stay in. The food-sharing element was rather special, and was so fun to get involved with, bond with the group and learn new foods and meals. The structure of this programme meant that the group bonded quite well – so much so, that most of us decided to stay in the nearby city of Bilbao for a few extra days and hang out there (blog post to come on this soon!).

Being a lover of the sun, I was disappointed in the weather as it was a bit too similar to the UK. I learned that the climate of northern Spain is very different to that of more southern Spain and the Canary Islands. Still, despite that, I would be interested in attending this same event again. I would likely just stick to the two weeks, because I found it quite an intense experience and I was pretty tired at the end of it! I’m an introvert, so maybe that has something to do with it. A few people did do 4-6 weeks though, so it’s doable if you can pace yourself. Overall, I would certainly recommend the Sun and Co Basque Country pop-up coliving experience!

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