When my first Workaway experience in Jerez came to its end in May, I found myself free to move again and explore a different area of Andalusia, volunteering in a completely different setting.
I decided to venture into the hospitality area, at first wanting to work in one of Granada’s many hostels. After a few days of searching through endless Workaway opportunities and sending applications, I found Finca Natura and made a Skype interview with its owner Andy. Although the place was not in Granada as I originally planned, and although it wasn’t a typical hostel, but rather a naturist guest house, Andy and I clicked quickly during the interview and something within me yelled out loud that this was the right place to go.
And so I packed by backpack and my small suitcase, leaving my guitar and the rest of my luggage safely stored in my friend’s house. I set out into new adventures, wide-eyed, excited by the unknown, full of new energy and motivation that only comes with new beginnings.
What is Finca Natura?
Finca Natura is a naturist guest house near the small town called Alora, half an hour train ride from beautiful Malaga. The private property of this typical Andalusian 300 year old house occupies nearly 70 acres, situated in the picturesque hills decorated with orange, lemon, olive and almond trees. The apartment complex reserved for the guests is fully renovated, and the central terrace area equipped by a 4×8 meter swimming pool, hot tub, outdoor bar and dining area, and a gazebo providing shadow for those hot Andalusian siesta times.
The owner and my Workaway boss is Andy, quite possibly the man with the largest smile on Earth. He welcomed me to the Finca with his arms wide open and a warm heart. He is in charge of everything in the place – organization, renovation, management, volunteers, guests, delicious food cooking, grocery shopping, transportation, … You name it, he’ll handle it!
Such a fun person with a young spirit and many, many kilometers of traveling around this globe in his feet – I didn’t have any problems becoming good friends with him. I knew from the start that this was the person I could learn so much from, and count on him if any problems emerged, regardless of whether they were of professional or personal nature. And so it was – Andy was there to reassure me every time I had any doubts. Moreover, he was kind and friendly to everyone who visited the Finca, but above all to the volunteers. He made sure we made ourselves at home, felt comfortable and safe, and we had everything we could have possibly wished for, even more. Andy’s character and attitude are most definitely among the highlights of my experience as a volunteer in this place.
Except for Andy, permanent residents of the Finca are also two adorable dogs, Billy and Dino, both very playful and loving. I still can’t help but smile whenever I remember Dino, size of a small pony, happily prancing across the terrace to greet us, his tongue out and drooling, inadvertently slapping our thighs with his long, strong tail, only looking for cuddles, completely unaware of his size.
Volunteer Experience and Work
As far the work itself at Finca Natura was considered, it really wasn’t too hard nor too much. Depending on the number of volunteers and guests at a given moment, we had quite a lot of time to ourselves, to explore nearby towns, cities, and nature, or just to relax and hang out around the swimming pool.
If the guests were staying in the house all day long, some of the volunteers had to stay as well to be of service if needed, while the rest would venture out to indulge their wanderlust. As Andy was preparing all the delicious food we ate there, cooking was not a part of our day-to-day responsibilities. Being a poor a cook, this was a major plus for me! Our tasks included preparing the table for the meals, serving food and beverages during meals, working at the bar, general cleaning and maintenance of indoor and outdoor areas, taking care of the dogs, socializing with the guests and entertaining them.
Every volunteer I met there was a truly interesting person, and being around such people can be very motivating and rewarding. Everyone had some kind of a hobby – mine was writing and singing, but two other girls I met there were doing photography, and one of them made a promo video for the Finca. One girl used to work in a bar and developed a habit of preparing delicious awesome cocktails for everyone, someone cleaned and touched up the dog house, and another one gave great advice about healthy food and lifestyle, accompanied by pretty awesome massage skills. Some girls had a good eye for drawing and decorating the walls, and some helped with ideas regarding management. Everybody found an additional project to do while we were there, their own way to contribute to the Finca, aside from doing the daily chores.
Many times we had great fun eating together, playing silly games and telling funny jokes, drinking after dinner, singing karaoke and dancing, or watching movies under the stars. Andy would sometimes even invite his neighbor Paul to join us with his own volunteers, and we were such a happy crowd. The sunsets we used to observe in silence from behind the house or from the rooftop terrace were breathtaking. Sometimes, in the quiet nights when it was just us volunteers in the house, Andy’s favorite thing was to turn off all the lights, sit in the darkness and just watch the skies full of stars, as there was no major light pollution anywhere near us. The place was simply serene and magical for me.
Working and Living in the Nude?
In case someone somehow hasn’t figured out yet, naturist is a synonym for nudist.
Yes, I went to volunteer in “the naked place”.
Yes, we spent a large portion of time walking around, swimming, sunbathing, and even working naked.
When I shared the news of going to a naturist place to work, I was repeatedly asked what people did there and why I chose to go there.
So let’s answer the first question. People go to naturist places because they want to feel free to enjoy themselves naked in the sun and water, and because they feel comfortable about their own and other people’s bodies. It’s like an ultimate escape into the freedom and natural human state. Instead of imposing their opinions on others in the society, the naturists simply go to places made for naturists, where they can enjoy themselves among like-minded people, without being stared at, judged, or worrying about making someone else feel uncomfortable.
During my stay there, the guests of Finca Natura were mostly British middle aged couples who wanted to spend their summer vacations away from the busy and tiring urban life they usually lead. They were just like all other people, with their families, friends, jobs, life stories, and different personalities – some more pleasant, some less pleasant. The only difference was that they didn’t wear clothes if they so pleased.
The other volunteers and I did the same – we relaxed and worked in the nude when we felt like it, and we also put on some clothes when we felt like it for whatever reason. Nobody was forced to take their clothes off, but almost everyone did it and enjoyed it once they relaxed and realized it wasn’t a big deal. As a result, the atmosphere was pleasant, and potential natural curiosity about other people’s bodies melted away as living in the nude became just one of the sporadic circumstances of life in the Finca.
And no, living and working there didn’t have any exaggerated sexual connotations. Some of my friends asked me if there was anything kinky going on there, but this simply isn’t the case. Of course, naturism can be associated with sexual activities, but this Finca is reserved only for non-sexual naturism. And Andy made sure that everyone – both the guests and the volunteers – was aware of this. He refused to make bookings with any guests who even remotely showed curiosity for anything else but simple nudism, and encouraged us volunteers to step forward if any of the guests displayed whatever kind of unpleasant behavior. However, nothing especially awkward ever happened while I was there, and we felt comfortable and safe at all times.
As to why I decided to volunteer in the nude – I’ve always felt very comfortable in my own body and couldn’t quite comprehend this taboo that the society has developed around the nature of human body and its sexual aspect. I was raised mostly by my mother, who was very open minded and welcoming towards all my curious questions about the world, including human sexuality. Therefore, for me, this part of our lives is a very natural thing, not something that should be hidden and shied away from. Since this is the case, nudity from my perspective is not necessarily sexual. People over-sexualize nudity only as a result of centuries of sexual oppression in the society. Once you learn to accept this as something completely normal and natural, and strip your mind of all the programmed prejudice, nudity is no longer such a big deal as it might seem at first. It is something that can be relaxing, liberating, and very much enjoyed, once you no longer feel judged by the surrounding environment.
Unfortunately, such behavior patterns are mostly not welcome nor accepted in public. Because of this, I never really had the opportunity to relax into it, and going more than topless was still an unexamined area for me. So when I got the opportunity to go and explore this side of myself in a place where everyone embraces the same concept, I decided to finally step out of my comfort zone.
And I’m so glad I did! I fit into the place very fast, and had no problems whatsoever taking my clothes off to relax in the sun, swim, and even work. The whole experience has helped me appreciate my own body even more, along with both its beauty and flaws. I’ve learned to love my uniqueness, and fully accept others as they are naturally, in all shapes and forms. I would recommend everyone to open their mind and try this at least once in their lives. I guarantee you’ll fall in love with it!
In the end, it turned out that it was great to change my plans about going to Granada! Once again, I reassured myself about something I’ve known for a long time now – it is always good to keep your mind open and your plans flexible. And not just when traveling, but in all areas of life. Only then the experiences that we really need can come into our lives to teach us the lessons our souls crave for.
In the next post, read about the wanderlust shared with my itchy feet fellow volunteers
outside of the Finca Natura during my month as a volunteer there.