Beginning of January, two of our members went to Galicia to find abandoned villages. Here is what we found.
Our world is not free; every square meter of the earth is subject to a government to a greater or lesser extent. This means that individuals do not get to decide what to do with their own homes and how to live together with other people.
But there are big differences between governments, and there are big differences between the power they exercise in practice. South Korea is freer than North Korea. Life is better in Colombia than in neighboring Venezuela.
And within almost every country, rules are applied less strictly in the countryside than in big cities.
However, if you want to increase your freedom within Europe, the choice is limited. All Western European countries follow almost the same rules, including covid restrictions. The only difference is the implementation. In an area that is already sparsely populated, and with an ageing population, it is difficult to control all citizens. There is no budget nor manpower for it.
That is the idea behind the search for an abandoned village in Galicia. Much has been written about it, and yet many questions remain unanswered. Who do these villages belong to? How can you buy a whole village? Is there electricity and good internet here? How dilapidated are the houses? What is ‘allowed’ by the ‘authorities’?
If you believe the numbers mentioned online, there are thousands of abandoned villages in Spain. However, this is a virtual reality. First of all, there’s the definition of a village. A cluster of five houses is already considered a village. Secondly, many citizens are registered somewhere else than where they live for social security purposes and so forth. Thirdly, many houses are uninhabited, but not abandoned. The owners still use them as holiday homes.
Completely abandoned villages with more than ten houses are rare. However, they do exist. For our purposes, a village does not have to be completely deserted. A single inhabitant will not get in the way. In fact, it could be a great help. But it could also be someone who does not want new neighbours. Hence, and out of pure fascination, villages without inhabitants were given priority during our short expedition.
Generally, you find these abandoned villages in areas that are already sparsely populated. They are far away from main roads, larger villages or towns. However, we never had to drive more than 40 minutes from a town with basic facilities and there was only one village that we could not reach with our normal car.
We visited a total of nine villages that were completely or almost completely deserted and had at least ten houses. Another eight villages are still on our list. Surely there are more in Galicia, but certainly not more than 50.
Villages we found received points for the following: south facing slope, flatness of terrain, electricity, internet speed, number of houses in livable condition, dead end street(more points for relative isolation) presence of a stream (water power) and total number of houses/ruins. All villages had a source of drinking water, as they are all centuries old.
The ideal village would have houses in perfect condition, but such a preference is not realistic. In most villages, there were only a few houses in reasonable condition, presumably used as holiday homes. Most houses are ruins. Yet even a ruin that has fallen into a heap of rubble is of value, because one is ‘allowed’ to renovate it. New construction is much more difficult to achieve. Of course, we would prefer to build as we see fit, but if we can avoid conflicts with local officials, it is a good thing. And certainly in the early stages, we will have to be subtle.
As a result of our survey, we know that not all of our members are looking for a ruin to renovate. There are a number of options for these member: first of all, everyone can rent something in the neighbourhood until their own house is habitable. There is a lot of vacancy and rents are very low.
One can drive a camper, caravan, a tiny house or a chalet to our village. An easy option is to stabilise the walls of a ruin and then place a chalet, caravan or modular house within these walls.
Several of our members would want to start a construction company together. Like an Amish barn raising, we can build each-others’ houses.
We have learnt from estate agents that bureaucracy can sometimes be harsh on people who want to live according to their own ideas. We must be aware of this and be creative in dealing with bureaucrats so that we can maintain and develop our freedom. First of all, prevention is better than cure: we do well to establish good relationships with local bosses. This is not the same as kissing their rings, but to demonstrate that we want to deal on an equal basis.
Relative isolation is also an important strategy to avoid problems. For example, if someone wants to make cheese for the community, no one will denounce this person if it is done without permission. Does our village school stay open during yet another lockdown and do we remain unmasked? No problem when you are at the end of a road where hardly anyone comes.
In this way, our community can slowly grow until a circular economy is created in which a significant part of our needs are met by other members. Transactions can be paid in crypto for large amounts and silver money for small ones, completely tax-free. An informal economy is the way to a free society.
By building a society from the ground up, we can avoid making too many concessions to the existing system. This is not an easy task, and it will take time to transform a collection of houses in very poor condition into a living community. But it will pay off very soon. When we make it a success story, it can be copied in many places.
The second part of this report is for members only. Continue reading on our forum.