With red weather warnings in place stretching across most of south Wales, it was hardly an auspicious start to our time away. But everyone arrived on time (no mean feat in itself), and despite cancelled trains and warnings that the place we were due to be staying might have been evacuated, we made it!
And it was truly beautiful.
We fitted in plenty of activity: shared meals, walks in the countryside, music, drama and art, a museum and a parliament building, a whole lot of new English vocabulary.
But really, this was not about what we did: it was about who we were: as individuals and together. It was about a group of people bringing themselves: their joys and their struggles, their lives and their vulnerabilities, and offering them to each other to build a community. It was about wrestling with our differences and discovering our similarities. It was about sitting around a table and sharing food, and laughter, and conversation, and culture. It was about bringing the whole of our humanity, learning to live together, and building a family.
Some of those who took part said this:
"In fact it was not just a trip for me, but a spiritual clinic inspired by nature. It changed everything from feeling tired, tired in myself, gaining confidence, breathing, sharing ideas with friends, skills in dealing with nature, getting out of the daily routine and giving you a desire for a new life and persevering in it all. Thanks. This journey is more than wonderful, everyone who participated, big or small, each had an important role."
"It was an extraordinary journey, when you travel with friends on a trip then you can notice the beautiful things hidden inside them. I mean sharing in everything, love, help, making people smile. No matter how simple the actions are, your relationship with others can be simple, but when you travel you unleash that innocent child inside you, because of the beauty of nature. Indeed I reached that innocent person and felt it for everyone, proud to be part if this team and I'm truly and deeply happy and satisfied!"
"I came from a country that we are told is home but unfortunately it is not as it is said. We grew up in the image of a warm house, we grew up in the noise of accidents and chaos everywhere, not even the presence of safety and stability, so we decided to leave behind the memories and pain. We came empty from inside to outside. We came with tears in our eyes, leaving what is dear to our heart in the hope of a new meeting or a last farewell. But with each new step it has its own touches from what we remember and compensated for our loss. On this journey it took us back to the warmth of a family that is between us. We lived three days as if they were three years and I did not miss an opportunity to take advantage of it. It is an opportunity that does not come every time. It was one of the most beautiful experiences in my life. We were family with each other joking, laughing, playing, singing, dancing, walking, cooking and learning different dishes and eating all at the same table. We all have one hand and one heart. Every face reminds me of one of my family. When we returned fromthe trip I cried a lot because I would return to my cold, empty and frightening room. These days we spent brought me back to life and hope and from them I took strength for a better tomorrow and all this thanks. With you we're home, with you we're not alone anymore!"
"The trip was fantastic. We had a nice time and I was very happy to meet new friends. And I learned to cook. I wish we will have another trip"
"I had a lovely time in Wales. The weather was cold but the company I was with made my heart warm. I loved the setting, everybody sharing cooking, cleaning, studying, climbing, laughing, stories, time. I would like to say the organisation was absolutely fantastic. I enjoyed the taste of food from the world. For the first time I shared a house with nineteen people. It was an amazing lovely time with plenty of love. I can describe it as like my childhood so thank you all."
"It's been two years since I have asked to go to the countryside and stay for a few days to be inspired and listen to nature's sounds. After two years the dream came true, and even it exceeded my expectations, when we travelled to Wales, particularly to a village called Troedyrhiw. We stayed for three fascinating nights and four fabulous days full of energy. A variety of people who are holding different nationalities, cultures and more. Gathered, shared their stories emotionally and practiced insistently to send that message to the whole world."
"It was a wonderful day to travel with lovely friends and family to Wales and we started our day with a special big families dinner. The next day we walked to a mountain with showers of rain and sunlight. We continue our walk until the last day in Cardiff city. We are in love and smiles. Under the smiles and breezy climate, I tried to be proficient before the dusk was coming. I found myself with wonderful family, friends ... they are everything to me and I don't like the time to pass from my hand because no moment has ever been the same with this moment"
Even the person who ended up in hospital wanted to say this
"It was hard, but I felt that we care for each other like a family"
We came home exhausted but happy. We are already dreaming of the next one!