Fran’s journey started in Ferrol, continued through different parts of Europe, and eventually finished in the same place with a whole new attitude and vision. Nowadays, his organisation invites people from all over Europe and turns global mindset into local actions. Making things more beautiful in a physical and personal term remains Fran’s main mission and goal which he strives to achieve everyday.
‘My childhood was moving from one spot to another – from the South to the North of Spain. I would transfer to different places and change schools all the time because my father was in the military. It was hard but I think that it gave me the attitude to be able to adapt to every circumstance and to not be scared to start from zero’.
When he was growing up, Fran had never thought about travelling the world at all. At the age of 19, he had already finished an internship in a bank after which he got an excellent, well-paid job offer. It was the ‘boom period’ in Spain and all the banks were hiring new applicants, attracting them with good salary and new perspectives.
‘I refused the offer because I wanted to study at the university and had already planned my very first international trip to Malta. It was supposed to be a one month summer language course. But that trip- it changed my mind in the way I could have never imagined. After I came back from Malta the bank offer was not a deal anymore. Although everyone I knew pushed me to accept the offer (well I was 19 years old and would already earn 2000 euro a month), I was hesitating’.
Was refusing such an offer a mistake? Fran could not have known the answer. After a while, the bank fired many employees and eventually went bankrupt. However, Spain was still a rich country and the government was investing in the youth exchanges. The young student took advantage of it and went abroad every summer. Beside Malta, he visited the UK and France.
‘Every time I returned I wanted more. It was kind of an addiction to travel which developed out of nothing. I was never planning to do so. Italy was my first long term Erasmus exchange and also my first time living out of home. I studied for one year in Teramo. The city is smaller than Ferrol, in the middle of the mountains. But it was really lovely! Back then, all the flights were very cheap. During those golden times of travelling I did all the possible routes: flying Sardinia for 1 cent, to Oslo for 5 euros. Can you imagine that 20 euros per flight were already too expensive!’
Fran believes that once you accept the challenge of travelling (even alone) and see that you can handle it- your comfort zone is widened. You are willing to accept more challenges which make you grow. He thought: “what happened with these people that have the opportunity in front of them and they don´t take it? In my faculty, I was the only student going on Erasmus in several years. I studied Human Resources Management”.
‘At some point however, that got slightly boring. As an Erasmus student you have limited financial resources and even though the flights are cheap, you have to pay a lot of expenses. There was this particular moment in February when I was bored at home, with no money at all when I received a call that changed my life. A long friend of mine called me. He had already told me about a training course he has been doing in the UK (Youth in Action, the previous program before Erasmus+). It was Thursday evening and he was looking for last minute participants for a training course in Macedonia. He asked me whether I wanted to go and I replied: “Wait, where is Macedonia? Isn’t it not something you actually eat!?”.
In the next three days, he was already flying to Skopje. Without noticing, Fran fell in love with the Erasmus+ projects and did more than 30 of them in just one year. Europe became limitless. He contributed to every single session in order to engage and discover the continent. At a certain moment however, he came to the conclusion that the setup in every country was very similar.
‘Apparently, we are more similar than we think we are. I went for a long term European Voluntary Service (EVS) project to Poland, Łódź in 2013. Although the first impressions were rather unappealing (Google Street view showed a group of bald guys drinking beer) eventually I organized my first two projects as a coordinator there. After coming back home I did not want to be a participant anymore. Together with my friend we wrote our first own project’.
At the beginning, the two young students did not really believe their 2-years long project could ever be accepted nor become real. It turned out, it did. A new organisation- Xeración was born. Very quickly, the part-time activity developed into full-time work. In 2015, Fran opened a small office and hosted the very first volunteers from Poland and Slovakia.
Over the last seven years however, Fran managed to build a cosmopolitan community in his local place. He never imagined that one could have a possibility to speak English in Ferrol. Around 10 years ago, Fran was feeling like a little boy in a little village. That bothered him every time he went abroad, started to widen his perception but eventually had to come back to the ‘boring normality’.
‘Probably this was one of the main motivations to create Xeración and to keep inviting people to come here and change the mentality. The fact I didn’t make my highschool friends travel was frustrating. Somehow we got distant. I want to change our community because it’s the one I know, it’s the one I care the most about. It’s a small town with a lot of needs and it doesn’t matter if it’s on the side of stereotypes, racism, environment or civic participation. I think that you, the volunteers, are a priceless tool to take these steps.
There is a field for improvement but I saw and know that we did change some people’s lives. No salary can pay that. If I may give you some suggestions – go for the purpose in life. If you don’t know what to do from now on, try to find something that really fills you, where you think that you can really contribute and don´t care so much about “what will people say?” or “what is the best paid position?”. Just try to find something that you would even do without money. It’s wonderful to match passion and work’.
Fran also perceives migration as an opportunity, beyond a threat. From an economic and ‘selfish’ point of view, migrants bring richness. But most importantly, new people bring new ideas. New willingness to create and work which, according to Xeración’s founder, is needed not only in Ferrol but in the whole Spain.
Fran sees his future in Ferrol. What he realized after years of travelling is the fact one can blossom in the place where they are from. Nowhere else you know the people, the place or the background. To pack up and leave does not seem to be any kind of a solution for Fran. There is a responsibility which lies within every action.
‘If I go to Italy, neither culture nor language will be the problem. But if the Italians joke about something related to their history, probably I will not get it. It seems dull but at the end it becomes a barrier. For instance, you cannot really connect deeply with the local community’s needs’.
The most important thing in life
‘It may sound naive but the most important thing in life is trying to make the things more beautiful around me. In terms of physical and in terms of personal aspects. To make people around you happier and to try to create a better world around you. This is not about changing the world – it’s too abstract. It’s about the people that are close to you and places that are close to you. An example might be to go to a beach and take some litter from it – the beach before you came was dirty and after you left it was clean. The purpose of life would be to create a better world around you’.