The San Miguel Rich List: Celebrating rich life experiences over wealth

Playing on the tradition of Forbes and the Sunday Times’ rich lists, San Miguel have compiled an alternative San Miguel Rich List, focusing on incredible experiences and projects over wealth. Published with the Guardian on Saturday, the list features twenty individuals or pairs from around the world who are leading inspiring lives. Divided into four categories – Pathfinder, Creative, Life Swap, and Game Changer – those listed range from cave explorer to guerrilla filmmaker. Everyone on the list has carved their own path, forging a life that defies convention, and each make an impact in their own way, from helping local communities to discovering their own happiness. Much can be learnt from these individuals, who have their priorities right: putting living a positive lifestyle and achieving your dreams first. The San Miguel Rich List celebrates gaining rich life experiences and pursuing your own passions instead of chasing wealth and status.

The list features Javier Lopez, a council member in the small village of Fanzara in eastern Spain, which has become well known for the street art that adorns its walls. However, Fanzara has not always been such a bright place, as Lopez, speaking as part of the San Miguel Rich List, told us, “In 2005 they wanted to install a landfill and a treatment plant with toxic and hazardous waste. The townspeople mobilised against the project, presenting legal claims, holding demonstrations, and informative talks in the surrounding villages. It was after six years of social struggle against the project, in 2011, that we decided to run in the municipal elections. We won and the first thing we did was to withdraw the project for the landfill.”

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After the struggle against the proposed landfill and treatment plant, tensions were high between the residents of Fanzara. Lopez and the rest of the newly elected council decided to start an art and culture project to recover relations in the village. This resulted in the Unfinished Museum of Urban Art, where artists were invited to contribute street art to the walls of the village. “Like all good ideas, it came out when talking with friends when having a few beers,” Lopez revealed, “It is not an idea, but common sense: what would you like more, a grey wall without colour, or a wall with a work of art painted?” He commends the street artists he has worked with, “The urban artist is an excellent person, committed to social projects and living to give colour to grey cities. They are true artists, the only difference is that instead of painting a canvas they paint a wall.”

By 2014, 21 artists had painted 44 pieces of art on the buildings, and there are now 105 paintings in total. Lopez told us, “The impact has been very good. The relations between neighbours have recovered a lot, and they are proud of their town. The shops of the town are also happy because they have increased sales due to the visitors who come to see the art.” Indeed, the street art of the village have become a tourist attraction. “Not in our wildest dreams did we imagine that the project would have the media popularity that it has had,” Lopez said, “But this has helped a lot to convince the neighbours who were more reluctant to the project.” The Unfinished Museum of Urban Art has the potential to continue for years and to be continually added to, with Lopez telling us, “It is a living project that will always be in continuous evolution and transformation, and we will let ourselves be carried by all the artists who want to collaborate with us.” Lopez’s successful change-making is utterly inspirational.

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Other members of the list include Val Cook and Tim Boffe, who run Lets Be Nomads, a hostel on wheels that was once a Guatemalan school bus. They transformed the bus into their home and business after a successful crowd funding campaign. Val and Tim, speaking as part of the San Miguel Rich List, told us how they came up with the concept “One of our dreams has always been to open up a different kind of hostel somewhere in the snowy mountains of British Columbia, Canada. So we had the idea of creating a hostel in the back of our minds when we started travelling around the world a couple of years ago.” They continued, “Most people who become long-term travellers are in search of a goal in life, and although we didn’t realise this in the beginning, it was definitely the case for us. It wasn’t until we got to Guatemala after more than a year of roaming around and rode an old American school bus as a way of public transport that we started fantasising about converting one of these cool looking buses into a home and realised that it was time for something new.”

As snowboarders and skiers, it was also their desire to return to the mountains that encouraged them to pursue their idea, “Suddenly all the pieces fell into place: a dream to live in a converted bus, a dream to return to the mountains and a dream to run our own hostel = a hostel on wheels in the Alps.” They plan to tour Europe for three years, and so far they have explored France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria. “The first trip to Val Thorens in France was definitely a highlight,” Val and Tim enthused, “We did a road trip starting from Belgium to France with a couple of nice stops. The bus was filled with a couple of friends and a couple of unknown people. The mix of people was great and the beautiful weather, the location, and the excellent snow conditions made it an unforgettable week.”

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The bus is fully converted, complete with their bedroom, a dorm room, kitchen, living room, and bathroom a compost toilet. To make as little impact on the environment as possible is very important to the pair; “We started focusing on what we were doing and how we as individuals have an enormous power to change things for the better if we want to,” they explained, “We feel that these days we are not respectful enough towards our resources and it is all in our own hands to do something about it.” In addition to the eco-friendly toilet, the bus has various environmentally friendly features, including solar panels, eco-friendly insulation, and the bus is 100% carbon neutral. “The bus uses quite a lot of diesel, but we use a compensation program through a non-profit offsetting company, Carbonfund, which invests in green technologies,” Val and Tim told us, “We also avoid meat in our meals, which is probably on of the leading causes of global warming, and because of the compost toilet we save around 50 litres of water a day.”

“Not one day is the same on the bus; the location where we are parked changes a lot and the constant changing of people also makes everyday different,” Val and Tim shared. As a hostel on wheels, guests from all over the world are coming and going all the time. “Being able to pick minds from different cultures and backgrounds is surely one of the best things about our bus,” the pair said, “In general it seems that we do attract the same kind of people, like-minded travellers who wander in our lives and almost instantly become part of our family.” Val and Tim are an inspiration, both with how they live on their own terms, literally carving their own path, and with the wonderful community of travellers they have created, “Thanks to hard work and perseverance we are now able to create something new every day and have the freedom to decide almost every step of our lives. This project has opened so many doors for us and it continues to develop into ways we did not ever expect it to go.”

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Both Val and Tim and Javier Lopez are the latest individuals to be discovered by San Miguel as part of its search for the San Miguel Rich List, a list of ‘life-rich’ individuals from across the globe who have unique, compelling, aspirational human stories. To find out more about the campaign, and discover other life-rich individuals, visit www.sanmiguel.co.uk/richlist