Ecoventure – the group dynamic – from home to home..

Hello, world! I’ve waited a few days before starting to write about the project because so many things happened, I would say it is almost impossible to comprehend how this experience changed and affected us. You have to go home, sleep on your comfortable bed, sit on your nice sofa and try to catch up with the fast lifestyle that the city obliges you to have. Now, a few nights later I have the hard task of analysing and explaining the group dynamics and the transition into and from the project… basically how we gave up our home realities for 2 weeks and how it was to return to our daily lives after all this experience. Enough of an introduction, I will start with a timeline. 

The transition into the project… 

After a long drive, you arrive on a lawn with a river next to it. You think that you are mentally and physically prepared for the challenges, but only a few hours ago you were using a normal toilet, had running water, and didn’t think that is something you will desire and be grateful to have only after a few days. You are still thinking about your work problems, relationships and plans back home. Surprise, that will change fast. The day of the arrival can be compared with a blink of an eye. Setting up your tents, meeting all the new people, seeing a few familiar faces. All the excitement of the new adventure you just jumped in “drinks” the time as only a few things do. So, you go early to sleep waiting to see how this thing you signed up for is going to play out.

You are awake. The sun is hitting the tent so hard that it makes you think you can be cooked inside.

– Yes, we didn’t pick the best placement for our tent, you are admitting it to yourself…

Your back hurts a bit, but it is more of a pleasant pain, because of the change. Choosing the uncomfortable sleeping bag, the freezing cold at night, and boiling hot in the morning tent, the blinding lights of the early sun instead of the nice and warm bed, the pretty curtains you picked from Ikea and the air conditioning seems like a questionable decision. The boiled eggs – „self-made breakfast” and instant coffee makes you think it wasn’t really the wisest thing to do this summer.

You will have to wait a bit longer to understand the importance of what you are doing in the middle of Romania torn from civilisation. Now I am going to skip a few days until you start to feel the benefits of all these struggles you signed up for…It is maybe the third day… You do not really think about how much time passed. Your phone feels like a strange object taking space in your pocket. Only from time to time, you are trying to use it, so you can call home and tell your family that everything is okay, but that is challenging work too because of the lack of signal. Otherwise, you completely forget about its existence. The stream of information is reduced to your basic physical needs like eating, showering and talking with people. You are not checking social media, you are not reading emails and you are not receiving phone calls, because everyone home knows that you won’t be able to answer. Time seems to slow down and even stop in some moments. Everything is peaceful. You are not used to the lack of stress and only then can you answer your question – why did you choose the struggles of the nature instead of the cozy home?

Let’s change the timeline again…

First day of the project. You have to eat. You have to eat three times. That is a problem. You have to shower, oh that is a problem. You have to go to the bathroom, oh that is a problem. In the morning with the help of a few enthusiastic good people, we made breakfast. After that we had to manage the problems, I listed above. Firstly, the organisers divided us into four groups randomly. Cooking team, media team (for documenting), ECO team (cleaning and making sure that we are not leaving any trash), and events team (preparing activities and entertainments). That was the birth of our little society…

At first, it was hard. A handful of people who don’t know each other trying to cook for a pack of little hungry wolves was unexpectedly difficult. In the beginning, the lack of communication in our teams led to some people doing almost nothing and others doing almost everything. We had a few late meals, but I think we managed quite well…

The more interesting part is when we got to know each other better. The four teams that were established lost their value in some way. The participants arranged themselves in the positions that were most suitable for them. For example, we had the 3 people who were always on the cooking team. They knew all the resources we had, they knew how much should be cooked and, most of the time, what will be cooked. The rotation of the teams was still happening though. There was also this group of people who adapted to every task and could be helpful everywhere. They were cooking, cleaning, collecting wood, making the fire, and entertaining. They were the little army that we knew we can count on to do anything. We did not establish leaders either, but they emerged by themselves. That was something that happened as time progressed.

Maybe we had luck because everyone from the group was understanding and willing to make compromises for the benefit of the others. So, with respect and will, the machine started working. Not worrying about food, supplies or if there is going to be fire became our reality. We built the trust that everyone is going to do their work, and everyone did. The comfort of sitting around the campfire at the end of the day knowing and being grateful for all the things these “strangers” did for you and them too, knowing and being grateful for all the things you did for them was like a utopia. The realisation that we as humans need each other more than we knew made the bond between us so much stronger.

Naturally, sub-groups emerged too. For example, let’s make a deeper look into the cooking team (because I was often part of it). We had the main chef (who did a bit of everything), we had the other two who were preparing the food to be cooked (cutting the meat, and vegetables and preparing the fire for cooking), the grill master, the man who was responsible to turn the food from a raw stack of ingredients to a cooked meal and the little helpers who were there to do all the other small things that needed to be done. And as I said we became quite consistent in our roles and the quality of our work improved day by day.

Another interesting group that formed is entertainment. Usually, they did not do a lot of work in way of cooking, wood cutting, making the fire, etc. but they naturally felled in the job to keep the mood of the group high. They were the ones jumping out of nowhere with random funny stories and taking your shift when you were tired.

Going back home to our realities…

So, we are approaching the end of the project. Unwillingly you connected with nature more than you thought you could. You do not remember the last time you used your phone so little. Finding beauty in the stars, waves, and trees instead of Instagram. Your stress levels are reduced to the question of what are you going to eat and when. Replying to emails seems like a distant memory. The time to pack has come.

Sad faces everywhere. Our little fairy tale is almost over. Hugs and laughter are the new greetings that we use. And just like that, the teams one by one are going. First the Romanians, after that, the Bulgarians. Lastly the Greeks. I cannot imagine seeing the camp empty. After a few hours of fighting the traffic and dropping the participants at their homes, you are alone in the car looking at the traffic lights the same way you used to look at the trees. Taking a good shower refreshes you and returns to the twenty-first century. To be honest, I kinda missed my bed, but it was definitely worth trading it for a sleeping bag and the morning view from a tent. Jumping into civilisation is exciting and scary at the same time.

People were waiting for you to return, so your phone is ringing a hundred times per day. You need to take your place back into work and commitments, and everyone is in a hurry. You are grateful for everything. For the roads, for the cooked food, for the flushing toilet, for the hot shower, for the public transport, for the coffee served by a poor student. Appreciation for the genius of the people who created all the things around us. The chaotic order that moves the world. The difficulty of creating and keeping order in such a small group of youngsters puts in perspective how complicated creatures we are and amuses you when you see how cities and countries are working together. After all, I can confidently say that such an experience makes you more aware of the importance of nature, human relationships, and the world around you.

Right now, as happy as I am in my bed, as eager I am for the next eco-venture and for the moments when time seemed to wait for us to breathe…

Ecoventure bit: „The 52h”

Me: Ana, what happened? Is everything ok?

Ana: Aaa, what? Yes, why?

Me: We were speaking, you looked at your phone and just stopped saying anything…

Ana: Aaa, yeah… I just received a notification that this week I’ve been on my phone 52h less than usual… 

The content for this post is part of our online blog called “Ecoventure” which aims to share our experience in the Erasmus+ Youth Exchange ”Ecotourism Ventures for Youth Environmental Education”. The project was financed with the support of the European Commission through Erasmus+ Programme. This blog reflects only the author’s views, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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