Intro to an eco-venture and a lifetime experience!

It was the summer of 2021 when we found out that our “Ecotourism Ventures for Youth Environmental Education” project was approved. When we wrote the project, we thought that this is a crazy idea – to take 24 young people and travel together with them to 3 countries, sleeping in tents, cooking together, creating a unique way of implementing an intercultural exchange, discovering new places, new communities, new people, natural and cultural heritages, connecting with nature and the others… When we saw the project was approved, we couldn’t believe it! We were so, so happy, but at the same time, we knew it’s not going to be an easy job to implement it… Everyone was so enthusiastic about it that we knew this is going to be a project we will always remember… the question was – is it going to be the best project ever… or the worst?

Spoiler Alert – we did it! It was a one-of-a-kind experience and hell yes, every single one of us wants to do it again!

The project aimed to educate young people as agents of change on environmental issues by increasing participants’ level of involvement in actions to protect the environment, changing their consumption habits, and developing their leadership skills.

The project was itinerant and wished to transform young people into eco-influencers, by giving them the opportunity to reconnect with the roots of nature and to discover their love for the environment, reaching countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. During the project, we have practiced the concept of ecotourism as a unique opportunity for mutual cultural exchanges between local communities and us, the eco-adventurers. Ecotourism, by concept, promotes the knowledge of the natural and cultural heritage, stimulating the processes of understanding and appreciation of nature and local communities. The project activities were varied and focused on six directions: organizational and administrative (setting up our camps, our tents, cooking for ourselves, setting up the rules of our eco-venture etc.); Recreation, introspection and contact with nature –meditation, observation of nature, collecting natural elements and so on, activities that succeed increasing the awareness of young people about the environment, valuing nature and strengthening the symbiotic relationship between man and the natural environment; The third type of activities were focused on ecotourism, giving the participants the opportunity to discover beautiful places, to interact with the locals, to learn about the local history and cultural, geographical and biological specifics of the three local areas we have visited; The fourth type of activities were focused on ecology and environmental awareness like greening activities or collecting garbage. Another important point of the activities we have implemented was community intervention by involving the participants in activities that increased the degree of civic responsibility of locals for environmental protection. Last, but not least, the project focused on promotion and digitization so, during the mobility we planned the creation of a blog and the content that we will publish in order to share our Erasmus+ experience and our ecoventure.

Like so, on 26th of June, we set up our tents on a beautiful green meadow, surrounded by forest and hills, embraced by the soft murmur of a river in Robaia, Romania. For 3 days that was our home… here we managed to forget about all of our home commodities, to truly disconnect from digital and to bond with our group… and yes, we bonded… you believe us or not, we are apart right now and we miss each other sooo much. „Showering” in the river, building our own river pool, „fertilizing” the forrest, sharing stories on the campfire every night, cooking together… are just a few keywords of our wild camping experience (p.s. all the story will come in the next blogs).

On the 30th of June, we packed everything, stuck in 6 cars and left for our second home, on the edge of the beautiful Batak Lake in Bulgaria. Here we got a little bit back to civilisation, we have rediscovered the power of a „real” showers and toilets, and get connected again to electricity and internet… the beauty and peacefulness of Batak lake amassed us and become our home for the next 3 days. On short: swimming,  kayaking, biking, studying the biodiversity of the lake, exploring the nature and the surroundings… On the 4th of July we „raised the sails” and landed in Sithonia, Greece, on the crystal clear shores of the Egean sea. Although we were hosted in beautiful and quiet camping, we can say that the sea became our friend and the beach our home… in Greece, we managed to complete the wide landscape of the very different environments we have discovered during the past days… love for nature, love of people and love of Erasmus+… these are the keywords that encompass our experience.

Ecoventure bit: „Shit and pseudobulbar affect”

As part of our wild camping experience, of course, some of us choose to „fertilise” the forest, but we also organised an ecological toilet. It was the first time for everyone in the project when we have used such an „instrument” and, despite the fact that we were quite impressed with the evolution of technology when it comes to, as Frank Gilbreth used to say “examining the rear tire”, we have arrived to the point when our eco-toilet reach the level of no return – IT GOT FILLED! Nothing spectacular… just 20 kg of pee and poop! We dug up a hole somewhere away from the river, so we do not pollute the water, and two brave volunteers carried the „bomb” to the X point – the hole! It’s useless to say that a 5 minutes job became 20 minutes of crying and laughing uncontrollably. As one of the brave people, I can tell that my cheeks developed sore muscles and that I have never laughed in my entire life in such a way… If you never did it, trust me, it’s shitty, but a lifetime memory and a lifetime friendship will develop… The conclusion of the day – Shit connects people!

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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