Volunteering is the Best Way to Travel

Volunteering is the Best Way to Travel

This month we have an unusual #volunteersdiary to present to you: this text is almost a patter written by Natalia Zotova, who went to the GBT project titled “The Test Trail” held on the Svyatoy Nos Peninsula, and changed her attitude to volunteering and... even to life forever.

Life is a struggle, a hard road to overcome. We struggle with hundreds of obstacles, thousands of opinions. The struggle for ecology is a real test in Russia. It is difficult to explain to everyone that volunteering is not an occupation. What is the difficulty of helping someone and testing yourself, when you have an opportunity?

I am no one to talk. But I am talking. I am 21. And I don't know everything. But one project has changed a lot in me, and if I have enough of syllables, then I will tell you about 14 the days that were sent to me by heaven and the sea.

Location, time: Buryatia, morning. A heavy backpack. It is dawn, but it is foggy outside. With a slack hand, I knock at the door of the hostel where friends are gathering. And then I began to get acquainted with the team... I will stop for a while here, to tell you what had initially led me to the project.

I have had a dream of seeing Baikal since childhood. However, I was not lucky to go there (here goes the self-deception). But, as they say, volunteering is the best way to travel. This is no lie! But it is not easy to start doing things.

Then I print the following words into the search box: “Baikal, volunteering”. The first link leads to GBT. Maybe, it is easy after all?

“The Test Trail” is the name of the project, I would call it the challenge of the century. Registration, filling out the profile: then I have to wait in anticipation of the new summer, new knowledge. Time and place: July, the Svyatoy Nos peninsula in Buryatia. [Olkhon is across]. Language proficiency: it is great if you know English, but in case you don’t, let it be, there are no risks. “Your project participation has been confirmed.” Getting insurance, purchasing tickets. A truckload of excitement and a strong desire “at least to reach the place of destination”.

GBT is the “Great Baikal Trail” - the main goal is expressed clearly in the title. All you have to do is to construct a trail. “I have never constructed anything, I hope I will be able ..."

I still remember my acquaintance with the team:

- Are you Roman?

 -Yes, how do you know? First and last, I am a team leader of GBT. Tanya is my assistant. Margot is a translator.

I can write an essay about each of these people, as well as thousands of accolades and a list of special “thanks” to them in three volumes. I absolutely adore these people. Each of them taught me a lot. Roma, of course, taught me to work with a pickaxe, stay away from the chainsaw, be at ease with bonfires, perform a circle dance in the Irkutsk-Buryat way, to clearly discern between MacLeod and Pulaski, not to lose my heart if it rains – the weather at Khamar-Daban is often quite miserable.

Tanya taught us to put up a tent, cook oatmeal on high heat. She gave us candy when the days were tough, besides, she just sparkled with kindness.

It was easy to talk with Margot in English, or simply share with her the things that were on my mind. Truth be told, I have never met such people anywhere.

But if I begin to talk about people, it will take a long time, because all the volunteers are simply awesome, they have expanded my world from the border of Austria to the depths of Baikal.

Now let’s pass on to work. How to construct a trail? If you wake me up at night – I will tell you right at once. But you should better ask the team leader. He stands with the safety and harmony of the world. After all, who does construct trails? Mother Nature. And volunteers are only there to help. To help people climb to a height where they can see the beauty that cannot be seen by those who have not passed the “Test Trail”.

Volunteering is the Best Way to Travel

Nothing compares to the feeling of working in a team: you work free of charge, never sparing yourself, you are pitiless towards yourself, when you run out of strength, when 10 liters of water inevitably run out, but a hot day still does not end...

But then you will experience a blessing: gratitude from those who will walk on the new serpentine circle, with a feeling that this is the best gift from the world.

Here goes simply a visualization, like a trailer of a movie that has existed in my head as some kind of broadcasting: the sparks of fire flying into the air, stars falling above my head, stormy Baikal - as if all the thunderstorms gathered in this one surf, three names of different winds, a camp of our friends. The calm Baikal is friendly. The light of 15 small flashlights at night, Mars rising over Ust-Barguzin, the waves beating against the side of the motor boat. Two bays at the bottom, two rainy days. Games, laughter, tea, hot chocolate and dancing. May I please stay here forever?

Well, if we return to speaking about me: I am no longer the person who got on the plane to Irkutsk, went on the train to Ulan-Ude, sat on a seat in a minibus and burst into tears when she saw Baikal at a distance for the first time.

Baikal is as an inspiration, and volunteering has ultimately the same meaning.  After all, we can offer our help - give smiles, plant trees, just render support. Constructing a trail on your first project is similar to understanding the principles of life, testing yourself, taking small steps, investing in your soul, becoming a small part of a huge business, learning to know that together we will accomplish everything, we will have enough time for everything.

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