blog marianka thumbnail When I received an offer from KERIC to write about my ESC experience in Iceland, I was excited. After I realized it was talking for hours and hours and I didn't even know where to start. Maybe the team started it.

I was more interested in the project than the country. I wanted to spend time in nature, environmental issues are close to me, and I enjoy listening to people's stories. On the other hand, there were concerns about campsite management or intense coexistence with a large group of people. Nevertheless, student times are over and & nbsp; I don't just have exhibitionism.

I remember choosing a holiday destination with & nbsp; beer friends and & nbsp; the decision fell on the Faroe Islands because there are millions of tourists in Iceland. A year later, I was given the chance to go to Iceland, even at the time of the pandemic, without millions of tourists. An interesting coincidence.

It's been a month since my ESC project ended in & nbsp; NGO SEEDS Iceland. This non-governmental, non-profit organization is involved in promoting environmental awareness and intercultural understanding through social, cultural, and environmental projects in Iceland.

I acted as an environmental camping leader on the project. My main task was to run camps for groups of international volunteers. There, we worked & nbsp; together and lived in & nbsp; for 10 to 14 days.

The camps had different orientations. In the summer months, outdoor work camps were popular, where we worked manually in the countryside and lived outside the city or in the botanical garden in the capital Reykjavík. The largest group of camps were environmental and & nbsp; photo camps. We planned the operation of the camp from the creation of the schedule through the logistics supply to the connection with the office. Our main task was to lead group discussions, workshops, and presentations on & nbsp; various environmental topics. We also took care of & nbsp; leisure activities or ice-breaking games among the participants. Last but not least, we tried to create and maintain a & nbsp; a good atmosphere so that each participant felt accepted or able to express their opinion or experience.

If I had to describe each campsite separately, I would probably have to create my own blog. 😊

My project started a & nbsp; a month later than planned, which didn't hurt at all. This is how I was able to experience the landscape from summer, when the sun does not set, to winter, when it hardly rises.

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# Night volleyball in the & nbsp; Klambratún park in front of our house

Outdoor camping

My first campgrounds were outdoor in & nbsp; different parts of the island. With & nbsp; the first campsite Between Glaciers & amp; Lava, we looked at a place called & nbsp; Húsafell - a place for art lovers. The artist and & nbsp; rock carpenter Páll Guðmundsson worked here. Our task was to modify the surroundings, from easier mowing of the lawn to make a sidewalk of lava stones. We had a patient expert with us who guided us and explained the work with the & nbsp; stones. He showed us various spirit level measurements or calculations using a geodetic instrument and at the same time talked about his homeland, Iceland. In our free time, we practiced yoga, played football or our favorite game Jungle Speed. A special reward for us was the breathtaking views of the beautiful nature. Of course, after work, you need to indulge in a well-deserved rest, and we enjoyed it in the outdoor pools. Icelanders love swimming pools. The pools are outside and & nbsp; used in & nbsp; all weather. We took several hikes in the & nbsp; area, & nbsp; walked along the Langjökull glacier or lava or rainbow fields. The camp ended with a farewell celebration. We make unforgettable memories, a gift from the artist and the mountains to the second camp.

# Our tourism during the camp

The second camp Caves and Canyons in the East of Iceland took me to the east of the island near the town of Egilsstaðir to the old farmhouse Hjarðarhagi. I & nbsp; in & nbsp; we had some interesting tasks in this camp. We modified the stone wall on the hill behind our farmhouse next to the waterfall, cleaned the natural geothermal spring Laugarvellir, fertilized the trees near Rjúkandafoss waterfall, or modified the sidewalks at the famous Stuðlagil Canyon, Hafrahvammar Canyon. Our host surprised us once and & nbsp; introduced us to three hitchhikers, which, by the way, were from & nbsp; Orava. He offered them a place to stay and & nbsp; we offered them a job. 😊 It was a & nbsp; beautiful hike on the way to Þerribjarg, where we enjoyed the beautiful views. I say we combined pleasant with & nbsp; useful. We leave the camp after a shared barbecue with & nbsp; our hosts and & nbsp; their acquaintances with the words of thanks and & nbsp; with & nbsp; an invitation to visit again.

# 1 Working on a stone wall, # 2 Editing a hiking trail in a & nbsp; cannon, # 3 Traditional Icelandic brunch

There was also an interesting camp on the deserted island of Viðey, which is less than three kilometers long and & nbsp; located near the capital. We took care of the area, a mini garden, and cleaned the beaches. On the island is the famous Imagine Peace Tower, which was built by Yoko Ono in honor of John Lenon. The island is known for its abundance of bird species (also a popular puffin - white-bearded Alka) and & nbsp; windiness. In our hearts, this exceptional island is clearly inscribed under the name "Tropical island" as the & nbsp; daredevils have tried & nbsp; swimming in the sea and I, as the responsible camping leader, first followed the tide control application and had a phone number for the boat captain. p>

# 1 Catch from & nbsp; beach cleaning on Viðey Island, & nbsp; # 2 Sunset on Viðey Island - & nbsp; Photo by Brandon Sheppard

Environmental / Photo Campgrounds

I participated in three environmental camps. The first was in the spirit, "What doesn't kill you will make you stronger." It wasn't a walk in the rose garden, but we learned a lot. About us, about people, about communication. In addition to lectures and & nbsp; discussions (topics were diverse during the camps: from responsible travel, urban agriculture, sustainable fashion, natural cosmetics, or zero waste, etc.), we tasted various international cuisines, learned qigong, international hip-hop, and others. styles. Through games, we got to know each other better and share facts that we would not otherwise share. We listened to our talented musicians, learned traditional dances, magic card tricks or chess. In addition to cleaning the forest or beaches, we took a street art walk through the city, visited the Grótta lighthouse, the museum of whales or penises, but also the & nbsp; mysterious seat of the controversial Icelandic director named Hrafn Gunnlaugsson, whom we met by chance. He also gave us his DVD of the famous Viking film from & nbsp; in 1984 (only for strong stomachs). We also had various excursions outside the city within the campsites.

Excursion Snæfellsnes peninsula Photo by Calina Porto

# Excursion Snæfellsnes peninsula - Photo by Calina Porto

Another of the & nbsp; camps took place right in the & nbsp; botanical garden we & nbsp; took care of. Here, among other things, we learned Spanish dances, as we had two spirited Spaniards here. We spent our free time in the pools, which were free for us volunteers. As a thank you for a job well done, the farewell brunch included a chocolate cake and a visit to the sculpture museum.

Photoshooting with friends in the botanical garden in Reykjavik

# Photoshooting with friends in the Reykjavik Botanical Gardens

We've worked with & nbsp; various other organizations within our campsites. We've joined forces and & nbsp; contributed our efforts to clean up the beaches with NGO Sea Shepherd or the Blue Army of Iceland, where we've met passionate and inspiring people. We also worked with & nbsp; Red Cross or & nbsp; Forest Association, where we helped plant trees in & nbsp; inhospitable terrain - in moss and & nbsp; in rocks with a strong wind on a hill. & Nbsp; Rough nature provided an intense experience, but no one was blown away.

Help with planting trees in cooperation with the Forest Association

# Tree planting assistance with the Forest Association

ZOOM Campsites

At the time of the restrictions, we also had camps virtually. In the beginning, we weren't exactly enthusiastic zoologists, but in the end, it was an interesting experience. We experienced a lot of improvisation during online vegan cooking or DIY workshops. We also had interesting discussions on environmental topics or presentations of our countries. We accompanied the camp with daily challenges, which we tried to motivate our participants and ourselves with small ideas for a better change, such as & nbsp; cleaning up the environment or & & nbsp; replanting vegetables by the window or various upcycling, or making DIY Christmas natural decorations or cosmetics.

# Sometimes you just look around us, engage creativity, and breathe new meaning into things

You need to think about your free time as well ...

The capital Reykjavik is popular with everyone, I guess. It offers a hill of leisure options. Long walks on the beach or in the & nbsp; forest, horseback riding or cycling, culture or beer. You can collect mushrooms in the & nbsp; forest and & nbsp; about & nbsp; five minutes of mussels on the beach. In the summer, play volleyball at midnight sun and & nbsp; in the winter, watch the playful aurora borealis, or strike a traditional loppapeys or indulge in some art. Almost everyone in Iceland is more or less an artist.

Northern lights on Viðey Island and my little one Photo by Brandon Sheppard

# Aurora Borealis on Viðey Island and My Little One - Photo by Brandon Sheppard

I wanted to try hitchhiking and & nbsp; camping, which I did successfully. I met adventurers through Couchsurfing. I traveled and & nbsp; listened to the stories of three wildlife lovers, walking uncomfortably through the icy water during the hike, or just watching the endless beauty from the car window. I later read that the F210 road is one of the most beautiful for the views in this uninhabited part of the island, but also dangerous. You definitely need experience when crossing rivers and a 4x4 car. Fortunately, we had a local expert with whom we felt safe, so we enjoyed the wild nature to the fullest.

# Weekend camping weekend in the Highlands of Iceland

And & nbsp; I could write like this for a few more days. It is clear that this project was very intensive. Still, living with about 15 people in one house is sometimes a bow. Swapping campgrounds like socks and getting used to new people again, while striving for & nbsp; effective multitasking is mentally challenging. In addition, the weather is often against you and you change your schedule three times a day. It's not quite for everyone.

I can say for myself that I met amazing and supportive people. As it is in & nbsp; life, it's all about & nbsp; people. Everyone was different, and yet & nbsp; formed an integral part of our SEEDS bubble. Undoubtedly, the founder of the Oscar was a great role model for us, who also tirelessly supported us, and & nbsp; for whom we were another family besides his own. We often wondered where he got so much energy from. And maybe that energy flows by itself when you do what you believe and have your dream that you want to live.

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#And some birthday party again - Photo by Calina Porto

Thanks to the ESC project, inspiring people came my way and I experienced various special moments. I went through my comfort zone many times. It was a very intensive project, whether for people or experiences, surrounded by breathtaking nature and a great team. It is clearly a lifelong experience and it is up to us what we take away from it. It is important to choose from a large number of projects one that will appeal to you immediately, that will entertain, teach and motivate you. We are all different, everyone enjoys something different and of course excels in something of their own, perhaps yet undiscovered.

Feedback from colleagues, partners, or the participants of the camps themselves was a great enrichment when they sent us photos of how they clean the surroundings at home or on holiday. Many have set up an enviro club at their school or are starting their own projects. Many are "just" grateful for this time with & nbsp; us in & nbsp; this magical land.

I'm grateful for this experience. Thank you for the people who crossed my path, for those who motivated me and still motivate me, and thank you & nbsp; to everyone who supported me in this adventure. If you are deciding whether to go to a similar project, try to think positively and & nbsp; give an inner feeling. The experience will definitely be intense and & nbsp; I hope positive as well.

If you would like to learn more from another point of view, I will also share the projects of my colleagues/friends:

Insta account about & nbsp; volunteering in Iceland at SEEDS Iceland under the name mesmerizingiceland , or whether a friend created a short video about his tripe , other toamoška blog thenomadsquirrel or to learn more about yoga and some tips for a healthier lifestyle from Samuela or Marina a>.