A week on the train. 8 time zones. 9288 kilometres – a quarter of the Globe. Endless forests and swamps, wooden villages, train stations alike magnificent palaces surrounded by decaying heritage of the once mighty Soviet Union. Friendly, hospitable, spontaneous and from a foreigner’s point of view – positively crazy people. The richness of Russia, the contrasts between the wealthy and the poor, modern and old, clean and muddy, silver watches and gold teeth. The heart of Eastern Europe with Moscow and other big, modern cities slowly fading away to the endless grasslands, mountains, wilderness. Golden, mosque-like domes of Orthodox churches step-by-step giving way to actual mosques, Buddhist stupas, followed by vast forests visited by nomads. Eventually arriving in Vladivostok at the Pacific, from where it’s just a ferry ride to Japan. Or a 250 kilometre car ride to the North Korean border.
This romantic image must catch anyone’s heart in one way or another. Who has never dreamt of travelling by the Trans-Siberian Railway? But how to do it?
Sure you could go to a travel agent and let them organise the trip. But you’ll soon find that not only will you spend up to 3 thousand dollars on getting it organised but you’ll also spend the whole journey partying with fellow Europeans, Americans or Australians instead of actually getting to experience the reality of the train the way it is.
Wanna do it differently? Let us tell you how to pay USD 160 for getting a Russian visa, buying the ticket and enjoying the magnificent journey the way locals do!
Having decided to go through the west of Mongolia instead of Ulaanbaatar, we didn’t really know what to expect – there was not much information online. Hence, we thought it could be very useful for future travellers coming this way to have some practical information available online. But don’t worry, if you’re not going that way, this post won’t bore you with dry facts – you’ll learn about the fascinating reality of Mongolia!
Today we are writing to you from POLAND!!!!!!!!! We have made it the whole 25,000km from Wendy’s Melbourne, Australia, to where we sit now in lounge room of Jurek’s mother in Katowice, Poland, without taking a single flight! Around 15,000km of the way, we hitch-hiked. Project Drop the tension was cooked up while hitch-hiking east coast Australia – why don’t we keep going to Poland? we thought. We wanted to travel to get ideas and inspiration from different cultures for ways to live our own lives and decided that might be interesting for other people too. Wanting to travel consciously, our idea was broadly to explore cultures of sharing along our flight-less way: to meet people from a range of diverse backgrounds taking local action for more a human-friendly world. 1 year, 2 months and 10 days later, we’ve made it! We have officially completed our conscious overland journey crossing halfway round the globe, visiting 15 different nations. WOW!
It’s surreal for us to be here and have our clothes folded away in drawers (!); we imagine it will take some time to adjust back into living life in one place. No doubt we will have many more ideas, reflections and perhaps conclusions to share with you in the coming weeks and months as we fully churn all the experiences that have gotten us to where we are now. But for now, we wanted to mark the achievement by looking at some of the huge contrasts we’ve had along our way:
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What was the name of this village before the revolution? “There was no village here before the revolution, it was a river here,” says Kirill (36), whose family are the only permanent dwellers of Чырвоны Кастрычник (Chyrvony Kastrychnik, Red October in Belarussian), “In the early years of the Soviet Union, they straightened up the Dnieper River for navigation. People from an overpopulated village nearby moved here then.” The whole region of Polesia, full of swamps and flooding rivers, has long been ignored by history. Local folks spoke their own language that had no name, they were calling it “our speech”. Even in the interwar period of 1918-1939, many dwellers of Polesia were not seeing themselves as belonging to any nation – asked who they were, they would answer “we’re from here.” They lived the same way for hundreds of years, growing and collecting food in the summer and in the winter making clothes and other commodities. “Every day of the year had its scheduled tasks, they always knew what to do,” says Kirill, “The oldest people remember it as a very happy time, with almost unlimited freedom.” Everything got changed in the time of the Soviet Union, that is after World War II in the west of Polesia and here – after the October Revolution, the Red October.
Russian language does not have the word “organic”. Or, it technically does, but no-one uses it. Rather they use the word “artificial” when speaking about food produced with the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or GMO crops. And in Russia, even for those living in the cities, it is very possible to choose to consume non-artificial foods. Natural food is abundant in Russia, and we’re meeting all sorts of people who understand and value the importance of such food.
“The food has soul, spirit to it.” Says Nastya, a Ukrainian now living in Moscow. “When I go into a supermarket, the food is apathetic. I have no appetite for it. I grew up going to markets in the West Ukraine where you buy eggs off one lady and cheese from another. And I choose this one because I like her hands. Here, there is a direct transaction of the food, from one hand to the next. Continue Reading →
Tucked in a valley of the densely jungled mountains, north-westward of Chiang Mai, there lives a man providing for his wife and daughter in the only way he can: farming. His practices are organic and natural, the only he’s ever known. The gates are open for anyone the world round to come and spend time, contribute to the running of the farm, learn something about growing food and take part in evening meditation. The Mindful Farm is a practice of living together.
Recently my sister said on Facebook “I want to live in a world where money doesn’t mean a thing.” Some of her friends said “me too!”, others “dream on!”
Well, such world does exist. Not far from Nimbin, New South Wales, we met a lovely, down-to-earth couple living on their permaculture farm, without money. They said they do use some, but try to limit it as much as possible, and it has a very positive impact on their lives.
That’s pretty advanced though. It’s a long way and not everybody would be comfortable with getting to this stage. But what most of us don’t realize is that you can stay being who you are, stay cool, while getting to be less tied to your wallet. And I guarantee it’ll make you happy! Here’s a few tips on what to start with.
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