How to get young people out of their comfort zones and into the nature? With a 10 day camping adventure. We challenged 36 young people from 6 different countries to live completely outdoors; eating, playing, showering and sleeping outside in a small community. We welcomed people from Belarus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Armenia and Italy to experience rural Italian life in the mountains. The Erasmus+ Youth Exchange “Wild Style” was established with the philosophy of reconnecting participants to nature and through this also reconnecting to another and themselves.
Playing games outside is something that we typically stop doing once we leave school, but simply playing outside is a great way to keep active, spend time outdoors and also stay young at heart. We asked the participants to design outdoor game activities in their country groups which they then shared with the rest of the group. There were some more mentally stimulating activities such as “The Human Knot”, others more physically demanding, like running competitions to catch a flag and other games which were just for fun, for example carrying a cup of water on your head and pouring it to a jug which lay on someones’ body (let’s just say this one ended in a water fight).
Alongside the outdoor focus, we also tried to embody a sustainable lifestyle. This meant; recycling, reducing food waste, avoiding single-use plastic, using local products, taking fresh vegetables from the garden and other small actions. The group also contributed their own ideas by making presentations about their organisations and their experiences related with sustainability topics. There was a very diverse response in terms of the groups knowledge on the topic and also how their respective countries tackle environmental issues.
One of the main activities of the whole project was an excursion to the mountains. The group took to the mountains of Tramonti on a short yet enjoyable hike to an old abandoned shelter. There, to the groups surprise, they found a lot of rubbish including glass and plastic. It was a task for the participants to clean up the space and create an tidy area where they could pitch their tents for the evening. This was even more “into the wild” as here they didn’t have access to amenities such as; showers, toilets, electricity and kitchen. This wasn’t a problem for the group and they quickly stepped up to the challenge by soaking up the nature that was around them, going for short walks and doing some stargazing.
There was a community clean up event organised with children from the school in Tramonti. They spent one morning getting to know the international group by playing games and learning some of their languages and also cleaning up the town hall square and central park. The children especially loved to meet people from different countries (some countries they had never heard of before) and we’re really enthusiastic about the cleaning.
One activity asked the participants to get their hands dirty and be in contact with the earth. They planted a vegetable garden and built some flower beds. This was a great opportunity for some people who hadn’t had the chance before to grow their own food or flowers, allowing them to learn new skills and get involved in this type of work. It was inspiring to hear how many loved this activity and how much the group already knew about growing their own food and plants.
Every evening, there was a country campfire evening in which participants hosted a cultural exchange to show off the best from their countries. As usual, they shared food, dancing, music and also some trivia knowledge from their countries. Each group brought a new idea to their cultural evening, some proposed singing by the fire with guitar, others created a fake wedding showing everyone how their wedding celebrations happen.
With the international spirit blossoming in the camp, we wanted to share this with locals from Tramonti. There was a community social event with a dinner of pasta and beans (a typical dish from the area). The participants showed off some of their typical cultural dances and music while inviting the locals to join them. People from Tramonti brought with them special desserts to try to know better the local cuisine.
Apart from the organised activities there were many beautiful moments shared between the participants. For example; the morning yoga classes, dance lessons in the evening, getting cosy around the campfire and lots of spontaneous singing and playing guitar. On the final evening, the group were asked to perform a sketch of their choice related with the project. This was very funny to see many people doing impressions of their highlights of their experience, it really showed how the group had bonded and shared many memorable moments together.
In the end, the wild style experience was a success. The participants really adapted to the outdoor environment and all loved spending their time together in the community. They had fun, challenged themselves and learnt new things all while reconnecting with themselves and nature. With thanks to the Municipality of Tramonti, The school of Tramonti, Isidoro and Raffaele, The supermarket Netto, Pro Loco Tramonti and CSV Sodali Salerno.