Downshifting in the Dolomites. Interview to radio Echo of Moscow

Five years ago, on October 5, 2015, I gave a short interview about my experience during the very first trip to the Dolomites to the largest radio in the capital of Russia “Echo of Moscow”.

The interview was held as part of an interesting program called “Denominator”, where the hosts choose the number of the day and tell a story about it. The hosts were Vsevolod and Oksana. Next is decoding of our talking.

— Oksana: 6 years.

— Vsevolod: 6 years Ivan Kuznetsov worked in the office in St. Petersburg before becoming a volunteer in mountain Italy. Ivan got a job as a mountain keeper at the Legambiente, the largest environmental association in Italy. His task was to bypass 15 mountain trails, monitor their condition, make an updated map of routes with the most beautiful places… “Since then, my life has turned upside down,” quotes a young man on the Furfur media. Actually, in this media, you can find Ivan’s story. That’s where we learned about it. And besides, thanks to our colleagues from this website, Ivan Kuznetsov is now in touch with the studio “Echo of Moscow” by phone. Ivan, hello.

— Ivan: Good day.

— Vsevolod: Well, first of all, please tell me, what brought you to such a state once that you decided to give up everything?

— Ivan: No, nothing special happened. I just lived 6 years in a big city, in St. Petersburg. I spent the last 3 years on the same job in the same streets. Although I liked the work very much, I was paid quite a little. I just felt that my life entered into some familiar track, and I thought that somehow I need to change it very dramatically.

— Oksana: How? How did you find this job? Look, this is a dream job, seriously.

— Ivan: I found it completely by accident. That is, I just thought that it would be nice to go somewhere as a volunteer to Europe. I started looking for volunteer programs. And then I started looking for specific projects in specific countries. And by chance, yes, I found this school in the Alps, sent my resume, passed a Skype interview and I, in general, was taken immediately.

— Vsevolod: Look, when we talk about such jobs, it seems to us that there is nothing difficult in theory to walk on these very mountain trails, make routes and write some reports, right? But we, after all, must understand that this probably requires some money, a visa, knowledge of the language… That is, you had a certain background, which allowed you to get this not dusty work, as many would call it. Right, isn’t it?

— Ivan: Well, yes, of course.

— Vsevolod: Here, tell us, what did you actually have? What kind of savings did you have, if it is not a secret? How did you actually manage to pass these interviews at least in English? For many in Russia, it is an insurmountable obstacle.

— Ivan: Okay. So in short, first of all, it wasn’t very easy, because, in order to stumble upon this, let’s say, accident work, that I knew nothing about at all, I had to send about a thousand letters to various volunteer organizations across Europe literally. I have written to all countries.

To find a dream job, that is, just like with a regular job, you send 100 resumes, of which 10 people answer, two of them invite you for an interview and only one of them hires you. The situation was absolutely the same.

As for the money issue, well, I somehow managed to save up a little money, around one thousand euros, just before my trip. In principle, I felt quite comfortable there all this year. And secondly, the volunteer program in which I participated, it was still completely free, that is, I had where to live, what to eat, plus we had some pocket money every month.

— Vsevolod: Wow. Well, that’s not bad, anyway.

— Ivan: Yes, yes. Everything here is very much the same, well coincided.

Interview about the experience of my very first trip to the Dolomites to the Radio Echo of Moscow
Screen shot of the decoding of my interview about the experience of my very first trip to the Dolomites to the Radio Echo of Moscow

— Oksana: Well, one way or another, I understand that among our listeners is almost certainly someone, at least a few people from among those who are familiar with downshifting firsthand, because, in general, it is not so common to go to Italy, but, here, somewhere in India, in Thailand for a year and a half — it happens often.

— Vsevolod: Well, or to your grandmother in the village in the Ryazan region. Ivan, do you consider what you have actually done as a downshifting?

— Ivan: No, I don’t think so, because, well, in my understanding, downshifting is when you have had a career, you’re such a big person, with money, and you really decide to give up all this and live a simple life.

I basically didn’t have a career or any special savings, so I just moved so, horizontally from Russia to Italy, that’s all.

— Oksana: When a person goes on vacation from Moscow or St. Petersburg, or from another major city, he learns to walk for the first day or two. Walking, not running, not maneuvering between people, and not twitching about the fact that he is late for something. But he learns this way, moderately, because he understands that in two weeks he has to go back. Is it hard to get used to a different pace?

— Ivan: That’s just a very interesting moment, it’s good that you asked it.

In terms of walking, my trip to the Dolomites, probably was a downshifting*.

Because from St. Petersburg, even if it is calmer than Moscow, I got to the Alps and walked there literally on trails. I lived in a small village. There, in fact, well, one main wide asphalt road, and all the rest is mountain trails. In the mountains, there are trails instead of streets. People walk along with them every day — someone to work, someone to visit each other.

Walking along a mountain trail (well, it does not matter which trail — forest, mountain) is a completely different experience than walking the streets. Because, first of all, there is nobody on it but you (but you can still meet people). Secondly, it is not asphalt, it is soft ground — you can literally even take off your shoes, walk barefoot. Third, around you are not buildings, not cars, but a wild forest, you can even meet animals. And fourthly, all this happens, again, not in a horizontal plane, and you go either up or down. So, in fact, in the mountains, it is all the time like this.

— Oksana: That is in the first month, sorry, it hurts the buttocks and caviar.

— Ivan: Yes, yes, yes.

— Vsevolod: Look, we literally have a couple of minutes left on the air. I have the last question to ask. You wrote that it completely changed your life. Here, after this volunteer project is over, in short, what is going on with you now?

— Ivan: Well, I now have little such difficulties getting normal work. And in principle, in fact, there is no such desire to return to what I used to do. Now I have retrained as a journalist, that is I write about travel. At the same time, I am engaged in creativity, some new books, projects. Now I am a freelancer.

— Vsevolod: Thank you so much. Interesting experience.

— Oksana: Do you think to repeat it?

— Ivan: What?

— Oksana: Do you think to repeat such a dive into another reality?

— Ivan: No, now there is no such desire. Now I would like to develop some of my personal projects in literature, country studies, and journalism.

In other words, I am not going to sign up as a volunteer yet at this moment.

— Vsevolod: Thank you so much. Ivan Kuznetsov, for whom an annual trip to the Alps and a volunteer project helped seriously change his life.

— Oksana: Sergey writes to us: “4 years ago I quit a good position in a large company in St. Petersburg”. Here, in St. Petersburg, brave people, look, live! “Now I breed lambs. I moved my family to the village and I am very happy”.

— Vsevolod: There is another interesting text (I will also read it with your permission): “I went on vacation for 11 months without certain plans. It’s downshifting for me and it reminds me of drinking hard. The effect is the same, regret about wasted time. The question is how you use it”.

— Oksana: I don’t agree. Maybe you are developing more actively this year than the previous 10 years, reading a lot, walking and thinking. So travel more. If possible, switch to a 6-hour working day. Create. 81% of our listeners, by the way, said that they are ready not to use social networks.

* Downshifting (lifestyle) — a social behavior or trend in which individuals live simpler lives to escape from economic materialism. It emphasizes finding a balance between leisure and work, while also focusing on personal fulfillment, as well as building personal relationships instead of the all-consuming pursuit of economic success. In the 1990s, this term began appearing in the media, and has grown in popularity among populations living in industrial societies: United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia, as well as Russia. 🥾

Thanks Vsevolod Boyko and Oksana Chizh for inviting me to one of my first interviews and asking great questions. Now both works at the Radio “BBC Russian Service”.

Cover photo: hiking in front of Monte Coppolo, 2068 m, in Lamon, Dolomites © Irina Serdyukovskaya.

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