European Wilderness Volunteer DiaryThe Diary of the European Wilderness Society Volunteers

Eat Sleep Wilderness Repeat

Rebecca Hollely

So slow mornings with coffee, followed by a bicycle ride and a dash of sunshine. Dreamy, no? And it was, I did all my favourite things. I cooked and listened to podcasts and talked to friends and family and watched the sky turn pink. But I have a habit of thinking too much when I slow down, and things felt a little bit lonely. Those big questions popped up; what am I doing here? And then imposter syndrome raised its head, and I began to wonder if I even should be here. Because surely there are many others that would be doing a better job than me?

A Sunday well spent brings a week of content. After time travel, zipping, exploring Vienna, and eating up miles of bike trails and paths around Tamsweg the last few weekends, I was actually looking forward to my blissful plan of drink coffee, find a ripe mango, read my book, take my bike for a ride. Aside from the mango, the mission was a success (footnote: the mango is ripening in my cupboard).

What I’m trying to say is that I’m delighted to be here, on so many levels, but I’m also human. There is more underneath the lake than just the surface which sparkles in the sun. A personal goal of my year volunteering is to grow my confidence and to learn to communicate the whole spectrum of emotions. (Or a more jaunty version… slam imposter syndrome into the ground, and admit when I’m sad.)

Magic, mud and a market.

My week just flowed. All the days merged into one and I’m sitting here writing trying to figure out how I feel about that. Each day was different, but I’m into a routine – Eat sleep wilderness repeat. This is good in a way, if I don’t have to think about what I’m doing I have more brain space for work or creativity. It also means I’ve entered my comfort zone. It took me two months but better late than never! But now the challenge is to find something outside my comfort zone and jump. I have a few ideas you can read about in the coming weeks.

So Monday morning I arrived at the office to find my team on their hands and knees sniffing to find the source of a suspicious smell, and a pile of Harry Potter related books on my desk. Those two things aren’t related, but it was an excellent wake up.

The sad news is that after mopping and airing out the office we found the source of the smell – a dead bird on the balcony. The good news is that Verena is an angel for giving me some English reading material. Harry Potter is always a source of joy and comfort to me, and my second motivation for learning German is actually to be able to read the Harry Potter books in another language. There. I said it. My secret, indulgent goal for the year. (My first motivation for learning German is to be able to speak to other Austrians but to be honest Harry Potter is more motivating).

So Verena has provided me with Harry Potter joy, and even an Englisch-Deutsch Harry Potter dictionary, which means I can learn lots of splendid words in German such as nachttopf (chamberpot), schwirren (whizz) and schwätzerin.

Nick and I went cycling a few evenings after work, returning wet and laughing at the misfortune of being caught in the rain. Monday we found an off-road track through the forest and Nick pointed out the basics to stop me hurtling over tree roots. Low gear, know which brakes are front and back, actually use your brakes…  Useful stuff that I actually meant I stayed upright on the bike. It rained a fair bit and we came back covered in mud and bits of tree. I was delighted.

The Z’sammsitz’n, which is a cosy little market with local food and musicians, has also returned for summer season in Tamsweg, and so Verena, Nick and I went along. The town square was rammed with wooden benches and people, and a few wooden chalets sold regional food and drink. We grabbed the last available seats, ordered drinks and enjoyed the atmosphere. A common theme of Austrian events in the countryside is to wear lederhosen and drink a lot, and the crowd had happily followed these unspoken rules, much to my joy. There’s nothing like a happy, lederhosen-decked group to make you smile. Plus you could call it background research for buying a dirndl myself (it’s going to happen). There were two musical groups that divvied up the evening, playing light-hearted folky music. One with a double bass and one with a harp – it was hard to say which instrument I was more thrilled about.

So the week has gone, and Friday I sit tapping at a (German) keyboard writing up another week. Days in the office fly, evenings fly faster. These days are happy days, but also exhausting, and I’m looking forward a restful weekend.

Bis bald