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Finding your way forward

Ahojte! My name is Pol, I am a volunteer from Spain, and I have been living in Bratislava for over three months. As a newcomer, discovering the city has been my main interest, and I have already run into many surprises. I thought that I could share, on my debut as a blogger, some of my initial experiences and reflections in this regard. So, here we go. Let’s start.

When I arrived in Bratislava, my new home for the next year, I felt quite disoriented. I just landed in a foreign and unknown country for me. I faced the wide language barrier, which prevented me from expressing myself properly. And it was also the beginning of a new chapter of my life – almost like a fresh start. So, understandably, I saw some uncertainty. But this did not prevent me to look forward, nor to look for new adventures. On the very second day, after having the first meeting with my hosting organisation, I decided to return to my new homeplace by walking across the city. Although it was a more than two hours-long journey, I thought it could be an enriching way to get to know the area. I was eager to explore and discover, and this is what I did. As a part of my philosophy, I decided to follow my own path at my own pace. I didn’t want to over-rely on my phone, but I knew that if something bad happened, I could use it anytime. So wherever I felt attracted to go, I just went. And well, because of that, I got lost several times on the way, and my trip overextended more than what was planned. But, after all, I had a great time, and my first approach to the city was successful.

Since I love being in nature, during the following weekends, I started to carefully prospect the possibilities. Bratislava is the backdoor to the Low Carpathians, and by using the city’s public transport, one can easily get there in a matter of minutes. So, on a Saturday, I went to the mountains, and, again, I followed my philosophy. Alone, I took the trails no one used, and I entered the depths of the forest. I hiked uphill for more than an hour on a secondary trail – it was so beautiful and peaceful. I had my phone with me, which I would use to take photos and guide myself on the improvised hike. What I would never have expected, however, is that that “smart” device would suddenly fail me for no reason at all. The battery, from a steady 60%, dropped to 20%, and a few seconds later, it dramatically fell down to death, in front of my eyes. So I was alone in the middle of a mountain, in Slovakia, with no phone. Still, I kept going, as I knew it would be really hard to get lost. And despite walking not being really sure where I was going, I discovered emotions of genuine happiness and freedom. By following route marks and signs, I was able to find the way back to civilization. And, gracefully I arrived home, safe and sound.

Jokes aside, this mere anecdote made me reflect. Was it alright to keep going in that situation? What would I have done if I had really lost my way?  Nowadays, in the so-called information age, we tend to use our smartphones for everything. The internet, and particularly the world of apps, has become our mainstream source of knowledge. We are connected 24/7, and this certainly gives us a wide range of amenities. But do we also consider the other side of the coin? Of course, to move around and get to your destination is, indeed, important. And being reachable when travelling is too. But is living escorted by the omnipotent vigilance of your phone really okay? Can’t we live without it? Briefly, while smartphones certainly offer a wide range of opportunities, some negative impacts to our daily life are to be considered too. I have been noticing dependence from my phone since the very first day. During the volunteering term, we, the volunteers, have the chance to explore ourselves, the borders of our abilities, our limits. I find autonomy and self-reliance very valuable attributes, and thanks to this unique experience, I learn how to solve new challenges. Perhaps, if it had happened to me in the High Tatras, the story would have ended differently. But, really, by following common sense, I think there is no reason to fear. And sometimes getting lost is the first step to finding your way forward.

Text a foto: Pol

Pol je dobrovoľník programu Európsky zbor solidarity na projekte v Štátnej ochrane prírody. Projekt bol podporený z programu EÚ Európsky zbor solidarity.

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