As Austria went through its second lockdown, life, once again, became a little more challenging. This is even more the case if you are away from home, exactly the situation that the Wilderness volunteers at the European Wilderness Society found themselves in. However, there are certainly worse places to be than in Tamsweg during such circumstances. Despite the challenges posed by the lockdown, the Wilderness volunteers, Gintare, Julia, Jonas and Timothy, are still keen to share their recent experiences of their time here and their outlook for the weeks ahead.
Please also read: Being a Wild volunteer
“Since my arrival in September, we’ve been very lucky with the weather, especially on the weekends. After starting volunteering as an IVY in July, it has been finally great to get acquainted with Tamsweg. Before we all came together as a team, we all had to take a COVID-19 test, out of respect for the safety of the team. However, once we got the all clear, we were all able to come together and start our Wilderness adventure.
Together with the other volunteers and colleagues from the European Wilderness Society, I’ve already been on hikes to many different places. Especially during these uncertain times where we are coming out and going back into lockdown, the possibility of escaping into nature at any time to recharge and get a breath of fresh air is a blessing. I’ve been enjoying every ray of sunshine, the blazing autumn colours of Austria’s forests, and, surprisingly to myself, even the first frost and snow fall.
In relation to work, we have had to move many of our projects online and that has included the Ukrainian Ranger Training, which I have been involved in. Other activities in which I have been involved in in the Carpathian region as part of Interreg Centralparks have also been moved online and we are continuing to make progress on these with our cross-border partners via remote working tools.”
Gintare Tamulyte is a IVY Volunteer working in support of the Interreg Centralparks project.
“Volunteer life in Tamsweg is very nice. A lot of my friends ask me: Isn’t it boring to live in such a small village? It´s the contrary in fact, I do not find it boring at all. I guess because we are all nature-loving people, we prefer to be in nature rather than large cities. It is very easy to reach nature from Tamsweg – there are hiking routes starting from the town and going in every direction. This means that every weekend we go biking, hiking or running in the mountains. We enjoy the beautiful views, fresh air and sunshine. This is what we do with the bulk of our free time. One noticeable difference, however. As it has been for a while, wearing masks is now a must, wherever we go, to protect both ourselves and others.
As a result, the lockdown hasn’t had such a major impact on our lives. We are still able to go for a run in the morning and go hiking on the weekends. Luckily I live with the other three Wilderness volunteers in the same flat so we never get bored!”
Julia Ramsauer is a IVY Volunteer working in support of the Interreg Centralparks project.
“As Christmas is coming closer, so is the end of my time as an ESC volunteer with the European Wilderness Society. 2020 has been a crazy year for me, as I guess it has been for everyone. After a very unpleasant first lockdown, we are heading into the second one here in Austria. Despite the difficulties of a lockdown, this was necessary for the stemming the spread of COVID-19 and will hopefully relieve any more pain further down the line.
However, this time the situation is different. Only a few weeks ago, all the volunteers have moved into a shared flat, so there is a lot more happening in the evenings now. Being together during such times has really strengthened team morale! And I don’t have my studies breathing down my neck anymore as I finally finished my masters in August. Working from home during the lockdown really introduced me to distance working and this lockdown has helped me hone my remote working skills further, particularly in relation to Zoom, for which we use during our team meetings and on our projects. With all that behind me, I am now looking forward to winter and hoping that the ski season can go ahead as usual, but if not, I have bought some ski touring equipment for some off-piste adventures.”
Jonas Sommer is a European Solidarity Corps Volunteer working in support of the European Wilderness Society and nature in Europe.
“For me, it has been a real joy to be living here in Tamsweg. If you would have asked me a few years ago if I’d ever be living in the Alps, then I would have said you were pulling my leg. It is certainly a change from the city life that I am used to in relative flatness of the British Isles, but definitely a positive change.
As opposed to life in a big city, we are fortunate here that lockdown hasn’t had too much of an impact on our daily lives. Most of our spare time is spent in the outdoors anyways and there is very little in the way of indoor entertainment here in Tamsweg. It is amazing to be so close to nature and catch the last of the summer activities, such as cycling and hiking, before it starts to get too cold and snowy. As I have been living with my fellow Wilderness Volunteers, one big advantage of this is that it lowers our exposure to COVID-19 as we no longer have to live in a shared accommodation with strangers.
In the office it has also been a learning curve. This is the first time I’ve had to work during a lockdown and that has meant getting to grips with all the new remote working software that is out there. Luckily, just before this lockdown, we held our first International Wilderness Week which was an online celebration of Wilderness and this was really a crash course in working during a pandemic. Cooperating with speakers from all corners of the world was definitely an eye-opening experience.
I am still constantly in awe whenever I look around me, with a stunning panorama greeting me from every angle. Whether it be from the Nock Mountains in the south, the Schladminger Tauern in the north, or the High Tauern in the west. The presence of these mountains makes me even more excited for the winter season. I’m looking forward to some downhill skiing if the slopes are open, but if not, then snowshoeing and ski touring aren’t bad back-up options either! “
Timothy Sung is a IVY Volunteer working in support of the Interreg BEECH POWER project.