Luke from England, Eva from the Netherlands, Dilara from Turkey, Tomasz and Anna from Poland. These travelers had a taste of country life in Belarus and loved it.
They traveled to and worked in local farmsteads, villages, and kinship homesteads, and returned to their countries with life-changing experiences. Let’s hear what they have to say!
Luke from England visited a farm and a village in different parts of Belarus. The farm is a rural getaway with a forest and a lake close at hand. There are lots of animals: husky dogs, horses, goats, and chickens.
How did your day start?
Luke: Every morning I would walk to the farm, sometimes I had a little whiskey. In the farmhouse, the mother would cook me breakfast, always something special and tasty, like sweet pancakes. Then I would start work.
Eva from the Netherlands spent three weeks working on a farm in the north of Belarus, whose main focus is ecotourism. They have farm animals, grow their own tea and vegetables.
Dilara comes from Turkey. She visited a unique farmstead near Minsk, where they bring together organic farming, volunteering, yoga, and Belarusian traditions.
What kind of work did you do?
Eva: I helped picking, grinding and drying tea leaves. Sometimes I helped with cooking, did the dishes, served the food. I had a great experience building a tipi! And because I had my camera, I also made a promotional video for the farm.
Dilara: My work generally was about gardening and cleaning. There is a big yoga room that I cleaned every day.
I cleaned the split grass in the front and the back yards and created a garden mandala with stones. I collected willow herb and made tea out of it. My other duty was milking the goat.
Luke: I was helping to renovate one of the houses into a nice living area. The house had wooden logs for walls; I was sanding the walls down with power tools and cleaning the place.
Another time I helped to renovate a guesthouse for volunteers. We took the old ceiling out and stripped the walls. I worked for an average of 4-6 hours a day.
What did you do in your free time?
Eva: I would mostly hang out with the family. In the evenings we sat in the living room, talking and watching youtube videos together. We would talk about music, show each other songs. Or we would build a fire outside, go swimming or go into the sauna.
Luke: One of the hosts showed me around and introduced me to the friendly wolves. He took me kayaking on the river. We went husky cycling and horse riding. I even tried a traditional black banya!
When I stayed in the village, we often had campfires, played music, and cooked potatoes in the bonfire. We tried to learn each other’s language. By the end of my trip, I had a chance to see Gomel.
Tomasz and Anna from Poland at different times visited a kinship homestead, inspired by the Ringing Cedars movement.
The residents preserve the traditional culture by celebrating folk holidays. They collect medicinal herbs and produce their own bread, dairy, honey.
What did you like the most?
Tomasz: I enjoyed traditional Russian banya and summer solstice celebrations with the bonfire. Hearing traditional Belarusian polyphonic songs was very special. And water blessing, walking on fire – just wow.
Anna: I was touched by the way the villagers care for traditions, how they support and help each other. You rarely meet this kind of attitude in the city.
I enjoyed participating in the folk holidays, such as Kupalle, when I did my first circle dance. I still remember picking flowers and herbs, making a wreath, and setting it floating in the river.
Eva: I loved being outside all day and doing physical work. I usually work as a journalist and mostly sit behind my computer. It was great to be challenged to work hard.
Also, I really liked the family I stayed with. They were creative, modest and kind.
Luke: Husky cycling and a banya were experiences of a lifetime, I’ve never done anything like that before and I’ll never forget it!
What was unusual?
Anna: It was hard to get used to walking barefoot. My hosts’ daughters kept asking, “Anya, why do you need shoes?” They were born and raised in the countryside, wearing shoes seemed unnatural to them.
Once I was asked to pick medicinal herbs, which I knew little about. My hosts’ daughters came to rescue. They were 6 and 4 at the time. They knew all the herbs by name! I was very surprised.
Eva: The snakes. I almost stepped on one! We don’t have snakes in the Netherlands, so I had to get used to them hanging out everywhere.
Another thing I had to accept was no WI-FI. When I arrived at the farm, I realised how much I depended on my phone providing immediate contact with my family and friends.
My parents were a little worried when I disappeared off the map, but then my host family fixed me some internet in their living room, and everything was fine.
How did it change your life?
Tomasz: I had an eye-opening experience. The community was like a real family, and I felt a part of it. I realized how great it would be to have my own family and children.
Anna: Some people think that life in the countryside is slow-paced and boring, but this is not right. During my stay, I met many talented, accomplished individuals.
Every day I learned something new. Finally, I saw how I could put my ideas into practice.
Eva: It was very relaxing to be cut off the outside world and just to enjoy the moment and nature without being distracted by Instagram and Whatsapp.
Dilara: The host gave me Sivananda (Indian spiritual teacher) books, and I stopped eating meat after reading them!
Luke: I made great friends for life here!
What is agro-ecotourism?
More people these days want to travel responsibly, in a way that would help to protect the environment and improve the well-being of local communities. This is what we came to know as agro-ecotourism.
The movement is gaining momentum in Belarus. In 2018 the country was named the best agritourism destination by National Geographic Traveler Awards.
More on the topic:
A short stay in the countryside can teach you to live in harmony with nature, show you the life without incessant consumption, hustle and bustle of big cities.
Here you can learn to be truly happy. Are you ready to learn about sustainable travel in Belarus? You have a good chance because summer is coming.
Text by Alesia Ivankova