Updated: May 13
Although my family lived in a town in the Southeastern Plain of Romania not too far from Bucharest, they both grew up in a hilly village in the Subcarpathian region of South-East Romania. That's where as a child me and my brothers would have spent most of our summers.
Our parents used to drop us to our grandparents or relatives from the area at the beginning of the summer until the summer holiday was almost coming to an end. Two months of country life and exploration every year.
Despite the fact this region was not the most mountainous, the altitudes around the area were still comparable to those of Wales and most of the Lake District at around 400-600 metres above sea level.
These sort of Romanian villages in the 90s appeared to be forgotten in time, with extraordinarily little impact from technology. The country was just crossing a transition period after the Communism regime fell in '89 and these parts of the country were the last ones to be considered by the political class. The most advanced technological aspect of life back then was probably a coloured TV or a VCR Player.
Therefore, myself, my two brothers and a range of cousins from the area would often find ourselves wandering around the hills, the forest and the local peaks. We would often check out abandoned Oil Rigs, wildlife (we were once chased by a pack of wolves. phew), admire the sky full of stars at night, and were fascinated by how some small water streams could increase tenfold in size when it rained just for a day or two.
Bucharest and London Parks
As I grew older, my connection with nature resumed to walks in the forest or along the Ialomita river around my hometown. I was now spending my summers working in hospitality on the Black Sea coast, and would often explore the wilder areas of the Costinesti resort at the end of my shifts.
In my early twenties I have moved to Bucharest and here I would very often explore its large parks (IOR / Titan, Herestrau) for evening walks or jogging. In fact, these were the places were myself and my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) would spend most of our evening in our first year of relationship.
When we moved to London in 2010, we were very much into cycling (mostly for leisure) and we would very often ride along the Union Canal from NW London to Paddington and back, or we would take the Metropolitan train to Amersham and ride along River Chess to Rickmansworth and then down towards Kilburn on the Union Canal.
Living in Kilburn / West Hampstead area, whenever we felt like having a long walk, we would go to Hampstead Heath or Regent's Park. For cycling we would also go to Hyde Park or Richmond.
What makes the parks in London so great, is that they have been preserved really well. Most of the visitors respect the nature and don't leave rubbish behind, and don't pollute the sound with their own speaker or music. There are of course, exceptions. But these parks are so large that you could even get lost in them, so you can avoid crowded areas if you know your way around them, and get really close to nature, at times even forgetting that you're in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world.
Life under Covid lockdown
A few years ago when me and my partner started a family, we moved in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire just outside North London. We love this place because although we're only 25 minutes away by train from Central London, it definetely feels like London is much further.
The outdoor opportunities here are great, and the town provides the best possible environment for our daughter's growth, development and connection with nature. The town being a garden city itself, is also surrounded by forests and parks, loads of trails for long walks or cycling routes. We often cycle to Hertford - Ware and back or to St Albans, Harpenden and back via Wheathampstead and Ayot, journeys of 30 to 40 kilometres. Our daughter sits into a child seat attached to my mountain bike and we're pretty sure she is enjoying the views as much as we do.
In the last few weeks, I have had a lot of time to think about what is important to me and my family for the future. For when the lockdowns will come to an end and travel restrictions will be lifted. I have often asked myself if we are ever going to want to live in the same way, constantly under pressure to deliver financial results for our employers or businesses. Or will we want to focus more on what is really important for humanity? Having some sort of dwelling with a garden? Or maybe getting a larger garden so we can grow our own food, and implement permaculture into our lives and agricultural ways? Will the Intentional Communities grow more popular?
Our Go Carpathians project is now paused, and we face the uncertainty of the travel restrictions imposed by our governments for at least the next few months. We cannot really plan any direction for this project yet, but as I have said in the past, it can take many shapes and forms, it is always open to new possibilities.
A year ago, I have had this sudden connection with the Romanian mountains and for no reason at all I felt the urge to research their hiking potential and ways of promoting it to the British public. You can check my other article here.
With the extra time on my hands, I am now once again starting to connect (at least online for the time being) with the Carpathians mountains, and to learn more about great people and their projects aimed to promote these mountains and wild side of Europe. I will reveal more about these in future articles here.
There are a few different plans for Go Carpathians, and would involve a combination of Guided Hikes with a local school of Mountain Guides and Leaders from Bucharest, and a mini-series of short episodes from different parts of the Carpathian Mountains. Potentially, a 1-2 months wild camping mission to cross the entire arc at some point in the future too, all filmed and documented.
We don't know what the future holds yet, or how things will plan out, but the calls to nature have definitely intensified over the last few months and we're hoping that connection to our natural surroundings will be more important for humanity going forward.