How is it to be a camp leader in Iceland?

 

 Anna Pechočová shared with us how it is to volunteer as a camp leader in Iceland and how it is living there. If you have ever had the idea to volunteer/visit in Iceland then this interview might interest you.

Who is Anna Pechočová and what is she doing in Iceland?

It is 2020, the 22nd of December, and that means the pandemic situation is still going on and a lot of traveling/volunteering plans have been ruined. However, this is not the case for Anna Pechočová, who took a leap of faith and jumped into a new adventure in Iceland.  I (the volunteer from Mladiinfo) have always been curious about the nature of Iceland. Therefore, I asked her if she has time to do an interview with me and she responded affirmatively! So here we go, all set up and waiting for the Skype call. 

 

camp leader in Iceland
          Cutting lupins is a part of environmental protection in Iceland.  Source: Personal archive

 

Anna is 26 years old and she is a freelancer, having a small business and also doing paintings and selling them. Regarding Anna’s experience in Iceland, she is currently volunteering in Iceland as a camp leader. She fell in love with the nature of Iceland as she was all a smiling face while telling me about the gems of this country. 

Do you want to visit or volunteer in Iceland?  Tips and opinions that can be useful for you too

Anna shared some tips for those who want to visit/volunteer and, why not, live for a longer period in Iceland. She repeatedly said that it is important to have waterproof clothes. She was laughing while saying she got soaked wet during one of her first tours to the waterfalls. If one of your goals is to see the Northern Lights, then you should have the app “Aurora”. Anna pointed out that everyone in Iceland has it. This app shows you when the Northern Lights are visible. Besides this, you could also expect to see “a ton of stars and even the Milky Way” when the sky is clear.

camp leader in Iceland
    The Seljalandsfoss waterfall – one of the waterfalls on the south coast tour.  Source: Personal archive

 If you are wondering how social life is there, Anna covered you up. She said that it is easy to make some friends because you can meet more international volunteers in the organization, Worldwide Friends, where she is a camp leader. When it comes to making social connections with Icelanders, Anna believes it is easy using, for example, the app called “Couchsurfing”.

Look out for the arctic terns!

Moreover, if you are into hitchhiking, Iceland might be your next destination, as Anna said it is quite common to do it there. She also said that she enjoyed many trips with the organization. Good news for travelers! There are no dangerous animals to be afraid of, but there is one type of bird: arctic terns (when they have chicks). Therefore, keep in mind to be careful when you see it, as Anna mentioned that one of her friends was attacked by it (Tip: put a stick above your head, it will attack this instead of you:) ).   

    Anna and Pipi along with the statue of Grýla (giantness from Icelandic mythology) in the troll park. Source: Personal archive

 

Here we go to some of the questions/answers. Read on!:)

 

How this idea of going to Iceland and being a camp leader came up?

It’s a long story. I stayed in contact with my friend Violeta, with whom I lived in the UK during the EVS, where Mladiinfo sent me.  During quarantine, I was supposed to get a job in the Netherlands. I lost that opportunity because of covid.  We were in contact during quarantine and she told me that an organization she volunteered for in the past was looking for a camp leader. Then she persuaded me to go with her and we bought tickets and everything. In the end, they canceled the flight twice for her so I went by myself. I like the idea of being a camp leader because these camps are environmental camps for young people. We go beach cleaning, we are planting trees, cutting lupins, and learning stuff about global warming and the environment. This is interesting for me. I can also say it is a challenge if I can manage to be a camp leader because it sounds like… it’s a challenging job. 

camp leader in Iceland
    Anna is making a necklace from plastic bullet cases found during beach cleanups. Source: Personal archive

What was your first impression as a camp leader?

  My first impression as a camp leader…I was quite scared. I think my first camp was a camp with teenagers. I was worried I won’t be able to understand them or they were gonna do crazy stuff. In the end, they were the nicest and the most mature group of people. They were maybe more mature than many adults. They became friends really quickly. I was worried I won’t be able to be close to them because I am introverted, but it was all good. It was fine because there were two camp leaders that were experienced, and there were two of us that we were just helping them. So, I could see what they were doing, and I was like doing it without knowing how to do it. 

 

How does a normal day look like?

In the camp we make a schedule for cleaning, washing the dishes, cooking lunches. Everybody writes down what they will do and you make sure that everyone does everything, and everything gets taken care of. We also make a schedule for the week. The day is normally like…for example, in the morning, we would have a workshop from like 9 to 12. Then someone would make lunch, so the lunch would be from like 12 until 14. From 14 until 16 we would do something else, make a workshop outside, or make a game. Then, in the evening, they like to play “Wolf”, we would watch movies, or have some intercultural dinner. 

camp leader in Iceland
  Bags full of trash found on the beach. Source: Personal archive

Which are the most important skills that someone needs to be a camp leader?

You need to try to be organized. Even if you are not, you have to try at least to be somehow organized. You have to know how to lead, and leading is not just telling people what to do, and commanding people everywhere. It is like doing it with them as well and showing them an example. Also, being friendly, and knowing how to deal with difficult situations. I think it is not that hard to do it if you have somebody else with you, you can just help each other.

What do you think you have learned so far?

I have learned to set boundaries, I have learned to organize a bit better maybe, but I am still very unorganized. I have learned things about the environment, I have learned how to lead workshops with people, I have learned some interesting icebreaker games and stuff like that.

camp leader in Iceland
 Painting sea creatures in Brú – the soon-to-be sustainable center of Worldwide Friends. Source: Personal archive

Do you have any memorable experiences?

I have many. I really love going on tours. The first time that I arrived, we were going on the Golden Circle tour, and then on the South Coast tour and I saw many beautiful waterfalls. There is this waterfall called “Seljalandsfoss”, and just when I saw it for the first time, I was like “Unbelievable”. I was soaked wet, but I didn’t care. Just seeing the Icelandic nature. If you like nature you should go to Iceland, it’s just so wonderful. 

 Did you have any doubts if you can make it until the end of the project?

Yes, like many times I have doubts because you go to this hike and you think you are gonna make it or not, or it’s extreme weather. The wind is blowing in your face, and you have to go against it. You don’t know what’s gonna happen, things are being disorganized.

         The Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Source: Personal archive

 

If you enjoyed this interview and you want to read about other interesting experiences you can check,  for example, this interview over here or this interview right here.

Moreover, if you are interested to be a camp leader in Iceland or volunteer for other purposes there, check the organization, Worldwide Friends, where Anna is volunteering,  here is the link to their website.