This is the 8th instalment in a series of Q&As with past TCT volunteers. The aim of this series is twofold: to provide information about what it is like to volunteer with us, and to preserve our antics for posterity.
From: Los Angeles, USA
Day Job: Human Resources Manager
In her spare time: goes on mini-hikes in the nearby forests, does a bit of yoga, and makes loads of salads
Project volunteered for: Dilijan Armenia trailbuilding camp 2017
TCT: What is something we might not know about you otherwise?
Lusine: In my junior year of college, I decided I wanted to be a chef. I spent that summer working in a restaurant in Sedona, Arizona. I learned a ton about French technique, chopped off a bit of my pinky, ended up in the ER, and realized I wasn’t quite cut out for a chef’s life.
TCT: Nice pun. This is a grassroots project with a marketing budget of precisely zero. Given that, how did you first hear about the Transcaucasian Trail?
Lusine: On Instagram. To be exact, I follow OneArmenia. They posted a photo by Vahagn V. I liked it and followed him, and his page led me to the TCT. I was looking to do a backpacking trip in Portugal during the summertime and decided to do the TCT instead 🙂
TCT: It’s quite a commitment to travel to a brand new part of the world to contribute your time and energy to something completely new. What motivated you to join the project as a volunteer?
Lusine: For me this was a no-brainer. I saw it as a win-win: hike and do work that is beneficial to Armenia. This was a wonderful experience – the passion and dedication of the people behind this project is contagious and humbling.
TCT: Many people would think twice about signing up for two weeks of hard labour in the mountains and sleeping rough! What were you hoping to gain from the experience?
Lusine: I enjoy camping and hiking. I wanted to learn about the Armenian highlands and felt that it would be a privilege to contribute to my homeland in this way.
TCT: Had you ever volunteered or worked on anything similar to this before? How did your time with us compare to your expectations or previous experiences?
Lusine: I have not done anything similar so I don’t have a reference point. I was impressed by how organized the entire operation was. The camping operation especially seemed like a well-oiled machine. Victoria, Ben, Ashot, Emma, and Hans did a phenomenal job of coordinating and orchestrating the operation. Matt and Val, the longer term volunteers, also contributed a ton to ensuring that the short-term volunteers knew what they were doing, were exercising safety, and were working hard. They should get an award for having to deal with a nincompoop like me.
TCT: What were the best and worst aspects of being part of the volunteer trail building crew in Dilijan?
Lusine: Best – being outside; meeting super-amazing, cool, kind, people; walking into thicket of forest, working my butt off while cussing under my breath and looking back to the path I’ve made; learning a new skill… how to use the McCleod, and rake, and developing a whole new appreciation for the work that goes into building and maintaining trails that I do enjoy walking on.
Worst – ticks (and bugs in general); the monotony of the work; the McCleod (although I mean this with humor, it’s likely the hardest tool to master and it got frustrating when I felt like I wasn’t doing a good enough job).
TCT: Trail work is a largely thankless task, which, if done properly, will never be noticed by the people who benefit from it. Where, if anywhere, did your sense of reward come from?
Lusine: Progress. Creating a path where there was none and knowing that someone will walk on the path and take in the beauty of nature was rewarding in the moment. Reflecting on the entire experience – the people involved, the scope of the project, and having made a small contribution toward this amazing project – is rewarding.
TCT: The biggest trail building operation ever launched in Armenia was accomplished entirely by the labour of volunteers such as yourself. How does that make you feel?
Lusine: Proud and humbled. I am grateful to have been able to partake.
TCT: We’re assuming that if you’re willing to be interviewed, you mostly enjoyed your time with us! Who would you recommend our volunteer programme to?
Lusine: Anyone who loves the outdoors, wants to learn about Armenia, is looking to get out of their comfort zone, can forgo the comforts of modern life for just a few days, is willing to go with the flow, and is ready to put in WORK!
TCT: How did you use your time off?
Lusine: I mostly hung out with the other volunteers going on a couple day trips and hikes. Getting around is super easy and hitchhiking is a legitimate mode of transportation (no joke!).
TCT: Do you have a story you’d like to share that didn’t make it into any of your other answers?
Lusine: Apparently you’re not to eat any mushrooms you find in the forest.
TCT: Is there anything else you’d like to say to potential volunteers?
Lusine: Use bug spray. All day.