From Cambridge to Pingyao: the journey so far

Posted on: 30 October 2014

Our intrepid ex-Cambridge Hub Manager Emily has been crossing Europe overland since September. Here, she updates us on the places she’s been, the people she’s met and the connections she’s forged between inspiring grassroots sustainability initiatives.

Since September I’ve been to so many cities, towns and villages that, to save space, I’ll list the places I’ve stayed at least one night: Cologne, Warsaw, Vilnius, St Petersburg, Moscow, Suzdal, Tomsk, Irkutsk, Olkhon Island, Ulanbator and the national parks around it (staying with local nomadic families), Beijing, Datong and Pingyao.

En route I’ve made so many amazing connections that it’s impossible to pick the ‘best’; instead, I’ll try and give you a flavour of some of them…

We were taken on a tour in Tomsk by the social entrepreneur I was put in touch with there. It included being filmed for regional TV, learning a bit more about the nuclear power station 7km from the city, being given a tour of an ecovillage and our hosts (one of the families who lives there) then treated us to homemade tea, honey and cake. We were taken to the most amazing puppet show afterwards too!


In Irkutsk, I turned up to a special gathering of eco-minded people who were happy to share with me their experiences and projects – I loved seeing their connections with each other and the infrastructure for collaboration and socialising which can be so important for staying motivated to act.

Back in Moscow, it was great to meet Taya and Daria alongside Elena to see the involvement of young people in Centre Zapovedniki’s activities. The enthusiasm and kindness of all three of them left me buzzing. I was also gratified to be able to link one of the organisations in Irkutsk with these guys as they both mentioned to me about wanting to set up infrastructure and opportunities to support young people in establishing their own eco/social enterprises and businesses. I am hoping it may be useful!

The lessons I have learned from this trip so far are both practical (and hopefully useful for anyone planning on undertaking an overseas trip) and more notional: listen up one and all!

On the travelling front, make sure you always look up how to get to your accommodation before you arrive at the station (even when you are expecting to be picked up).

On the topic of meeting up with people in different places, make sure you have both a working phone with credit and the person’s number in case you get lost.

On the more general notion of doing this trip, I have learnt that it is not just me who thinks it is so important to connect with others, make links and work with like minded people to achieve the greatest possible impact that you can!


Second, I have been bowled over by peoples’ kind and generous responses to me and my trip – it never hurts to be reminded of the good in people, especially when there are so many negative stories in the media that make you think otherwise. It has also reaffirmed how those cheesy quotes I love so much are so right!! (See attachment as an example!) – it was blummin’ scary when I started but, to give a lesson I would like to pass on to others, never let the fear of the unknown put you off, and don’t just let your dreams be dreams.

What I am looking forward to next: everything!! I keep thinking about each new place and thinking ‘eek’, I can’t wait!! What I really need to do though is to stop looking forward and to just enjoy the moment, and try and put those mindfulness exercises I was doing back in Cambridge into practice.

Emily Dunning

Emily Dunning has recently left Student Hubs and is almost 2 months into a trans-continental overland journey to connect up grassroots sustainability initiatives. Find out more and follow her travels on her blog -

Tags: Environment & Sustainability

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