Well, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks around here. And the universe seems to be paying me back for all the perceived good deeds I’ve done in the past. Karma can be a bitch, but she’s also a warm and fuzzy BFF if you’re on the right side of the divide. In short, I’m going to Siberia — one of my dream destinations. No, really.
It’s a tale involving a nickel mining company, a secret Facebook group, the most northern city in the world, and probably because I’m Canadian, that most underrated of sports — curling.
Here’s the story. My pal Cailin O’Neil from Travel Yourself posted the simplest of queries in a Facebook group for Canadian travel bloggers “Anyone else get invited to Siberia?” Cailin couldn’t go because of a scheduling conflict, so the darling girl offered up my name to the organizers instead, and voilà…just like that, I’m off to the Arctic Circle.
So why Siberia? Who’s organizing this show? And why do they want to make Siberia — of all places — a tourism destination?
Well, have you heard of Siberia? Yes THAT Siberia — the cold, barren, eternally frozen wasteland where Russians send their prisoners. At least that’s the stereotype. Siberia has been desperately aching for a positive marketing spin for decades in my humble opinion. And the spin machine attempting to do it that justice is an organizing committee called FOLLOW UP SIBERIA. (I think it’s put in all caps out of respect — I mean, you gotta have balls to take on a Goliath like the general public’s perceptions of Siberia.)
The idea is to educate people — not only foreigners, but Russians as well — that Siberia is not the land of snow storms and gulags that we think it is. It’s more modern than we think, and yes, there are people that actually choose to live there. It’s got trees and lakes and miles and miles of natural wonders.
The FOLLOW UP SIBERIA team is using sports as the common thread to unite people from across the globe, and the whole shebang is being funded by one of the largest nickel mining companies in the world, Nornickel.
Now I know what some of you are thinking: “Siberia is the LAST place I would like to go!” Not for me though. I’m drawn to the odd and quirky and out of the way, and Siberia has all of those in spades. Some people dream of Tahiti, I dream of places like Siberia.
One of the other things that I was drawn to about the trip was this line in the About section of the FOLLOW UP SIBERIA website:
The “FOLLOW UP SIBERIA!” program stays out of politics.
I know sometimes I get hung up on Russia’s current administration and its policies and treatment of marginalized groups, but I will do my darnedest to keep my big trap shut. Every country has beauty to offer, regardless of who is at the helm.
I know the question on your mind, and probably the real reason you’ve read this far — how does curling fit into all of this? The trip includes a visit to the city of Dudinka to attend the Arctic Curling Cup 2018 and to meet some of the curlers. I’ll also be visiting Norilsk — the most northern city in the world. What’s interesting to me is that both Dudinka and Norilsk are “closed cities”, meaning that even Russians need a special permit to visit. How cool is that?
Win A Trip to Siberia
Now here’s how you can go to Siberia too.
The trip I am going on (May 24 to 28) is one of four trips that FOLLOW UP SIBERIA is organizing. Entering is as easy as taking a photo, or short video of “A Piece of Siberia in My City” — basically something that reflects your perception of Siberia — and posting it to Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Weibo or VKontakte with the hashtag #FOLLOWUPSIBERIA. (Note that Twitter is NOT one if the social media platforms included.)
Ten winners will be chosen for the next three trips, scheduled for August, October, and December 2018. The most active winners from those rounds will be invited back to attend the 29th Winter Universiades in Krasnoyarsk in March 2019.
Anyone from any country can enter, and you can see the full rules and more details on the FOLLOW UP SIBERIA website (click on the RULES section on the top right of the homepage) or on the FOLLOW UP SIBERIA Facebook Page.
I am pumped to go to Siberia!! How about you? Is Siberia on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments below.
Note: All photos courtesy of FOLLOW UP SIBERIA