Off the beaten path
28 young participants from 4 partnering countries (Italy, Portugal, Turkey and Slovenia) joined a multilateral youth exchange 'OFF THE BEATEN PATH' taking place from July 13th to 21th 2015 in Kostanjevica na Krki, Slovenia. Young participants focused on sustainable tourism and entrepreneurship while adding value to a local heritage trail which aimed to educate, connect and promote. We situated most of our activities in the context of the Uskok’s heritage trail, borderland walking trail which introduced us to fascinating local landscape and history, to the stories of local people and culinary delights that were typical for the region. Acknowledging these values, we used various non-formal learning methods and mobilised our potential to engage in local sustainable tourism practices as young local guides, fully competent to transmit local ideas, practice and heritage to various target groups. It did not take much to become a local guide - you did not necessarily need expensive equipment or payed adds - apart from personal engagement, curiosity, learning passion, ability to hear the stories of the locals, pleasure of storytelling and lots of creativity. In the exchange, we strongly worked on mobilising these with some help of our more experienced peers (i.e. hikers, young local city guides, food promoters and those who had some knowledge on the public relations). Together we set hands-on workshops and panel discussions which aimed to empower our entrepreneurship potential and at the same time add value to the local. Main topics were: sustainable and responsible tourism practices; adventure creation; young local guides as agents of ‘green’ entrepreneurship; the power of storytelling. We entangled the questions of how cultural heritage shall be presented in order to avoid certain stereotypes, but rather connect a guest to the locals. We developed sensitivity to intercultural dialogue. Theory was perpetually linked to practical learning, our discussions turned into actions through open culinary workshops (bread baking), storytelling evening and some other activities which made our exchange visible and echoing on the regional level and wider. At the end we also organised a press conference. As one of our immediate results, a web page was constructed based on our learning experience. The exchange provided an exploration of opportunities for promotion and marketing of sustainable rural/ urban tours, facilitating the access to the labour market for unemployed young people and providing a supportive environment for job-creation.