"Nothing can compare to waking up and seeing the volcanoes’ sopkas from your bedroom window!”

Taras and Tatiana Shariga (@mykamchatka) are a wonderful couple, to whom we are connected by the longest introduction ever. The thing is, we’ve known about the two most popular instagrammers of Kamchatka, (because that’s exactly what these guys are), for a long time now. Their popularity comes as no surprise; the quirky little drawings, portraying bears who snowboard, go diving, and make all kinds of silly faces, have conquered the internet and quickly become hipsters’ new favourite illustrations. Today, these drawings can be seen on sweatshirts, mugs, and other cute items available under their brand called ‘Cherish Kamchatka’. Unfortunately, when we finally decided to go to Kamchatka, the pair had already left for India. We had just given up on the idea of meeting them, when luckily for us, we found out that they would be passing through Moscow. So we invited them over to our headquarters so we could all share our experiences of the magical force that is Kamchatka.

Tatiana: A few days ago, Taras and I were admiring the stunning Indian ocean and I thought to myself, how wonderful it would be to meet the guys from Follow Me To! And now, here we are!

Taras: It’s true, everything she wishes for over there comes true! It’s even a little scary. (Laughs)

Murad: Oh! Superpowers! I’d love to have some of those! (Laugh)

Natasha: So you’ve just come back from India! How was it? Was it your first time?

Taras: No, third time, actually. For us, it’s a place of real power. It’s a magical country that is indirectly responsible for introducing me to Tatiana. I got so tired of working in Moscow, (I was killing it for five years straight), that I decided to go and recharge in one of the Ayurvedic centres in Kerala. The aura cleansing took 21 days: no Internet access, no phone - just yoga and meditation. I realised that I was totally open to the world, and it to me, and that I can ask for anything. I asked to find my other half. In a few days, I returned to Moscow and met Tatiana. We’ve been together ever since.

Photo: Zhenya Savina (@zhenyaswan) and Yaroslav Shuraev (@yaroslav_shuraev)

Natasha: That’s unbelievable! And how exactly did Kamchatka come into the picture?

Taras: I was born in Kamchatka, and then moved to the capital. Tatiana is originally from Siberia. Truthfully, the way we met is just one of the many magical things we’ve lived through. Wonderful, almost fairytale like moments, still happen to us - they are these paths that sort of appear on our way. Even before introducing her to my parents, I brought Tatiana to Kamchatka. It was a risky move to be honest! But what else could I do? This is where I was born and grew up. But Tatiana was in awe of the beauty she saw. She instantly felt the shocking contrast between the richness of Kamchatka’s nature and the way people treat it. She got in a cab and asked the driver to take her to the ocean, he told her he doesn’t know where it is!

Tatiana: I spent five years in Moscow: work, home, work, home, and I, myself, grew up surrounded by nature, a breathtaking place below the polar circle. Kamchatka was just a breath of fresh air! Nothing can compare to waking up and seeing the volcanoes’ sopkas from your bedroom window! This kind of happiness can drive a person mad! Sadly, people over here don’t appreciate it, they don’t even notice.

Photo: Zhenya Savina (@zhenyaswan) and Yaroslav Shuraev (@yaroslav_shuraev)

Taras: Weirdly, this is how the idea for our project was born! I’ve been doing sports related business here in Kamchatka for 15 years now. At one point, we collaborated with the guys who owned a shop specialising in active lifestyle equipment. Tatiana drew this snowboarding bear as a cheeky compliment that read “Cherish Kamchatka”.

Tatiana: It was a New Year’s gift!

Taras: The guys loved it, they accepted it and were very supportive of the idea, which was yet to be born.

Tatiana: It’s still hanging in their shop! I wanted to carry across my thought without any negativity to it. It’s not like I would ever go to an actual rally.

Murad: So, this drawing is where it all began?

Taras: Yes, this was the very beginning. This was also when we went on an expedition to the Tolbachik volcanoes. Vladimir Shevtsov was leading our tour, he’s truly a legendary man.

Photo: Zhenya Savina (@zhenyaswan) and Yaroslav Shuraev (@yaroslav_shuraev)

Murad: Oh yes, we’ve heard about him, too! He’s an outstanding alpinist. He even carries the “Snow Leopard of Russia” title, skis, and hosts incredible events like classical music concerts in a cave.

Taras: Exactly! He’s also a very straightforward man. So during our trip, Tatiana told him about our “Cherish Kamchatka” idea, and his response was quite brutal, he asked her what she was doing here and why she hasn’t started doing anything worthwhile yet.

Tatiana: I didn’t know what to say, and in two months everything was ready.

Taras: She didn’t try to explain herself to anyone, she just infected everyone around with this idea. Her enthusiasm was so emotionally captivating, that she got immediate support from everyone around her. She started by doing a few illustrations and then some friends helped create a small collection that out of nowhere created this unbelievable craze.

Photo: Zhenya Savina (@zhenyaswan) and Yaroslav Shuraev (@yaroslav_shuraev)

Tatiana: We thought about changing the name, but people got so used to “Cherish Kamchatka”, that we decided to just leave it.

Taras: The most important thing is that we fulfilled our goal! People started to want to know more about this place. People that were born and raised in Kamchatka actually began to travel! Absolutely incredible.

Tatiana: In these two and a half years we’ve shown people a different culture. Instagram helped to draw in tourists. Now, they come wanting to take beautiful pictures, which already is something!

Photo: Zhenya Savina (@zhenyaswan) and Yaroslav Shuraev (@yaroslav_shuraev)

Natasha: What are your plans for the future? Which direction is next?

Taras: We haven’t really thought about it yet. As of right now, we are working at full capacity. @mykamchatka is still a side project, we do have primary jobs. We just try to do what we love - something we see great meaning and potential in. Just yesterday, we finally got the rights to our trade mark. We are also constantly offered to collaborate on taking our idea to new territories.

Murad: Concerning your main job: what is it that you do?

Tatiana: Taras hosts sports events and is developing the surfing culture in Kamchatka. We invite guys over here for free, feed them delicious vegetarian food, and do yoga outside. This way, people who were just last weekend roasting meat at the volcanoes, come to our biathlon complex to work out and try our teas and vegetarian sweets.

Photo: Zhenya Savina (@zhenyaswan) and Yaroslav Shuraev (@yaroslav_shuraev)

Taras: We are really trying to form a new culture here in Kamchatka, stop people from complaining about how they live at the world’s edge, and make them see the plus side of it all. For instance, our friends come to visit us here all the time. We show them Kamchatka and they tell their friends about it. And that’s how it goes. We’ve managed to create this community. Immediately, people responded with offers to help, resources like hotels, cars, tour guides, they all just appeared. We’ve succeeded with one project already. We simply invited our good friends to go heliskiing. For the longest time we’ve tried to accomplish it at the minimum cost, and we did. Everyone loved it, because the way it was done was new and unusual.

Natasha: Do you have any favourite places in Kamchatka? I just can’t help but ask you this!

Taras: We do - the whole of Kamchatka, because it is so different and there is so much of it.

Tatiana: For me it’s the ocean, the Khalaktirsky beach - the city’s main beach, available to all, the land there is practically alive. I lie on the sand, face down and fall asleep, when I wake up I feel completely recharged with this amazing energy. We also really love the Vilyuchinskie-Rodnikovie thermal springs, but it’s not a tourist spot, and it’s actually really very clean. Even bears come here during the summer.

Photo: Zhenya Savina (@zhenyaswan) and Yaroslav Shuraev (@yaroslav_shuraev)

Natasha: Oh, we saw bears, too! One even crossed the road right in front of our car. I was in shock, I was so excited I squealed!

Taras: Did you climb the Tolbachik? It is another favourite of ours, we go there every year. You’d think it’s always the same, the same volcano, the same lava, nothing changes, but for some reason, each time we come, we see it differently.

Murad: Sadly, we didn’t get to Tolbachik! We just had that one week - which is not nearly enough for Kamchatka. Especially considering the totally unpredictable weather: snowing one minute and sunny the next.

Tatiana: Very true! Then you must come to Kamchatka one more time. You do plan to, right?

Natasha: Yes, when we were over there, I had this clear feeling that this wasn’t the last time. It’s not even up for discussion; we will definitely come again. It is one of the most giving places we’ve ever been to.

Where are we right now?


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