More Than a Trip



The project is a collection of urban legends created under the motto “This could only happen here”, consisting of the works of winners of creative competitions and workshops.

The goal of the project is to engage residents in creativity to mythologize territories in order to increase the value of living in the region and raise the appeal for visiting the area.
Cyberguide formats: electronic and audio books, movies, video games, and mobile quests. Usually, the stories of the locals about their favorite land are more fascinating than the descriptions in the usual guidebooks. Authors create under the motto “This could only happen here”. This means that the venue plays a key role in the story. The author is free to choose the genre: parable, fairy tale, story, fable, travelogue... The required format is fiction (a literary work where the venue is real and the stories and characters are images created by the author). Stories based on real events are welcome, it adds to the plausibility, but still the legend should remain a work of fiction, not reference information.
Project features: Using bigdata to create artworks; Involvement of residents, media, opinion leaders, administrations, and bloggers in creation and promotion of content about the region; Free participation in creative competitions; Free training in literary and film workshops; Free distribution of finished content; Awarding not only winners, but also participants of creative competitions, whose works have passed moderation. By October 2022, 17 cyberguides have been published in the series. Five more projects are in production.

- How to come up with a cool idea of the project about culture online?

I haven’t found anything better than constantly testing hypotheses about the best idea for a project yet. I’ve been working in the media for more than 30 years, 10 of which – on television. My last position was executive director at NTV television company. Producer of the first Fort Boyard team. The second ten years were in the printing and publishing business. I have built the largest print shop in the country to produce glossy magazines. Now for more than ten years, I’m in IT. I made mobile guides for all regions of Russia and all CIS countries. They are mobile map-enabled guides to areas with infrastructure, natural or cultural attractions, calendar of events, routes, and services. In 2019, I decided to test the hypothesis about the effectiveness of promoting regions not only through applied information, but also through artistic images. Scaling up the success has led to a series of cyber-guides. The implementation of each new guide begins with a creative assignment. It is based on a registry of objects – venues of future legends. We measure the information background and identify undervalued destinations in the territories. They are the ones that would be interesting for people to visit, but there are few who know about them. Regional local historians, tour guides, writers, journalists, and museum workers are very helpful. They provide invaluable facts about the territories and authors immersed in the subject of urban legends. After that, we announce a creative competition. The project has the opportunity to encourage not only winners of competitions, but also participants. Thus, the authors of competing works from the long-list, thanks to “Russia is the country of opportunities” presidential platform, receive bonuses from “Other Business” program. In addition to excursions, the tours have an educational module and a helpful program associated with creation of content, in particular the publication of legends that will continue to work for promotion of the regions even after the departure of tourists. In this way, the project is broadening, through doubling the number of episodes each year, and becoming deeper, through increasing the number of media formats. Attend to the audience. Locals and experts generously share project ideas that can be implemented, e.g. through online culture activities.

- What are the pitfalls to be aware of?

People are the key! I like to think: first decide with whom you go, and only then, together determine where to go. The hardest part of the project is finding a leader in the region who supports the idea of collecting and publishing legends about his native land. Once such a brave person is found, the rest is just a technical problem. It’s not easy to find worthy authors and invite them to the contest. It’s quite a hassle to raise funding or win a grant. But, as Coelho taught, “once you’re on your path, the whole universe will assist”. Over the 3 years of the project, the Universe has helped find resources for more than 20 projects in the series.

- Why are the projects like yours needed, what is their value for people?

We are lucky! We live in a country with a unique diversity of nature and cultures. It is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for creativity and travel. Project objectives: Increasing the value of Russia’s regions for living and the attractiveness of the country’s regions to visit. When we started the project, we soon discovered a treasure trove of talent in the regions. The young people are the most astounding. 30% of the winners of all our competitions are schoolchildren and students. I will share the phenomenon of the Nizhny Novgorod region. At the end of 2021, we announced the contest “Nizhny Novgorod Region. This is my land”. Thanks to project manager Alexandra Sharova, we held a literary workshop for tour guides who use urban legends in their daily work. A month later we received a request from the regional branch of Sirius to hold a literary workshop for children 12–16 years old. Which we gladly did. As a result, the quantity and quality of the works received for the literary contest was so impressive that we decided to produce a three-volume edition. One collection is about the region, the second is about Nizhny Novgorod, and the third is a collection of fairy tales compiled from the works of the winning children. The feedback from people about the cyber-guide is quite remarkable. For example, here is an opinion of a reader of the first collection of the series: “We thought we knew Suzdal well. Now we want to visit it again to see the city through the eyes of the authors. On our last visit, we marveled at the masterpieces of the Orthodox tradition. But it turns out that there are many traces of ancient cultures in the city. We learned from the collection that more than 80 films have been shot in the city’s exteriors. And mead with horseradish. And cucumber jam. And a cartoon festival, and a biker convention for blues concerts. We will definitely come to Suzdal again and more than once.” If your project inspires your audience to be creative and immersed in the homeland culture, just do it!