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#Meet_the_Oleh: Nikita Smelyanskiy

Updated: Apr 28

Made Aliyah from Kiev, Ukraine

Currently living in his car

Alyiah Date: 2012


“I always felt like I was missing something and now I feel like I’m living for me.”


Nikita Smelyanskiy (Nick) wakes up every morning at 6:00 am, either to practice yoga or meditate, then steps outside of his mobile home and walks five meters to his office where he grabs breakfast and a pair of gardening gloves and gets to work.

#Meet_the_Oleh: Nikita Smelyanskiy sitting on top of his white van with date palms behind him
Nick sitting on top of his van.

An oleh from Kiev, Nick never imagined himself living in Israel, but at age 18 he didn’t know what to do in Ukraine. His father thought that there was no future for him in Ukraine and encouraged him to move to Israel. He didn’t specifically want to come to Israel, but he did need to leave Ukraine, and it didn’t hurt that his girlfriend at the time was living in Israel.


In 2012, he made aliyah by himself and went straight to Kibbutz Nitzana to learn Hebrew.

Although he came to Israel alone, just two years after he made aliyah, his family followed suit. They always dreamed about making aliyah, and once the war between Russia and Ukraine escalated, they decided it was time to leave.


After serving in the Israeli army, Nick went back to Ukraine and then traveled to the USA. When he returned to Israel he still wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. At that point, he realized that he first and foremost needed to find out who he was. He also decided that he needed a new mindset about Israel - he decided to accept and embrace Israel for what it is - and that changed everything.


“I understood that I didn’t know the land like I wanted to," Nick said. "I didn't have any experience with nature or outdoor trips, but I just listened to my inner voice, bought a backpack and sleeping bag, and started to travel. I wanted to learn about the land with my two feet.”

#Meet_the_Oleh: Nikita Smelyanskiy holding walking sticks in each hand, wearing a white hat, and large backpack outside
Getting ready to hike the land of Israel!

Nick started discovering Israel in a profound new way, but the real shift happened when he suddenly heard a voice, ‘Nikita, go hike from Tekoa to the Dead Sea.’ He had no idea how to do that, and it seemed dangerous, but he heard the inner calling so he asked people what he needed. It turned out to be the turning point in his exploration of Israel. “Everything started from that maslul (trail),” Nick said. “Now I take tourists on that hike and that also propelled me to do the Israel trail.”


He is not satisfied with stopping there. He is currently finishing a tour guide course specializing in extreme adventures. The trips changed me,” Nick said. “ I realized that being in nature wasn't just a hobby, it was a lifestyle.”


What he really wanted was a tent on wheels, especially when he realized he barely spent time in the apartment he was paying rent on, so four months ago he took the leap and bought a van. Within a week, Nick and his friend transformed the van into a home-on-the-go, complete with a folding bed, a little kitchen, and even a big storage space on the top of his van.

#Meet_the_Oleh: Nikita Smelyanskiy laying in the back of his van on a blanket with storage containers next to him
Nick enjoying the renovated van

At the same time, he heard about a job at Lightricks, a high-tech company, from a friend, but it wasn’t just another high-tech job, it was a job to develop botanical gardens around the company’s offices. This was perfect for Nick, who wanted to do anything connected to nature but also wanted to move forward in his life.


When he first told his friends or parents about his plans they thought it was strange because they thought he was going to be sleeping on a mattress on the floor of the van. But once they actually saw the car they were so impressed. “Most people that I tell about my new lifestyle are like flying to the sky - they want to do it too,” Nick said. “Especially now, because people are stuck at home.”


Nick is ecstatic with his new home. “I don't feel like I’m missing anything. When you have less, you worry less,” he said. “My whole reality of life changed. I always felt like I was missing something and now I feel like I’m living for me.”


Within his new framework, he feels more grateful for everything he has and wants to pay it forward. “We need to give more than we receive. I just turned 28 and I decided I didn't want to receive any presents, not because I don't like presents but because I felt like I wanted to give to my friends and family, more than I wanted to receive.”


He knows this lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but for Nick - he’s found his path. “Everyone needs to find their own path,” Nick said. “If someone wants to live like me, I’m happy to talk to anyone and guide them however I can.”

#Meet_the_Oleh: Nikita Smelyanskiy standing on top of a mountain smiling with a backpack, sleeping mat, and white hat
What a view!

However, he does encourage everyone to open their eyes and look at the picture of life more expansively. “Don’t listen to anyone because they don't know who you are and what you are capable of - listen to your inner voice.” He also added, “In order to listen to your inner voice, you need to put everything aside, drugs, alcohol, and other people’s voices. Do this today, you never know what will be tomorrow.”


One of Nick’s dreams is to take people around Israel to see the full country. “When people come to visit I ask them where they have been in the country and most of the time they say Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. But that's not Israel, that’s just one aspect!”

A man walking along an empty road towards the setting sun with the desert to the right and the sea to the left
Walking off into the gorgeous Israeli sunset.

For new olim or people considering moving to Israel, his advice is to start fresh. “Forget who you were in the USA, France, South America, etc., you are coming to a completely new place. Even though it looks like where you're from, this is a different world. You need to find yourselves again here.” He recommends making the mind switch as early as possible because it can change your life.


Although it wasn’t a simple process, Nick is so grateful that he listened to that voice and recreated himself. “It was very difficult to go in a direction that I didn’t know where it would lead to, but I wanted to go forward - and now I’m living my dream.”


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