The Kinfolk Road To Philly

Road to Philly JPGOver the course of a few weeks we rolled our way through the northern tip of West Virginia, Harrisburg, PA, through Amish Country finally arriving in Philadelphia. Every stop we reveled in community, seeing old friends and making new friends, learning and experiencing history, culture and the inspiring ways folks do life.

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Our first stop was with the Bannister family. Craig’s old music mate from Australia, Keith, and his family, welcomed us to their storybook town of Shepherdstown, WV.

They invited us to explore around their area, visiting the historical Civil War battlefields, Harpers Ferry where we learned about abolitionist, John Brown. We enjoyed an afternoon walk in the downtown district, shopping and getting a flavor of the local tea and coffee vendors. A favorite was the little ice-cream shop, Nutters Ice-cream, where they served up two huge scoops of homemade ice-cream for $2.00! Best of all, we were able to catch up on all the amazing life stories that had come our way, and theirs, over the past seven years since our last visit. Our last two days with them sickness came our way and it was in that moment that were so grateful to neighbor with kinfolk, able to find a comfort and hospitality.

IMG_2882Our next stop was in Harrisburg, PA  Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, sits near the middle of the large state. Once a thriving city, but was recently bankrupted by a former mayor. None the less, we found there was a sense of pride and community effort that seemed to keep the city alive. A few of our favorite things we noticed about this city, specially near the downtown area, was the community gardens and Broad Street Farmers Market. We also found the amount of children playing in the streets and folks sitting on their porches, neighbor to neighbor, enjoying the warm breeze and the company of each other, to be invigorating and most encouraging.

Our host in Harrisburg was the Compton family. We met Jake Compton a few weeks prior in Frostburg, MD when we played a show with Jon Felton and his Soulmobile. Jake played in Jon’s band that night and after the performance he invited us to his hometown.

He, his wife Sommers and their darling children, live inner city and are engaged community builders, encouraging their neighborhood by actively caring and connecting, as well as, impacting their greater community through the arts. They invited us to share meals, story and song at their performing space called the Harrisburg Improv Theatre. They use this space for concerts, performances and to teach improv classes. They are a  creative and innovative family, always looking for ways to invite other into life. This young couple expressed a desire for a story like ours and shared their uncertainty about their purpose, feeling like maybe they were missing out, wondering if travel might be the key. But what we saw, was that their life was already full and they were already living the dream. Travel would just be the icing on the cake.

IMG_2920Later that week, we took a day drive out of the city and enjoyed a taste of Amish Country. We stumbled upon a little town called Intercourse and couldn’t help ourselves but to stop and have a photo taken by the town sign. Yes, we were those tourists. Ha! Really though, who names a town Intercourse, unless they were referring to the dictionaries first definition of the word which is “communication or dealings between individuals or groups.” Even so, we had a good laugh.

Once we got over the name, we sat back and enjoyed taking in the Amish way of life. The neatest thing about this area is the opportunity to see from a birds eye view how they farm and live. It was absolutely mind-boggling how hard they must work and so close to the earth, with the whole family involved. We admire and respect this culture and are thankful for the opportunity to see it unfold, even if from afar.

IMG_3017Our final destination on the “Kinfolk Road to Philly,” was Philadelphia, where we connected with kinfolk, Tevyn and Jay. We’ve had many mutual friends for years, and had run in similar circles but this was the first time we connected and shared story with Jay and Tevyn.

We met them at  Fanny Lou’s Porch for coffee and immediately felt like we were with family. We learned about their community, Circle of Hope, and their circles of ten that meet weekly, encouraging one another in faith and love. We visited the communities thrift store, coffee shop and were invited into one of their gatherings.

 

We also learned about Tevyn and Jay’s creative dreams and endeavor with the Carnival de Resistance, a traveling arts carnival and ceremonial theater company, a village demonstration project exploring ecological practices, and an education and social outreach project; all focusing on ecological justice and radical theology. We enjoyed meals, and conversation about traveling and shared stories about mutual friends whom we all love. Yes, we were talking about you, Joby, Seth and Jon. 🙂

IMG_2972We did a little sight-seeing, exploring the cities historical sites, including the Liberty Bell, the remains of the home of George Washington and we saw the statue of William Penn, all of which was just like the text books described but our most exciting day was spent at a local African heritage event on the South side of Philly, called the ODUNDE Festival.

The festival boasts the largest African-American street festival in the US with over 500,000 attendees.  The festival, whose concept originated from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, West Africa, celebrates the coming of another year for African-Americans and Africanized people around the world.

Our day was filled with amazing dance, music, and fool. We’d highly recommend this festival to anyone visiting Philly in June and looking for a fantastic educational and cultural experience.

 

 

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Carolina Clam Bake

We’ve been wandering up and down the Carolina coast for the past few weeks. Recently, we put a shout out on our Facebook page letting folks know we were in the Wilmington, NC area and asked if there were any kinfolk who’d like to neighbor with us.

Our friend, Julie in Sturgeon Bay, WI responded with enthusiasm that her best friend, Grace and husband, Skip, lived just two hours north of our location and that we should go visit them. The fun thing was that I had known about Grace for years, as there were times that Julie and I would be hanging out and Grace would come up in conversation or she might even text/call while Julie and I were together. So, to actually meet up, was a pretty sweet idea.

IMG_1672We called Grace and she said to please come, that she and Skip were going to be hosting their annual “Clambake” and we were welcome to join in the fun. So we made plans to drive our mini-van to their home in Morehead City for the weekend.

When we arrived they offer us a hearty greeting, giving us a lay of the land, escorting us to our bed rooms and inviting us down for dinner and drinks. About an hour later, neighbors started arriving and merrily introduced themselves. It felt like we walked into an episode of Happy Days with a hint of the old 70’s classic, On Golden Pond. There was a natural connection between them all and it was encouraging to be welcomed in like old friends.

IMG_1683The next morning the preparations for the clam bake were under way. Grace peeled carrots, chopped onions and washed potatoes. And, Skip a retired professor in Aquaculture, wrangled Craig and Banjo to help him get the clams in order, pulling them up out of the water into a wheel barrow and washing them clean. He explained the process of farming the sea and all that goes into raising clams. Then it was time to start the kettles, boiling the water bath, preparing for the vegetables and then finally the clams.

The excitement began to brew as folks started to arrive. Many brought a drink to share and an appetizer but the crescendo came when Skip announced that the clams were finished and called everyone over to the picnic table covered in newspaper. We gathered, held hands, said a prayer and watched in awe as Skip emptied the contents onto the table. We all lined up, filled our plates and our bellies, finishing the evening with a regular ol’ Hollands sing along around the piano. The food was delicious, the company was gracious and kind and the experience was one to remember.

 

On a Wing and a Prayer

It means, “In poor condition, but just managing to get the job done.”

Apparently, this phrase originated during WWII. The earliest reference that I can find to it is in the 1942 film The Flying Tigers. The screenplay, which was written by Kenneth Gamet and Barry Trivers, staring John Wayne:

Gordon (John Wayne): Any word on that flight yet?
Rangoon hotel clerk: Yes sir, it was attacked and fired on by Japanese aircraft. She’s coming in on one wing and a prayer.

The phrase was taken up by songwriters Harold Adamson and Jimmie McHugh and their WWII patriotic song Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer, 1943 tells of a damaged warplane, barely able to limp back to base.

Boy, can we relate to limping back to base and we can attest that without the prayer part the whole phrase wouldn’t have legs to stand on.

IMG_1262Recently, we pulled into a large parking lot in front of a strip mall adjacent to Indian Harbor Beach, FL. We were going to be partnering with Glen Clark & The Family for a weekend festival called Spring Beach Fest. We were excited and arrived the night before the event, settled in, got to know the crew, played some music and talked logistics for the next day.

The morning of the festival we pulled our bus behind the Main Stage as a backdrop and wind break. IMG_1289As we pulled into place, our bus stopped moving, it wouldn’t respond to our commands but kept idling. We knew something was wrong and started to panic but the festival crew was in high gear and there was no time to try to figure out what was wrong with the bus.

I sent an SOS out to all of our kinfolk around the globe asking for prayer and were encouraged by all of the immediate responses. Craig got on his bus forum at busconversion.com and started asking questions. The guys responded right away and gave him some great ideas of areas to explore on the bus. He did what he could with the information but eventually had to release his efforts for lack of knowledge. We started to investigate towing options but as we took a step back we realized it was Sat and most bus mechanical shops wouldn’t be open until Monday. We also knew that getting a tow during the festival wasn’t a practical or safe option. So, we tried to set aside our issue and focus on our purpose at the festival.

IMG_1275As we prayed and others prayed for us, our faith was strengthened and we were able to stay present, serving alongside the Clark family. The fellas helped with set up and us girls started to focus on creating a space of hospitality on our bus, making a big pot of homemade chai and a Mediterranean lunch for everyone. And, although there was a cloud hanging over us, we all could sense the presence of those praying for us.

Things started to settle down a bit, we played a set of music, then rested for a moment, taking in all of the joy around us; the beach, those serving food on the main grounds, the children laughing and playing in the jumpy castles, those engaged in hardy conversation and the many bands that played that day.

IMG_1286Early evening, I came back into the bus to start working on dinner and noticed that our stove was acting weird. I lifted the grill and found that the gas line was on fire and was nearly scorched through. I turned off the stove immediately, and sat down to catch my breath. I realized that we were just spared an even more dramatic crisis of a bus fire! I was thankful, however I was so discouraged because I no longer had a way to care for others using my kitchen. The weight of the whole day started to burden me and I sighed. I managed to whisper a short prayer and then sent out another SOS to all of our kinfolk;

“Update on Bus breakdown. Craig has started to narrow down issue but has only solved a bit of the puzzle, something to do with the air compression and the breaks. Our bus is sitting as the backdrop at a little grassroots festival, Indian Harbor, FL. Fine for the night but tomorrow turns back into a strip mall parking lot.  On top of that, feeling thwarted as we found the gas main on our stove was scorched. Thank The Lord we found it, or our bus would have blown up. Means I can’t cook for the crew here which is frustrating! We’re all starting to feel the stress. Plus there are a few external/relational situations that we are present at the festival. So, our focus has been on caring for others. I know God is faithful no matter what. Still need to cry though. Please pray for us. We could use a big fat wet kiss from God right now.”

The responses poured in:

  • Vanessa at 7:10pm; Prayers are going up!! Lord, set them back on path to do Your work! Any assignments or schemes set against them must be released in Jesus’ name!!
    Love you guys and are praying for it all to be restored asap! And with little cost to you! 
  • Ginny at 7:18pm Praying for a fix. Praising God you discovered the stove issue.
  • Bente. at 7:19pm so very sorry..I pray for peace and provision.
  • Joseph at 7:20pm I’ll just join you in crying, tough day in the Apple Donky as well….God is Good all the time
  • Sofija at 7:42pm So sorry! Praying for you guys… So glad you all are safe.
  • Grace at 8:04pm Praying for you sweet friends…
  • Melanie at 8:06pm Father in Heaven, hear our cries.
  • Kelli at 8:16pm Ugh. Continued prayers (from earlier post today). So sorry. Good WILL come of it….but yuck.
  • Niqee at 8:43pm Oh dear sister cry! That is highly acceptable! It is in those times that we truly give it over to God. He never leaves us. Embrace the journey. Never easy but always beautiful! 
  • Brett at 10:06pm Lifting your family up! 
  • Janae at 10:34pm Praying for you all! So thankful that it isn’t worse. Praying for that big sloppy wet kiss! 
  • Debbie at 5:16am Praying from across the big pond 
  • Jerry at 9:16am You are a picture of walking with the Lord. Do what you can while you wait on him to do what you can’t. Go Craig! That cooking part I know bugs you Jana. You love serving. Lord, from a far thank you for way you are involved with us all. Near. Faithful. Showing up not only to do but to be, so we can enjoy you beyond wonder. Thank you for watching over the Hollands. 
  • Jane at 9:24am Praying for you guys! 
  • Cara at 10:18am Praying for a mighty miracle of mysterious bus fixes and your friends hearts.

Our spirits were lifted by the prayers of those who heard our cry for support. That’s when I realized that the whole episode with the bus wasn’t about the bus. The most debilitating thing wasn’t the bus being broken down or even the worry of how to pay for the repairs. The most debilitating thing was dealing with a sense of being isolated and alone. Prayer became our focus and through it all, we understood that prayer was our life line.

As the festival came to a close our attention turned to solving the problem of electricity for the night. You see we have been building this bus as resources become available and one of our last things that we hope to build is the inverter/generator system, which will allow us to dry camp, but that will come when it’s meant to come. In the meantime, we prayed and found favor with the local bar, called Bishops, which allowed us to run our electrical cord across the parking lot to them. We slept hard, knowing that the next morning we were going to have a busy day dealing with our broken bus. We woke up the next morning to a surprising and encouraging text from our friends Karen and Doug.

IMG_1305We met Karen and Doug at Lifest a few summers ago and have kept in touch with them ever since. They are some of our kinfolk who were praying for us and just happened to be an hour north of us in Sanford, FL.

Doug, a retired diesel mechanic, stated that they were on their way and hoped to try to problem solve with us. Sure enough, they showed up shortly after and Doug and Craig got to work. They spent all day sussing out the problem finally narrowing it down to a break chamber issue. Over the course of 8 hours they fixed my stove and temporarily got the bus running enough to take it up to the MCI shop in Orlando, saving us the $400 tow. We were taken aback by their love and support and willingness to care for us unconditionally and noted it as an answer to the many prayers, giving thanks!

IMG_1356Doug and Karen were volunteering at New Tribes Missions Homes and had arranged for us to park our bus for the night in their RV park and the next morning Craig and Doug brought the bus to the MCI shop. While our bus was in the shop they organized for us to stay in a duplex in the community for the two nights it took to fix our bus. Their generosity allowed us time to take a deep breath, get some laundry done, share a few meals, learn about NTMH and share in community without the burden of our bus issues pulling us down.

In the end, the bus was fixed, our repair costs were eventually covered by those who felt compelled to care for us financially and we were able to continue on our way. But, even if all hadn’t fallen into place, we know that through it all, God is faithful, hears our prayers and because of this we experienced a deep sense of connectivity through a difficult time.
We also believe that because of the faithfulness of the saints in our lives we made it through on a wing and prayer.

Hashtag Community

instagramWhat the heck is a hash tag, and why should I use them? We get this question all the time and usually answer it by saying the # is a way of “filing” your photo into a world-wide folder with photos that also have that same hashtag. The purpose is to link up people who have similar interests. So for instance, say you were into tea, you could start an instagram and use it as a way to document different tea shops you’d visit, teas and big hats via photo and then when you post those photos, you’d hashtag something like #teaaddiction. When you had a moment, you’d click on #teaaddiction and find all sorts of kinfolk who love tea. You could look through their photos and maybe even click on their profile, eventually making friends, finding solace in your tea fanaticism.

For us, social media outlets that use hashtags, specially Instagram have allowed us the privilege of meeting so many wonderful traveling kinfolk along our way. Just hashtag #busconversion,  #familyontheroad, #ditchingsuburbia, or #homeiswhereyouparkit and boom, they are all there; nomadic kinfolk, wanderlust rangers and road-school families. These tools provide opportunities to make an initial contact, where we can develop a slow adoration for those we follow, bonding over shared experiences and eventually leading to a #meetup. That’s when the real fun starts for us! Those moments of serendipity when we find ourselves in the same neck of the woods as fellow travelers, reaching out, setting a meeting time and place and making that first face to face connection, is sheer excitement and delight.

IMG_2192We’ve met up in MI with fellow bus owners, Herd of Turtles (The Shanks Family riding in an Eagle) and Scott and Heather Bennet (MCI owners), sharing a meal, stories of our bus conversions, and music by the campfire. Also, fellow bus owners Technomadia, who we met up with in California. When we pulled into the state park, they heard our 2stroke engine and came a running. We spent that evening sharing bus stories and tricks of the trade.

Our nomadic community isn’t just limited to bus owners, as we’ve met up with “The Van With No Plan” brothers, Josh and Matt in Phoenix AZ, where we learned about their adventures in multiple vehicles and drive to bring joy wherever they go. We met up with “meredithmarieyo” in Austin TX and learned the Texas Two Step. Also, in Austin we met up with world troubadour, Andrew Jones, from Jonesberries, one of our greatest inspirations and in our opinion, the original traveling family. And, then there was that quick but fruitful breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Lafayette, LA with One Year Road Trip (The Webb Family). We can’t forget The Wayfaring Family in Lexington, KY hosting us for a few nights, sharing stories of their one year of world travel, and adjusting back to home life. Then there was our recent link up with 5th wheelers, Wandering Jess (The Marshall Family) in Pensacola FL and The Boyink family (aka Ditching Suburbia) at Silverspring State Park, Florida. Both of which shared stories of faith, motivation for full-time travel and raising teenagers on the road.

They all have their own beautiful stories of how they transitioned from life on the ground to life on the road. They all make their way doing different sorts of jobs, some work remote corporate jobs, some IT jobs, some bloggers, some pick up odd jobs, some do photography and some are film makers. Some have children and those who do have all sorts of ways they home school, from online resources to unschool. Some have pets, some have spouse and some have both.  They all travel in an array of vehicles from 5th wheels, classic airstreams, campers, buses, vans, to cars & bicycles. Some have converted their vehicles and some have bought them off of the lot. Some folks, downsize all the way, some still have homes, etc… Some have an abundance of resources and some live day to day. One thing they all have in common however, is their commitment to swimming upstream, seeking freedom, asking tough questions about societal norms and pushing against the status quo.

IMG_0155Everyday a new traveler, family or couple ends up in our different hashtag folders and when they do we reach out welcoming them to this community of drifters and wanderers. We’re always keeping an eye on the whereabouts of our fellow travelers, hoping that the wind might blow us together sooner than later. These moments of connectivity with our nomadic community are inspiring and reassure us that we’re not odd or alone, we are part of a bigger picture, in it together. #neverstopexploring #community

You can find us on Instagram at The Hollands and on Twitter at The_Hollands

The Wayfaring Family

Social media is a basic necessity for us in our travels. It is a lifeline for staying connected with our hosts, venues, fellow travelers, and friends. We use WordPress as a journal/newsletter about our travels, bus life, healthcare, homeschooling, spiritual insights and the inner workings of our family life. We use Facebook to communicate about our music. We also have a private group there that we can share our most intimate prayer needs and requests. We have an Instagram that we share daily pictures of our adventures, and a Twitter that we use in tandem with them all. We have found our Instagram and Twitter great places to connect with fellow travelers, homeschoolers, food science, & social justice minded kinfolk. The Wayfaring Family is no exception. I met Anne via Twitter and with in our first few interactions we were plotting out a visit.

The Wayfaring Family’s profile reads, “Encouraging family travel, Just returned from a Round The World trip. If we can do it so can you!”

They are The Helmer’s, a typical American family of four. They are small business owners, hyper scheduled, over involved in sports and school activities. And they have a four pound dog and two cats to care for. How could they possibly up and leave? They dared to dream. Things all worked out and everything was there when they got back.

Their adventures are detailed on our their blog but a quick run down is they drove across the USA, Rafted the Colorado River, sold our their car in LA. Flew to Guatemala. Lived in Antigua for a glorious Month. Flew toPeru. Visited the Amazon for two weeks, Machu Picchu and Lima. Flew to Fiji. Then Three weeks in New ZealandSix Weeks in Australia. Bali for Christmas. Kuala LumpurBorneo for several weeks. Singapore, then Thailand and then on to Africa. Dubai then Spain. Six weeks in Italy, then Austria, Germany, Holland, France and England.

You can read their full story:
http://www.andtheyreoffblog.com

IMG_9531We were super excited to meet them and this past Tuesday pulled into their Lexington driveway for a one night stay. We were greeted by Anne, her 12 yr old son Lee, Random and Mia, the cats and their nine pound living legend, Buddy the dog.

Anne offered a cold glass of water which was graciously accepted and we hit the ground running. There is an instant kinship that happens when we meet fellow travelers, specially families who have live outside the norm for any period of time. The two boys immediately hit it off and within the hour announced that they were brothers. We talked about they dynamics of raising children on the road, moments of struggle but mostly the victories we saw when our children’s eyes open and minds expand. We talked about logistics because everyone does it differently and there is so much to learn from our fellow travelers.

Later, Anne’s husband, David and their 16 yr old daughter Laney arrived and jumped right into conversation. David shared about his job as a lawyer and desire for a change. The travel was just the catalyst for that change and as soon as they arrived home he got busy with a few start-ups, including a mediation business. He really lit up when sharing his desire to use his talents and experience volunteering with a justice project that focuses on mediation within his city, helping to bridge the gap that comes when a neighborhood that was once deemed less desirable becomes the target of capitalism. It was encouraging to hear how travel had inspired them all, infusing them with purpose and a compassion for humanity.

Later that evening, the Helmer’s hosted a gathering, inviting many of their friends down to David’s office where we performed a Hollands! set, enjoyed local pizza and conversation. It was our first performance with our new travelers/bus riders, Rhys and Sylvia. They did great job filling in on vocals and bass, and jumped right to community life, connecting with those who came to hear and meet us. It’s in these sorts of moments that I sit back and I am in awe of how we got here. Just one little tweet and here we were meeting this amazing family and singing sweet songs to them.

The next morning offered breakfast, more conversation, and a quick stroll around the neighborhood before we had to head south to Nashville.  Until next time Wayfarers!

The Wayfaring Family

Bus Upholstery Facelift

We have two seating areas on our bus. One long couch and a dinette with two benches. We can seat seven people comfortably but have had up to 10 in our living area. It’s pure bliss to have kinfolk join us on board and over the past two years and ten months we have had so many guests we’ve lost count. The only down side is it ends up being a lot of wear and tear on our little cushions and we were in desperate need of an upgrade. But how to find the supplies with our modest budget?

I’m a self-proclaimed treasure hunter and decided to start at the local thrift stores. I ended up finding exactly what I needed at St. Vincent DePaul thrift store in Green Bay WI. The choices were limited but the fabrics were sturdy. Next I asked around for a good place to find foam for our dinette. We decided to make due with the couch cushion and just recovered it with the staple gun method. For the dinette however, we wanted the cushions covered individually with zippers which would allow for washing access and for ease when converting the dinette into the spare bed for guests. I picked up a high quality grade cushion at Al’s upholstery on Main St and then found Wendy’s upholstery in Shawano, WI to do the handy work. She did a fantastic job and came in just at budget. All up our project cost just under $200.00

It may not be as flashy as our original blues and patterns but the fabrics and cushions are sturdy and hopefully will wear better, offering many more years of sharing life with kinfolk and hosting fellow travelers.

Original cushions, October 2011:

Celu'haven floor

Wear and tear as of April 2014:

Facelift, July 2014 :

 

 

Infusing Community

Community. We talk a lot about the subject, calling ourselves Community architects, builders, and encouragers. We take great delight being apart of and watching humanity weave together naturally. We love to see unity and harmony among our fellow-man. Practically though, people ask, how do we do that? There are all sorts of programs out there on building community, from creating small groups (cell groups), joining clubs, to hosting regular gatherings. We appreciate them all, but our favorite way of encouraging the coming together of folks is to offer our musical gifts in a house concert setting. It is here that the host sets the tone of openness by taking a risk and doing something out of the norm. Neighbors and friends from all walks of life gather, enjoy food, drink, conversation and song.

Recently, we were parked with the Heikkila/Hansen families just outside of Austin, TX. They are two beautiful families, linked by a brother and sister relationship, who are united in lifestyle and situated on the same property. They share life with one another on a daily basis. And, although they have a desire to connect with surrounding neighbors, they haven’t known how to go about starting that process.  Our arrival and offer to do a concert in their backyard got their wheels turning. After a little explanation of how the night moves, they felt comfortable and began to put the word out to friends and neighbors. The night brought together kinfolk from all walks of life and the result was an infusion of encouragement and just a little bit stronger bond of understanding and commitment in the neighborhood.

We love twinkle lights, we love playing music together, we love good food and drink but most of all we love seeing people connect and engage. That’s the spice of life for us Hollands! That’s why we call ourselves merrymakers and that is why we do what we do.

If you would like us to come and play in your backyard, we’d be delighted.

 

All of the amazing photos were taken by Van Teodosio.