Nomad Together

Ever wonder “why” we travel full time?

Listen in to this interview with¬†NomadTogether¬†and hear our very candid story. We share the in’s and out’s of community life, music, and marriage/family on the road.

*Topic for this podcast interview: Swimming Upstream-Redefining Your Reality 

We live in a culture that is individualistic and prides its self on being independent and self-sustainable. Comfort, independence and, security are at the top of the list for most people. But, what if these norms that our culture values are masking our longing for a deeper sense of community and adventure?

What we have learned thus far…

To clarify, when we talk about swimming upstream we are talking about swimming in the same waters as everyone else, just moving in a different direction. We are not talking about jumping out of the river into a whole other body of water and creating our own stream (flow). That would be too easy. We are not of this world but we are surely in it. And, because we are in it, we seek to understand the flow, the systems in place and the direction whatever society we are in is going.

One of the keys to swimming upstream culturally is to begin to ask questions. especially “why” questions.We asked questions like, Why do we care so much about status and wealth? What role should education, healthcare, and the pursuit of happiness have in our lives? What is freedom? What is interdependence and why is so vital to our existence? Who are we and what are do we do best as a team?¬†

That doesn‚Äôt mean that we have it all figured out, but to ask questions in and of itself is the beginning stroke of swimming upstream. Not in any sort of snarky or “we‚Äôre better than you sort of way,” but why as a curiosity, as a way of engaging the culture around us, challenging and probing into the possibilities or ways of defining the reality.

Also, to swim upstream requires an exceptional amount of patience both for ourselves and those around us. It requires that we have compassion for those going the other direction, going with the flow. It means offering a humble example of flowing another way but understanding that not everyone is keen and rejection is inevitable. It means that when we think we have it all figured out that we’ve probably jumped into a pond and are no longer swimming upstream but rather, we have isolated ourselves with only those who are like minded.

Our hope is that those we meet along the way would be encouraged to start asking questions for themselves. Not for the purpose of getting them to a place where they clone our nomadic lifestyle. Rather, to inspire them to start dreaming and move into the mystery of what swimming upstream might look like for them in their context, with their gift set. 

We unpack all of these things in the Podcast Nomad Together. Have a listen.

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Shambhala In Your Heart

Two years ago we visited friends of friends in the Northern Thailand town of Pai. Once there we discovered not only the beauty of a new place but also sincere friendship at Shekina Gardens. We kept in touch with our new friends and recently reached out to them for a return visit. They told us about a 10-day festival called Shambhala in Your Heart, hosted by a Japanese community, based in Thailand. They said that the festival happens every February and suggested we join them there. We contacted the festival to inquire about performing and they accepted our proposal. Our friend and fellow bus rider, Jeffrey, contacted us and asked to join as well. He met us in Australia and we all flew over together.

We arrived in the small town of Chiang Dao on a warm Thursday afternoon and found our way to the festival grounds. We were greeted by¬†the mighty, mist-shrouded Doi Luang mountain.¬†Teepees and tents sprinkled the grounds, prayer flags blew in the breeze and happy hippies from around the globe¬†frolicked in the stream. We met a new friend named Totto and asked her what Shambhala actually meant. She explained that in Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist traditions, Shambhala; is a mythical kingdom and suggested it was like being safe in the palm of the Buddha’s hand.

The days were filled with workshops in the arts, history, crafts, every kind of yoga that exists, sound therapy, and meditation. In fact, our friends from Shekina Gardens hosted a gentle and exploratory “Christ-centered” meditation every day in one of the Teepees. This was the¬†first year they were invited to lead and¬†we found¬†the gesture to be¬†quite progressive and affirming to our faith practice. It complimented the¬†intercultural nature of the festival and enhanced what seemed to be a core ideology of an open and simple life for all, free from greed, destruction, and¬†war.

One favorite workshop was about the history of the indigenous people, or the Ainu people in Japan. (Ainu” means “human”.)¬† Some attention was given to the plight of the Ainu people in Japan and how in 1899 Japan created a law that restricted the Ainu from participating in their own cultural activities. In other words, the Ainu people were stripped of their land, customs, and language in hopes that they would assimilate to Japanese culture. It wasn’t until 1997 that this law was lifted and the Ainu people were allowed to practice their own customs again. It was both enlighting and disheartening to learn of this considering the plight of our own indigenous friends in both Australia and the US and stirred in us an advocates heart. Most of the class, however, was on the rituals and beliefs of the Ainu people. We learned that they regard things that are useful to them or beyond their control as “kamuy”(gods). In daily life, they pray to and perform various ceremonies for the gods. We learned about the ancient practice of “stitching”. In this practice, Ainu women weave and elaborately decorate the traditional ceremonial clothing with symbols of the of the gods including “nature” gods, such as of fire, water, wind and thunder and “animal” gods, such as the bear or crow. Then we were given opportunities to learn the craft of stitching ourselves. It was a fascinating and inspiring way to spend an afternoon.

Another fun activity was just a short walk down the road to the sulfur hot springs. It was free to the public and offered a variety of tubs varying in temperature. Our new (10yr old) friend, David, from Russia, joined us one afternoon and we had a lively discussion about how much he loves fire. When I suggested he become a fireman when he grows up, he looked at me and said with disgust “I do¬†not want to kill fire! I want to make fire big! Very big! I want to be fire!” Haha!! Watch out world!

In the evenings there was music, fire twirling, and dancing. At some point during the night, there were announcements. Three speakers took the stage, one spoke Japanese, one Thai, and one English. It was fascinating to watch them translate for one another. Most of the announcements had to do with interacting with and respecting the local village and culture; things like respecting the village by putting on more clothes (not cool to run around in bikini’s or shirtless in Thailand) or quiet hours starting at midnight. It was refreshing to watch these leaders setting a tone of humility and harmony by offering us wisdom to better interact with the local culture.

There were two performance stages. The kitchen stage ran during the afternoon and featured open mics, poetry, and spoken word. The main stage was in the middle of the grounds and ran in the evening from 5:30pm-midnight. The bands varied from singer/songwriters to full-on rock/reggae bands and most were from Thailand or Japan. There were also a handful of performance art/dance acts.

The Hollands! performed a rollicking set on a Wednesday night just as the sun was setting. We shared six songs and invited our friends Ro and Aya to join us on Morning Star, our last song. The crowd was enchanting as they danced, sang and encouraged us with their smiles. It was most certainly one of our favorite performance interactions. Besides our official performance, we also spent quite a bit of the festival jamming old bluegrass and folk tunes with other muso’s. Jeffrey really stood out at the festival with his mad violin skills! He was even invited to play a haunting set during the fire spinning show. It was fire and violin, quite the beautiful combination.

On a side note: We stayed at¬†Koko Home. (There was camping at the festival but the cost to buy all the gear was about the same as staying at Koko’s, so we opted for comfort). We rented out the family room for four people, with a queen and bunks for about $1000TBT a night (That’s about $30USD) The room was clean and air-conditioned, which was refreshing as some of the days it got up to 98f. We also rented one moped from Koko and used it to shuttle back and forth. Koko and his family were amazing hosts. Koko spoke English well and¬†invited all the guest, including us, to a home cooked meal and jam one of the nights. His wife made¬†Khao Soi, which is a soup-like dish made with a mix of deep-fried crispy egg noodles and boiled egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime, ground chilies fried in oil, and meat in a curry-like sauce containing coconut milk. It is our new favorite and we will be looking for it on every Thia menu we¬†can find it on!

PS. If you are keen to go to Shambhala in Your Heart and want more information on logistics,¬†¬†Joanna’s “Blond Travels” blog was very helpful.

And be sure to like the festival’s facebook page.

Birthday Down Under

IMG_0564Five birthdays have passed for each of us since we’ve started this nomadic journey and we’ve been blessed to find ourselves amongst beautiful community during these precious milestones. This year, however, was the first birthday our son, Banjo, was able to celebrate in Australia.

Banjo was actually born in Australia on May 22, 2001 and holds both an US and Australian passport. We moved to the US when he was five weeks old and have been back and forth over the years but never during his birthday month.

IMG_0285This year he turned 15 and we were able to celebrate an early family dinner in Melbourne before making our way north to Sydney. We took a hike through the neighborhood and came back for his favorite Mexican dish.

On a side note: Making a Mexican dish in Australia has become easier over the years, as ingredients make their way across the sea, however it’s still a feet to manage. The most difficult is finding authentic corn tortillas. The Australian company, Essential makes them but they cost about $5 for an 8 pack. The brands, Mission and El Paso are on the shelves in limited quantities, but they aren’t our favorite. And, finding tomatillos and Pinto beans is a whole other story. We can however, find all of the chilies, and then some, cilantro is available in plenty (although they call it coriander), and avocados are readily available at about $2.50 a pop.

Anyway, Banjo had a blast with all of his cousins and the night was topped off by his favorite dessert, cinnamon rolls (or as they call them here, coffee scrolls).

IMG_0453The party continued a few weeks later with a guest appearance from his sister, Graciana, who flew up from Bendigo. It had been 2 months since he last saw her, and they soaked up every moment.

He spent time at the beach twirling fire, a round of golf with Craig and with our friends, the Von Heupts, who organized an epic night out, including gelato and a movie. Not, just any movie though, Banjo had somehow come across a trailer for a New Zealand¬†comedy¬†called Hunt for the Wilderpeople. (If you haven’t seen the movie we highly recommend it!) The movie is directed by Taika Waititi and is based on ‘Wild Pork and Watercress,’ Barry Crump‚Äôs book about a juvenile delinquent left in the care of rough yet loving foster parents who live off the wilds of the New Zealand bush. Two worlds collide and it’s so funny!! Anyway, he¬†looked up show times and found out that there was going to be a special pre-show viewing on his actual birthday, which was perfect.

The Von Heupts organized for an entourage of youth to surround and celebrate Banjo, including their three children. Eleven of us total went the movie together. So Banjo and his friends sat together near the front of the theatre, giggling and squirming around in their seats. The movie was hilarious but when Banjo spilled his popcorn on the lady in front of him, the night went to stitches.

IMG_0450It’s so fun to watch our boy become a man. He’s taller than us two Holland girls and gaining on his dad. He has amazing drumming skills and loves anything to do with technology or psychology. Boasting that maybe someday he’ll write a book like his Papa. He’s a natural learner and has a super fun sense of humor.

He’s always wanted his own computer so he could study coding and how to make video games. So, over the course of the year he saved all of his pretty pennies. That, along with a bit of¬†help from family, and he was able to see that dream come true.

We’re thankful for family and friends near and far who love and support our family and especially those who do little things to show¬†our son that he is¬†loved. Thank you!!

Happy 15 year of your life Banjo Holland!! We love you.

 

 

 

Mum Jones

12249731_10153326378984053_6258699912709864565_nDebra Jones was known to many as “Mum Jones,” a mentor and Mom in the tribe where no one is left out. She was a voice in the wilderness, brave, kind, soft yet fierce, and she stayed the course, diving deeper and deeper into her faith, giving up more and more of herself. In June of this year, Debbie passed on through to the other side and although she may never be canonized by a religious institution, I dare say that the tribe she‚Äôs impacted along the way would deem her¬†a Saint through and through.

I met Debbie’s husband, Andrew Jones, in 1998 at Cornerstone Music Festival. He was speaking to a group of raver kids called FoundKids that my cousin and I happened upon. We were taken in by the whole scene but I was specifically inspired to hear about Andrew and his families nomadic lifestyle. His stories of¬†wandering around the globe with the intent of just showing up, to be available, encouraging the¬†marginalized. His stories stirred something deep inside of me and a seed was planted that I believe has had a significant influence in our journey.

417872_10151463524703121_2043070706_nAt the time, I was a single mom and longed to hear from a mother’s heart. So, I asked if I could visit with his family. ¬†My hope was to sit with his wife Debbie and ask her questions about her journey into this radical surrender to Abba, trusting Him with her five children and with all of her needs. Back then, they were living out of an old RV and were¬†temporally parked in a¬†suburb of Chicago. They invited me over for an afternoon and as we sat outside of the RV talking, the kids all running in and out, I felt a sense of peace come over me and knew that whatever may come, I had found an example of a life well lived. I had found one of my mentors.

We would only have that one meeting face to face but I followed the family over the years and as my life intersected with Craig’s and we married, I told him all about these kindred spirits. We kept tabs on them and when the time came for us to take our leap of faith, they were the first family we looked to for encouragement.

Over the years, we kept up with them at www.tallskinnykiwi.com and via Facebook. In 2014, we had a few lovely interactions with Andrew and a few of the children, now adults while we were parked in Austin, TX. Each visit bringing with it a deeper sense of camaraderie. Then, in our most recent¬†inter web exchange Debbie reached out to coordinate a meet up but in the end we found ourselves on different continents and hoped to look toward 2016 to unite. However, she did mention that if we made our way to Bulgaria, they’d be happy for us to borrow ‚ÄúMaggie,” their current rig, which was quite tempting. ūüôā

Recently, we watched on as Debbie and Andrew split, like a cell, to cover more ground. It would be the first extended period of time that they would move on different continents. Debbie had a missional impulse towards developmental aid in Africa and Andrew felt a pull towards refugee relief in Europe. We were absolutely amazed as we witnessed their courage and discipline and were blown away by their supernatural trust!

11390519_1619216628316768_3253796670653706618_nThen, just two months ago, as they were making their way back towards one another, an urgent prayer request came in. Both Debbie and Andrew were in hospital, one in Ghana and one in Ethiopia, both in critical condition. The prayers poured in, but not even twenty-four hours later we learned that Debbie had passed, her final words, ‚ÄúI am here.‚ÄĚ Andrew, who is slowly recovering, writes about it in his memorial blog called ‘Debbie‚Äôs Final Words, Angels and More. Andrew states that the words are actually quite moving, as the¬†“phrase points to the¬†strategic impact of actually turning up and being fully present with people in their context.‚ÄĚ It was a phrase that she learned while loving alongside the Ethiopian tribe called ‚ÄúAshanti.” He says that¬†Debbie “felt that¬†nomads, like herself, offered a special gift in turning up to the hidden places and evaluating the real needs and formulating a holistic and sustainable result.‚ÄĚ As a fellow nomad this resonates wholly!

12234975_10207502130131979_4625256212437588854_nDebbie surrendered her own body, with its particular itinerary, desires, and even needs, to become one with the breath and message of God. And, this is why she will forever be a Saint in my mind.

Our hearts are heavy and yet, rejoicing, longing for that day that we will meet again.

Blessing to the Jones family and all of the many kinfolk around the world who have their own beautiful stories to tell about this precious woman. May the stories continue flow, to inspire and bear much lush fruit.

To read the full article by Andrew visit ‘Debbie‚Äôs Final Words, Angels and More.

Read it, you’ll be inspired too.

Culture Shock; The Art of Realigning Orientation

Thinking of embracing the nomadic lifestyle? Or how about just taking the family on a holiday? Here are a few ideas and practical ways to work through culture shock, from our family to yours.

First it’s important to¬†understand that each society has its own beliefs, attitudes, customs, behaviors, and social habits. These give people a sense of who they are, how they should ¬†behave, and what they should or should not do. These ‚Äėrules‚Äô reflect the ‚Äėculture‚Äô of a country. People become conscious of such rules when they meet people from different cultures. And so, culture shock is the interesting phenomena of realizing you don’t know those rules.

Culture shock has been defined as the feeling of disorientation, loneliness, insecurity or confusion that can occur when one is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

Culture shock may come with any of the following symptoms:

  • Homesickness
  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Need for more sleep than normal
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Compulsive eating or loss of appetite
  • Stereotyping of and hostility towards host nationals
  • Lack of energy

As nomads, we’ve found that the more we thrust ourselves into new and unfamiliar surroundings or sit at the table with folks who think differently than us, the more barriers are broken down. And so, it is important, as we travel, to honestly accept that culture shock is a natural part of the experience, yet we have learned ways to quickly¬†realign our orientation so that we can really engage, understand and enjoy the world around us.

One of the ways we do that is to embrace¬†the physical symptoms and if possible we allow our bodies to get more sleep. We also pay attention to our food intake, making sure to get enough energy rich nutrients and plenty of h20. When possible, we cook for our hosts as this allows for us to eat foods that are familiar. It’s all common sense, basic stuff, but the key is to pay attention and embrace our bodies needs, whether for food, liquids or sleep.

Emotionally, we combat potential depression by talking about how we are feeling, specially if we’ve been in a situation where the world around us is dark and destructive. We talk about the feelings that are evoked when we see things that make us angry or uncomfortable and we allow each other to have those¬†feelings as we process them out. That’s actually one of the greatest gifts of traveling as a family, having someone to talk¬†to about things we are feeling. For instance, when we went to the Killing Fields in Cambodia, we all had a mutual experience that was quite traumatic, so to be able to sit and process with each other as well as with our hosts was a real gift in helping us move into the reality of where we were in the world. By engaging those emotions, it allowed us to develop a real sense of empathy for our Cambodian neighbors.

Mural in Bondi Beach, NSW Australia
Mural in Bondi Beach, NSW Australia

One of the greatest killers of compassion is when we stereotype, picking out all of the obvious differences and developing short-sighted opinions towards our host nationals. It’s a common way of responding to culture shock and easy to slip into that sort of thinking. However, we try to catch it as quickly as we can and instead we try to find similarities. It is when we look past the obvious differences and seek the similarities that our minds eye begins to adjust, telling our brain that what we are experiencing is familiar or at least familiar enough to begin to unpack our defences and open our hearts to learn from our hosts.¬†We try to avoid quick judgements; seeking to understand by asking questions and looking at things from our hosts point of view. One of the most critical things that we consistently have to shelf is the belief that our cultural habits are ‚Äėright’ and others are ‚Äėwrong.‚Äô Sometimes¬†our hosts actually ask us to compare and contrast our culture to theirs but usually we answer that we haven’t developed enough of an understanding about their land to compare and contrast but if they have questions, we’d be happy to tell them things about our homeland or upbringing so that they can better understand us.

For us, the most difficult symptom of culture shock to overcome would be a feeling of homesickness, which is quite funny because we haven’t had a “home” in five years. Even so, the further we go in our travels, the farther away we feel from those who we hold dear in our hearts and the feeling of homesickness usually hits when some sort of world travesty happens. And yet, everywhere we go, we find a sense of home with those saints we meet along the way and so, our faith is what helps to keep this one in perspective. We are a part of a bigger family picture and staying open to this nomadic lifestyle allows us to connect with our extended “family” in ways that we never knew possible.

 

 

Pen Pal Bus Rider

10408823_10152872957405407_8213931553917393179_nOur daughter, Graciana and Chris are¬†pen pals, well, keypad pals really. They met on good ol’ Facebook and have been engaging in conversations about music, faith and life as we know it for the past year.

Today we’ll be picking Chris, a recent graduate of¬†Berklee School of Music in Boston, up at the MetroBus in Washington DC and he will be riding along, living in community with us and those we neighbor alongside and trying his hand at “slow touring” until June 26.

We are excited to meet him and share life, story and music over the next month.

This is Chris Kazarian folks:

Age: 25
Birthday: 03.10.1990
Relationship status: Family, friend, pen pal, acquaintance
Biggest fear: fear
Dream Job: self employment
Dream Car: Tesla S
Dream House: small house in a remote city in Southern California. Buuut for now, Workin towards a loft in NY.

FAVOURITE?
Artist: our creator
Movie: the one where they blow stuff up! Make people laugh and cry. You know? That one lol
Song: not really a song but Watermelon Man on the Herbie Hancock album “Headhunters”
TV series: Dragon Ball Z
Animal: Silver Back Gorilla
Book: Captain Underpants
Colour: sepia tone

THIS OR THAT?
Twitter or facebook: outside
Twitter or Instagram: being Outside!!
Facebook or Instagram: OTHER THINGS!!
Coke or Pepsi: well they both divide people . . .
Tea or Coffee: coffee to wake up, tea to calm down
Tacos or Pizza: Tacos
Winter or summer: Summer!!

WOULD YOU EVER?
Get married: Yes
Have Kids: 20
Swim with sharks: in a cage, are these sharks alive? . . . Do they have to be?
Share a banana: yes
Eat rotten food: no

Beaches, The NFL, and Art Museums

Mornington BeachesWe can’t get enough of the beach life here in Australia. After a whirlwind first couple of weeks, performing and catching up with kinfolk, we took a week of core family time to explore and rest.

Auntie Val and Uncle Michael have a beach house on the Mornington Peninsula and they graciously allow us to use it every time we visit the country. Our week there included back beaches near PortSea but mostly we stayed local, walking to the beach nearest their property and walking into the little town. Wifi is limited for us and so we would walk to town and sit at a little coffee shop to work on music stuff, as well as, catch up with friends in the US. On a side note, from our observation, there is a distinct lack of cell phone use here. Virtually no one has a device out when in general public settings. It was refreshing to see people really engaging in conversations. We noted how much we have detoxed from our typical routine of constantly looking at our phones (don’t get me wrong, we look for Wifi when ever we can get to it, but it’s been nice to not have it available at our whim).

20140206-144249.jpgBesides beaches and coffee shops, we did make our way into the city for the NFL Superbowl. Craig is a huge sports fan and had organized a whole day around the event. It’s a funny thing to watch an American sport in another country.

ESPN hosted a party at Federation Square, set with a large screen TV, dancers, a small pep band and a hot dog eating contest. Of course, there was a fella in the crowd who was picked for the contest, boasting he could out eat the other contestants because he was American. Good grief, that got the crowd riled up. Of course, he failed miserable as the hot dogs were raw and he could barely keep them down. It was all pretty gross.¬†We missed the commercials but other than that, there were plenty of jersey’s and well versed football fans in the stands. We saw lots of Green Bay Packer gear, and the icing on the cake was a Bears fan working in a food cart. Made us feel right at home.

20140206-144209.jpgOnce the game turned into a blow out, we decided to branch out from Fed Square and  explore the city. Melbourne proper is a pretty fantastic city to visit. Architecturally, it reminds us a little bit of New Orleans mixed with Seattle.

We visited St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral. We love the Anglican’s and although it was a beautiful constructed church, it had a bit of a spooky vibe.

Later we explored the National Gallery of Victoria to check out one of Craig’s friends work. Juan Ford, aka Jane Fonda, was in a punk band called Pet Earwig with Craig back in the 90’s. He has blossomed into a fantastic, world renouned artist! One of his installations at the museum was You, me and the flock,¬†a special commission for kids which invites viewers to add birds to a growing flock set against a panoramic sky-scape.¬† We love birds! If you are an art collector, his work is worth your time.

Although it was a week of rest, we found plenty to explore. We are refreshed and ready to get back to work. Tour starts Feb 8 and rounds out March 4. For details on where we’ll be visit www.thehollands.org