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’t 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’re 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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Graduation Expectation

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We ask little children, “What do you want to be when you grow up.” We ask teens, “What are you going to do when you graduate?”

These question are loaded with expectation, even if we don’t recognize it. The emphasis is on logistics and commerce and says to most children/teens that they need to figure out something that we all know takes a life time. Heck, I still ask myself what I want to be when I grow up.

Knowing the pressure my teen already has from the media and outside world to become “something” makes me angry and frustrated. I want her to just be and grow and take the time threw out her whole life to nurture healthy ideology, character and in doing so, become who she is really created to be. How can we change the dialog from what one will do to who are you now and how would you like to grow?

Phoenix Arts and Community

20130203-172550.jpgPhoenix hasn’t also been know for the arts but over the past few years the downtown district has done so much to encourage the arts. There is still work to be done, specially in The Zone, which we discovered last time around. However, we meet a community that sites just a few blocks from the desolate streets and offers a constant peaceful and creative presence. We meet Ryan Thurman through our gracious host family, The Skeens and visited his A2J community one afternoon. We were inspired by the communities commitment to their community and to each other. We heard stories of struggles and redemption in the neighborhood. One story included a woman who had been homeless for a time and found her way off of the streets into the A2J community and know offers her gift of hospitality behind the prayer house. We heard about the longing for more families to move into the neighborhood, for a deeper connection with the greater body. We immediately thought of our friends in Oakland at New Hope and our friends, in Omaha at InCommon and began to tell their story. There is something encouraging knowing that there is a global/local community out there. We’ll be thinking about them as we make our way, and encouraging folks to consider hanging with these kinfolk for a while.

We were also able to connect with a number of aspiring and professional visual artists at the Artistree Arts Conference which we offered our Songwriting Workshop, our Swimming Upstream Workshop and a performance. Our kids were able to take advantage of the sketching, journaling and graphic arts workshops offered by other practitioners.  Joel Pritchard spearheaded the event. We met Joel through Steve, with Hope thru Art and are excited to announce that Joel will be doing all of the art and design on our upcoming album. We’ll keep you posted on his work.

While at Artistree we meet John and Elli Milan, world renowned oil painters. And are especially unique in that the Milans create their paintings together. Although John and Elli are both accomplished artists on their own, their collaborations bring out a side of their work that neither could reach by themselves.  The couple says that the Spirit of God inspires their work and allows them to create together and maintain a unified vision.  The end result is aggressive and spontaneous layers of paint which create a bright and playful scenario that is interwoven with hints of narrative.  We were invited out to the Milan farm and studio in Queen Creek, AZ for lunch and had an encouraging visit, learning about their faith journey finding their purpose in creating together. We even saw the beginnings of a painting that was inspired by our album, Ashes to Beauty. We meet two of their four children, who are quite the artists in their own rite. We enjoyed the horses, chickens, dogs and cats. It was energizing to meet a family committed to one another and to creating together.

A New Direction by Ben Salmon of the Bend Bulletin

The Hollands hang out in their home, a 40-foot bus currently parked in a driveway in Bend. From left are Banjo, Craig, Jana and Graciana.Photos by Andy Tullis / The Bulletin
The Hollands hang out in their home, a 40-foot bus currently parked in a driveway in Bend. From left are Banjo, Craig, Jana and Graciana.
Photos by Andy Tullis / The Bulletin

Lifestyle change leads to music, community and many miles on the road for The Hollands!

By Ben Salmon / The Bulletin / Dec 2012

When The Hollands! — a traveling four-piece family band — drove their 40-foot-long bus into Sisters about 14 months ago, they intended on staying for just a few weeks before setting off on an endless journey.

“We wanted to do Thanksgiving with the parents, and then we just figured that this is the new life,” Craig Holland said in an interview on Christmas Eve. “We were going to go off and start touring.”

One problem: No gigs. The family had been so busy picking up its life in Wisconsin and hitting the road indefinitely, “the business side of being musicians had really gone by the wayside,” he said.

Getting rid of the house and possessions. Buying and working on the bus. Transitioning the kids into online school. Busy, busy, busy.

But, Holland said, “we hadn’t really booked a tour.”

So a few weeks turned into a few months, and the Hollands — Craig and wife Jana, who are in their late 30s, plus daughter Graciana, 16, and son Banjo, 11 — settled into arts-friendly Sisters. They worked with a church. Graciana took art classes. They met their neighbors.

“The bus is a great ice-breaker,” Jana said.

All the while, they worked on preparing the vehicle for its ultimate purpose: To carry this family full-time as they drive around the country to meet people, connect with communities and play their melodic and globally flavored folk music for an ever-growing network of fans.

Eleven months ago, they set out on their journey. More than 27,000 miles and a two-month stay in Australia later, they’re back in Central Oregon, and they’ll perform tonight at McMenamins Old St. Francis School in Bend (see “If you go”).

To the stage, they’ll bring a bond, both familial and musical, tightened by the time they’ve spent together and the experiences they’ve shared.

“We’ve soaked in everywhere we’ve been: the personalities, the culture of the communities we’ve stayed in,” Craig said. “It’s had an effect on all of us.”

Jana calls the family’s lifestyle change “a paradigm shift” and says it would be a challenge to return to a more stationary life.

“It’s funny how once you make that paradigm shift, your brain really does say it’s not even possible to really go back. I would have to relearn life again to go back,” she said. “To have our eyes opened and to begin to see the fruit of a life that’s for us more purposeful and more connected, it feels right.”

Holland history

Jana and Craig Holland met 13 years ago and were married six months later. Craig moved to the United States from Australia in 1997 for a “fresh start” and the opportunity to see American punk bands he loved, such as Warzone, Agnostic Front and Earth Crisis.

He landed in Chicago and began playing in a Celtic punk band.

Jana was living in Wisconsin at the time and was heavily into music, specifically the techno scene. She was a single mom with a corporate job and a big house that she opened to touring bands looking for a place to crash after a gig.

When Craig’s band ended up at her house, he was instantly drawn to the host.

“I guess he was sort of looking around my house, trying to figure out where the guy was in the pictures of me and Grace,” Jana said.

They were married in early 2000 and moved to Australia for a year. Jana had begun making her own folky music, and Craig had essentially stopped playing to focus on earning money, and being a husband and father.

That disappointed Jana.

“I just couldn’t find room to do music,” Craig said. “We just had such very different backgrounds musically, I didn’t know how to move into her world. It was like, ‘How do I play that kind of music when all I’ve known is this?’”

Jana jumps in: “Some couples have money issues or sex issues. We had this music handicap. It was so ridiculous. We’d get in huge fights over it.”

Fast forward several years. Graciana began performing with her mom. Craig brought his guitar out of hiding. And Jana was working on her first album, fighting a nagging feeling that it shouldn’t just be her name on the cover.

“I thought, ‘If I’m going to launch this, I don’t want to launch it as myself. I want it to be the Hollands,’” she said.

And that’s when a family friend, musician Bruce Hecksel, encouraged Craig to not just be a bit player in Jana’s world, but to go all in on the band.

Which he did. And The Hollands! — the ! is part of the name — were born.

Band beginning

The band released its first album in 2009 and began touring outside its home town of Green Bay, Wis.

And they loved it.

“We experienced so much affirmation on the road. We were invited into so many beautiful places and met so many neat people,” Jana said. “We recognized that we traveled well together. We always stayed in host homes so we had a deep sense of community while we were traveling.

“Venues were happy to have us and we made exactly what we needed,” she continued. “When we got back, we had broken even, or maybe even had an extra hundred bucks.”

That experience planted the seed for how the Hollands have spent the past year. But it was what Jana calls “an interpersonal issue” in the family — essentially, Craig’s lingering “what-if?” feelings about an old flame that kept him from fully giving his heart to his wife — that fertilized the idea.

“We had hit a crossroads where it was either our family was going to blow up and we were all going to go our separate ways,” Jana said, “or we were going to have to hunker down and really get into the heart of each other and reconcile.”

You can hear that vibe — betrayal, disconnect, reconciliation — throughout the band’s second album, 2011’s “Ashes to Beauty.” One song is called “Tears in my Heart.” Another: “Bitter Honey, Sin and Bones, Lady Wisdom Lead Me Home.”

On the road

In August of last year, the family was driving to Minnesota and looking on Craigslist for a bus to call home. They stumbled across one for sale right in their path, in Eau Claire, Wis. A man had purchased two buses from the Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps in Casper, Wyo., and needed to unload one.

The Hollands swung by, handed over $9,500, and drove off with a new home, which they’ve since named Celu’haven.

It’s relatively cozy for a bus, with well-stocked wooden bookshelves and art hanging on every open swath of wall. In the back are the bedrooms; Banjo keeps a drawer full of Legos near his bed, and Graciana has a picture of actor Taylor Lautner tacked above her pillow.

Celu’haven is not built for a Central Oregon winter, however. During their interview with The Bulletin, the Hollands repeatedly turned on the oven and opened it to warm their hands.

But it gets them where they need to be, and it’s big enough to hold their stuff, including Craig’s tools, so he can help out with their hosts’ projects when given the opportunity. In Bend, the bus is parked at the home of Josh Hart, the man in charge of the Operation Elf Box charity. The Hollands have been assisting Hart’s efforts since they arrived in early December.

“Music’s a part of our lives, but it doesn’t define us,” Craig said. “So the other ways that we can serve … are just as important as playing the music.”

Jana concurs: “We’re community builders. That’s our heart. When you come to our concert, we’re going to invite you to sing along. We’re going to bring out instruments. It’s just about sharing that moment of unity.”

Close quarters

Of course, there is such a thing as too much unity, especially among immediate family. Graciana, a multi-instrumentalist who has written a murder ballad for the band’s next album, says she has enjoyed the past year “in the big picture.” She misses her friends in Wisconsin, but has made others across the country. She is thankful for Facebook and Skype and said Australia was an “amazing” experience.

“There’s definitely ups and downs, like being so close to your family all the time,” she said. “It gets annoying, but it’s also good because we work things out faster.”

Banjo, the band’s percussionist, is a bundle of energy; during the interview he turned a sheet of construction paper into a hat, and then a boat. He called his life “fun” but said he likes “normal school” more than homeschool, “because in homeschool you have to stay with your parents the whole time.”

On the other hand, he’s been known to turn a pile of parts into a flashlight with new buddies in Iowa.

“It’s like the icing on the cake when we’re given the privilege of playing music,” Jana said.

The future

Before the Hollands returned to Central Oregon, they stopped in Portland for three days to record their third album. This time, the theme is not betrayal or reconciliation, but, says Jana, “the story of common man” and the commonalities of us all.

“We’ve met so many amazing people along the way that are just really doing some awesome things,” she said. “They’re just beautiful.”

And Craig believes those people see something beautiful in his family’s lifestyle, too.

“People’s generosity along the way has been mind-blowing,” he said. “I think part of it is that they’re seeing us pursuing a dream that I think is in all of us. Not everyone necessarily wants to go travel in a bus, but this idea of doing something crazy as a family — of setting a goal and doing it — I think that taps into something in a lot of people.”

And if there’s a larger life lesson to be taken from the Hollands’ unconventional ways, it’s that pursuing a dream — or doing something crazy as a family or whatever you want to call it — may be the key to unlocking the day-to-day gridlock we all face, Jana said.

“We’re trying to communicate (the importance of) recognizing whatever system is in your life (that’s keeping you from) connecting. And if that is happening, to recognize that you can do something about that,” she said.

“You don’t have to keep swimming that way.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0377, bsalmon@bendbulletin.com

You can link to the article in the Bend Bulletin HERE