Global Pandemic as Nomads?

In case you’ve wondered how this pandemic has influenced this nomad family to alter our travel plans and slow down to shelter and rest our bones.

First off, our hearts have gone out to the affected areas – some of which we are lucky enough to have visited. We were in Venice weeks before breakout, traveled through Northern Italy days before breakout and spent considerable time in France and then Spain while watching the confirmed virus counts spread. Seeing the numbers rise and rise and the death count mounting has been horrific. We’ve loved the people we’ve come to know and befriend in these areas that have been hit so hard. Our heart goes out to them and the tragedies they are experiencing. We also honor those serving in the medical field and are grateful for them as well as the other community leaders that are taking things seriously!

As we’ve travelled we’ve had the consistent debate regarding the optimal duration of our stops in any particular place. What is long enough or too long. We’ve done multi-month stays as well as multiple moves in a single month. There is a certain burn out you reach as you are moving over and over. To meet this burnout head one, we’ve been thinking to settle down somewhere for a while. Plus our travel plans always included some longer stops in places that would suit us. There was always a balance to finding places to stay to keep things interesting as well as keeping our own sanity at packing up and moving too much! Combined with coming back to the states this summer for a wedding in the family, we had been planning on heading to Mexico for an extended period – to stay put somewhere for long enough that we could settle in for a few seasons.

But, as you’re aware, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic due to COVID-19. We ended up cutting our travels short. We evacuated Spain to return “home” to shelter in place and wait things out. We have been very sad to leave our scheduled time in Andalusia as well as going through Morocco and then Utah. But we got home to Georgia for a 2 week self-quarantine. Just as we reached the end of self-quarantine, the state of Georgia issued a shelter-in-place order. Anyways, you know the rest of the story because you’ve lived something similar wherever you are in the world.

So rather than just coming to the states to spend the summer, we decided to make a year of it. We’ve now rented a house not far from our old house. We’ll be there for at least a year. We’re diving into the community and even public school! We figure a break from travel and stable place to call home lends itself to the kids getting to revisit school and enjoy the social atmosphere and social education from public school.

We don’t know enough about the world to know what we’ll be able to do next. We may set out again. We may move to Mexico, or anywhere else for that matter. We may enjoy the new slow home rhythm and settle in even longer. Time will tell and we’re open. Even though this shelter-in-place is rough on a nomadic soul and wanderlust. We want to do our part for now to “flatten the curve”. Ultimately, for us, it felt irresponsible and almost pointless to continue our nomad travel during this global pandemic.

We’re looking forward to sitting down a while and patching our bones before we get back to truckin’ on – nomadder what form that takes.

You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel
Get tired of travelin’, you want to settle down
I guess they can’t revoke your soul for tryin’
Get out of the door and light out and look all around

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me
Other times, I can barely see
Lately, it occurs to me
What a long, strange trip it’s been

Truckin’, I’m a goin’ home
Whoa, whoa, baby, back where I belong
Back home, sit down and patch my bones
And get back truckin’ on

Truckin’ by Grateful Dead

1066 Reenactment – The Battle of Hastings

We were fortunate enough to have an open weekend for the biggest medieval reenactment in England. The date everyone in history class here learns and remembers is 1066 (while in the states we learn more about 1776). A little refresher: it’s when William, the Duke of Normandy, came to claim his right to the crown from the Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson. King Harold had just claimed the throne after the death of the childless, King Edward the Confessor. Then Harold rushed north to defend the crown from the invading Norwegian King Harald Hardrada (who also thought he was the rightful heir) and defeated the viking army at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. He then immediately rushed south to Hastings to defend against the Norman army, and (spoiler alert) lost his life in the battle. Legend has it he was killed by an arrow to the eye during the battle. The Normans, led by William (now known as William the Conqueror) ruled over the saxon people for half a century, until the next succession crisis known as the Anarchy period. His rule established the feudal system in England and left a permanent mark on the culture and language on England. Things like all the french origin words in the English language are because of this mixing and having the Lords and governing class using french over the peasant class who spoke old english. Words like cow and pig vs beef and pork among others.

The reenactment included a camp for Normans and Anglo-Saxons too, so much hands on learning. Here’s a video put together (see if you can find our cameo appearance) to recap the weekend in Battle!

History is fascinating in that it helps us understand how the world we live in was set up and became to be. Understanding where we came from is a prerequisite to understanding where and who we are.

We are thoroughly enjoying our time in England and learning about the history of the region. We’ve noticed that in our travels we’ve mainly been in the commonwealth and places that at least at one time were part of the British Empire. Australia, New Zealand, Canada and even Fiji and of course the United States. Very interesting to now be in the place that started all the colonization and conquest (for better and worse). Very sad to learn about the cultures and people who were exploited along the way. But, it is uplifting to be in a world that is beginning to value the diversity and cultures that were (and in most cases still are): Aboriginal cultures of Australia, Maori in New Zealand, Native Fijians and other Polynesian cultures along with Native American (Indians) and First Nation peoples of Canada. I know each culture has it’s value and honor as well as its own issues, but I also find that all these so called “barbaric” or “savage” cultures had much meaning and validity – and dare I say more so than the more “powerful” civilized conquerors, especially when considering the values of equality, peace and sustainability.

Very interesting to see the “conquerors” later on in the historical timeline, be the conquered in 1066. What goes around comes around. Hopefully we can move past the conquering and exploiting and more towards a global family of diversity.

Cheering on the underdog Saxons as well as the inevitable champs the Normans. There’s always next year, Saxons!
Meeting King Harold Godwinson. His eye survived the re-enactment!

500 Days as a Nomad Family

It’s been an even 500 days since we became homeless nomads. We sold the house and nearly everything we owned. We left home in the van only to sell the van as we hopped on a plane to Fiji en route to Australia and New Zealand for a string of housesits. We continue our homeschooling with a worldschool mindset and continue working remotely on a distributed team.

The Stats

We do our best to “be here now” and avoid treating travel like a checklist, but here are some stats on our 500 days.

United StatesFijiAustraliaNew ZealandIndonesiaCanadaGreat Britain
  • We’ve hit 6 countries (Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Canada, England)
  • 11 housesits (all 5 star reviews from our hosts) for 350 days housesitting
  • 28 short term rent/hotel/airbnb/campsites or other paid accommodations for 120 days
  • 30 days staying with family & friends
  • Cared for around 145 pets and animals as trusted sitters
    • 18 Dogs
    • 13 Cats
    • 11 Sheep
    • 34 Chickens
    • 9 Cows
    • 16 Birds
    • 2 Rabbits
    • 1 Turtle
    • 5 Fish
    • 1 Hamster
    • 4 Possums
    • 31 Kangaroo (4 infant joeys, 3 toddlers and the rest adults)
  • Vehicles:
    • 10 Rented Cars, Vans or people movers
    • 1 purchased (and sold) van in Canada
    • 1 purchased minivan in the UK (not sold yet)
  • 22 Airplanes
  • 55430 Miles traveled

Around the same total expenses for the nomad beds & planes & cars vs the same amount of time at home paying the mortgage and bills and usual life expenses. It’s been quite an adventure and incredibly educational for the whole family.

Who knows if we’ll go another 500 days, but no regrets here on where we are now and where we’ve been the past 500 days!

Remembering Fiji Video

Since Fiji, not many days have passed that we have not thought fondly of our time on Vorovoro or of the friends we made there. We put together this recap video (which took over a year of interviews and actually sitting down to put it all together) to let the kids tell their memories.

Working Remotely as part of a Distributed team

When explaining our nomad lifestyle to others it takes a few minutes to iron out the details. That is if they are actually interested enough and don’t just assume we’re homeless vagabonds. Usually they start out thinking we’re trust fund babies or some form of “we’ve struck it rich and don’t work anymore”. Then, they usually think along the lines that we’re taking a gap year and have saved up months or years of expenses and we’ll head home broke and have to rebuild, or even that we’re travel bloggers somehow making money by traveling…

The reality is (sadly) we’re not loaded and I still have a job. I work as a web developer building websites and I work remotely, or you may be more familiar with the term “work from home”.

Dilbert to the rescue

I’ve had many surprised or even confused responses from people. “How can you work from all these seemingly random places?” “Are you doing contract work as you go?” “Do you work for yourself and just support your own clients?” No, while these are possible, I work remotely as an employee for a company. I’m part of a the workforce at 10up, and they allow me the flexibility to work remotely. I’m on a team of others that work remotely. The whole company in fact works remotely We’re all remote! Or better put, we’re a distributed team.

I enjoy this setup, because the company has specialists in things like winning new clients and projects, dealing with things like SEO and project management, account management and server infrastructure, accounting and billing clients and other legal issues, as well as the HR issues like health insurance and payroll etc! I don’t excel at any of that. But, I do have a specialty as well, I’m a web developer, and I didn’t want to go out on my own because I’d be required to either pay people/services to do all that for me, or somehow figure it out myself. It’s been a perfect setup that allows me to live my dream lifestyle as a nomad and travel the world as a way of life.

This dream came up in part when I first heard about companies that allowed employees to work remotely 100% of the time. I’ve done stints of remote work and always enjoyed the experience; the extra time and the freedom it gave me. So, I began looking up (and stalking) companies that are set up this way. To make a long story short, I found a distributed team at 10up and have jumped into this nomad life! I’m grateful for the company I work for, the work is truly interesting and I’m growing as a web developer, while also living my dream lifestyle. Talk about a good work-life balance!

Along the same lines, here’s a video from Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress and CEO of Automattic, a “parent company” of sorts of the WordPress foundation (the software that runs a third of the internet). Like 10up, Automattic is another distributed company, and I really enjoyed how Matt talks about all this. He even mentions the nomad lifestyle! I wanted to share this video because it explains why a company would want to be distributed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6fIseKzzH0

Some even choose to not even have a home base. They’re nomads. Whether they’re in RVs or traveling through Airbnbs, they’re in new places every day, week or month.

As long as they can find good WiFi, we don’t care where they are!

Matt Mullenweg

I’m happy to be a part of this growing group of digital nomads. I feel like I’ve won the lottery because I traded in a daily commute for world travel.

Arriving in Fiji, an excerpt from Krista’s journal.

July 30, 2018.

I am still not even sure I’m ready for this. We’ve been in Australia for 2 weeks now but I don’t think I’ve fully left Fiji, in my heart. I think there will always be a part of me, and all of us, in Vorovoro. 

Let me try to capture our experience arriving in Fiji…

We boarded our plane in LAX late Thursday night for our long overnight flight. We flew on Fiji Airways and the crew of the plane were all Fijian, wearing a beautiful, colorful print on their uniform and the women wore exquisite flowers behind their ears. The pink and purple lights meant to mimic a sunset were low, and immediately there was a sense of the magic that awaited us in Fiji. There were 2 meals on the plane, movies and games on everyone’s individual screen, the kids all slept, I… attempted to sleep, and when we woke up it was Saturday morning in Fiji. Our 11 hour flight took us 33 hours into the future as we crossed the international dateline! Out the window there was lots of green and brown, there were mountains, palm trees, dirt roads, and there was ocean. When we stepped off the plane we were wrapped in the warm, fresh air. Not hot, or cold, humid or dry, just beautiful. Perfect. 

We cleared customs and went to look for breakfast… and found a Burger King. I’m ashamed to say that our first meal in Fiji was at a Burger King… but 4 hungry little bellies needed those hotcakes, and we had a few hours until our next flight would take us north to Labasa. We ate, the kids played on their devices, I napped on a comfy leather chair, and when the time finally came to board the small 40 seater propellor Fiji Link flight we walked out on the tarmac and climbed the stairs into our last plane of the journey to Vorovoro! 

Nadi, the international airport we first landed in, was a small airport in our experience. We were not in any way prepared for Labasa! Labasa… was a SMALL airport. The size of… our favorite local Mexican restaurant? A single room, open air little cinderblock building. We stepped into the crowded room, and were greeted with a Bula! (hello) from Mama Jenny, the director of Bridge The Gap program in Vorovoro, and our hostess for the week. Jenny is from Indianapolis and has partnered with the Mali tribe after she brought her family to Vorovoro 15 years ago and fell in love. Along with her was Wati, a Vorovoro local, and Jenny’s business partner in the BTG program. Everyone’s luggage arrives in a glorified wheelbarrow that is pushed into the building for everyone to fish through. Jenny and Wati gather our luggage with us and take us outside where they’ve got 2 taxis waiting for us. We split up and take off down the red dirt roads through 3rd world Fiji, where carseats are not a thought. The cab driver is Indian and explains how the Indians were brought to Fiji by the English in the mid 1800’s to farm sugar cane. They are still, to this day, not considered citizens, cannot own land, yet they make up roughly 50% of the population there. The driving was a little wild, but nothing that scared us too bad so it must not have been much crazier than mama’s Atlanta Mario-Kart driving. 

We pulled into a parking lot area behind a grocery store and I’m trying to take in what’s going on, but we get out, Mama Jenny pays the cabs, and we’re standing there surrounded by dirty old cars with people staring at us.

It’s starting to rain, there’s an old broken down boat with a tarp tied to it and women are selling fresh fish under it. The fish are bright colors; beautiful, really. A woman walks her crying child past me with a blanket over his head to protect him from the rain, but other than that nobody seems to even notice the rain.

Finn asks where he can use the bathroom and when I ask Mama Jenny she takes a deep breath and says, “…um, ok! Wati can take you.” So we follow Wati past the makeshift fish market, through a fence and across another parking lot into an open air market. People selling fruits and vegetables, many of which I didn’t recognize, but the colors and smells and the faces of the curious Fijians we walked past immediately captivated me. I was in love already. In the back of the market there was a ticket booth looking stall and Wati paid the attendant some small coins for us to be able to use the bathroom. There was no toilet paper, and no soap, and a rough looking cement basin to wash your hands in. I don’t know why I didn’t put together that Fiji was a third world country, probably because all I’d ever seen of Fiji was the postcard perfect tourist beaches. This was not tourist Fiji. This was every day, real life, third world Fiji. And I was all about it. I knew right there that we were going to have exactly the experience I was hoping for in choosing to come here! 

We got back from the bathroom break and the boys were climbing in a boat just 10 feet from the parking lot, down a short dirt path, littered with empty bottles and trash, parked next to a ramshackle fishing boat with several men sleeping or smoking under the tarp hanging from its window.

Our luggage was all loaded in and covered with a tarp and we are introduced to our captain, Api.

Api is quiet but gentle and he drives us away from the town, under low bridges that we almost have to duck under, and about half and hour out a river into the open sea to Vorovoro, our island home for the week.

I can’t stop smiling and waving at every little fishing boat we pass, at every person out the back of their house hanging up the wash. [And they all waved back.]

I am enamored.

I can’t believe what an amazing cultural experience it’s been already and we haven’t even gotten to Vorovoro!

We have to drive around to the ocean facing side of the island, and as we turn the last corner to the village side of the island a long sandy beach sprawls out the length of the bay formed by the gentle curve of the island. 2 girls bounce happily along the beach, waving a warm welcome, eagerly awaiting our arrival. We slowly motor our way up to shore, passing a woman out snorkeling around the bay who pops her head up to welcome us. Api tosses a rope to the girls and their dad and they pull the boat to shore. The kids jump out and that’s the last I see of them for a little while– they were so excited to find instant friends with Imogen “Immi” and Iona, from the UK, and Monte, Venianna, Leon and Joshua– the local kids.

A handful of people help us grab our bags and walk us to our vale– a beachfront, open air hut, that they had finished constructing just in time for our arrival! It had a bunk bed, 2 singles, and a king bed for Evan and I. It was simple and amazing and beautiful! 

We are introduced to Max, a fellow visitor to Vorovoro, just backpacking his way around Fiji a bit while waiting for his semester in northern Australia to start. To Gemma, the snorkeler who greeted us from the boat, Imogen and Iona’s mother, and Mike, her husband. They are a fellow Worldschooling family from the UK! They’ve been traveling full time for a year now, and were just the best kind of people. The very best. Cream of the earth type people. We’re introduced to Sibley, Clare and Sydney, Auburn students/grads who have been involved with Bridge the Gap and are back in Vorovoro preparing programming such as this first opportunity for families to visit the island since Bridge the Gap was founded. We’re introduced to Misi, the island chef, to Nemani, Mateo and Becky the rescued fruit bat.

Becky is a boy, but they didn’t discover that until after he was named.

Nemani takes us into the Grand Bure, the largest building in the center of the tiny village where guests to the island stay, and teaches us how to present a Sevusevu to the chief of the Mali tribe- or Tui Mali, as he is called. A Sevusevu is a gift of what looks like a bouquet of dried kava wrapped in newspaper that you present to the chief or the head of the village when you would like to ask permission to visit. Sevusevu means to open or start, so we are taught how Evan is to present the kava to Tui Mali in a very reverent, important ceremony that will take place shortly after our little course. We are given Sulus, floral printed fabric that we wrap like a bath towel around our waist whenever Tui Mali is around or for any special occasion.

We get a quick tour of the island as the sun began to set and the giant fruit bats began to come out. We learned of the compost toilets that we flush by dumping 2 coconuts full of wood shavings down the hole. The showers that you pull a bucket half full of water up on the pulley and hook a loop in the rope to hold it over your head while you rinse in the open air shower and clean with eco friendly shampoos in the trickle of cool rain water. The kitchen, the dining area, the different vales where everyone sleeps, all in a circle around the grand bure, and right on the water. It was so picturesque. So beautiful. So free.

A handpainted sign on repurposed wood nailed to a coconut tree read, “Vorovoro: Hard on the feet, soft on the heart.” Nobody wore shoes.

 Everyone wore their sulus to the Sevusevu ceremony, except 3 of the men who wore grass skirts, no shirts, coconut husks on their arms, and black paint smeared on their cheeks and foreheads. They brought the Tanoa, a large wooden bowl used to mix the kava drink in to the center of the hand woven mat, and placed it about 10 feet directly in front of Tui Mali. They sat around the bowl and mixed up some kava in a very ceremonial manner, washing the bowl with coconut husks, ringing the water out of the coconut husks, and we all sat with our legs crossed, silent. Our feet were never to face the chief. They served Tui Mali kava in a half coconut shell. Next they served the wingman, then Evan and I. You clap, or cobo (“thombo”), once to receive a cup of kava, and then three times after you’ve handed back the communal coconut shell cup. Evan crawled out in front of Tui Mali and laid the bouquet of dried kava before him and told him how grateful we were to be guests on his island, and sat back down on the right hand of Tui Mali. Tui Mali then spoke from his heart in Fijian of how grateful he was to have us and the sevusevu ceremony came to a close. From that moment we were officially family. We were one with the Mali people, with the visitors to the island, with Tui Mali and his family. Vorovoro was officially our island home, from then until forever. We are always welcome, and without a doubt, a piece of our hearts will always be in Vorovoro where 1+1=1. 

The last thing we did before putting the kids to bed and returning to the kava mat with the adults, was go to the beach with our Worldschooling friends and stand in complete awe at the greatest display of stars we’ve ever seen. On a tiny island out in the middle of the ocean, with no electricity for miles. And not only that, but we were now in the southern hemisphere so it’s a totally new set of stars! The big dipper was tipped on it’s side and we couldn’t even see the North star. We saw the southern cross, the Milky Way was extremely well defined, and the moon didn’t come up until much later in the night. It was just phenomenal. Pure magic. 

The kids welcomed sleep with open arms, as soon as they hit the pillow. They had a long day of travel, capped off with running wild on the beach, climbing trees and swinging in hammocks. 

A Fiji Moment: Levi gets sick.

What probably started as an episode of reflux (that happens every time he doesn’t eat enough for dinner)  ended up in dehydration and poor kid had a few sick days. One night he threw up in his bed, which you can imagine, is a terrible situation when you have a mosquito net tucked in around your mattress. We had a lovely mess to clean up at whatever time it was. All I knew was that I needed to rinse out a towel, and lucky for us the ocean was just a few steps away. I stumbled out to the beach in the dark. Walking in sand is hard enough, but I was so tired and jet lagged that I was struggling in a serious way to walk without toppling over. The contacts I fell asleep in were sticking to my eyelids making it very difficult to see and I wasn’t familiar enough with my path to know what I might step on.

I was glad everyone was asleep for that performance.

When I got to the water I opened up the towel and tossed it over the gentle waves when suddenly a burst of light and color shot from the outline of the towel! Mostly green, and some blue bioluminescence! My jaw just dropped, and I had to check myself to make sure this wasn’t some crazy dream! I pulled the towel up out of the water and the towel was covered in them too! I dipped it in and out a few times and as the colors seemed to fade away I looked up and noticed for the first time that the moon was up! The moon, I was told, doesn’t come up until like 2 am there but it sat right above sunset peak, and for a moment I sat in complete awe of the scene. The stars were bright. The moon was stunning and the reflection of a bright white crescent, rippling with the gentle night waves below, was maybe even better. It was honestly one of the most serene, beautiful sights I saw the whole week in Fiji. I wish I could have a picture to remember that incredible scene. I regret not sitting with it a little while longer. If I could go back I would have whispered to myself,

Don’t go.

Sit.

Stay.

Soak this in.

One thing’s for sure… it was and likely forever will be, by far, my best experience cleaning puke in the middle of the night! 

Why I love Vorovoro island, Fiji

Vorovoro is the absolute best. I had an amazing experience there, playing with friends, snorkeling, drinking fresh coconut water, and helping out in lots of ways. One of the best things about Vorovoro for me was playing almost all day every day with all of the other kids there. Leon, Princess, Vinnie, and Joshua live there, but I also played with two girls from England named Immy and Iona, and they were really fun to play with too. I learned lots of Fijian while I was there. Bula sia, hello,  and vinaka, thank you, are 2 of the words you use the most. If you can’t or don’t want to speak the language, you can speak English, the other language everybody there speaks.

Your house will be right on the beach, so you can wake up and go out and play in the sand or swim in the water. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were sooo yummy. Gooey oatmeal, gourmet fried rice to die for, and delicious fish that you just can’t get enough of! Oh, and the sunsets there are beautiful! If you climb up one of the mountains there, Sunset Peak, you will never see a better display of the sun going down, and  it’s just a short hike. You can go around the whole island in about 3 hours and see the neighboring island, the mainland, and some other islands in the distance.

They have a pet fruit bat there named Becky, and he’s the cutest most adorable bat you’ll ever see. He used to not be able to fly, because a long time ago (2-3 years), he was attacked by an eagle. In August, after we left, I heard that he managed to fly again. There is also a small family of kittens there, if you know where to look. I took a snorkeling trip out to a coral reef that was so amazing that it would rival the Great Barrier Reef. I know because I’ve been there, too. I celebrated my 11th birthday on Vorovoro with cake and ice cream! There is a volleyball court there, and Mateo, also known as Potato, Mici, and Nemani will all challenge you to a match that is definitely worth watching or playing.

I love Vorovoro, and I hope to go back sometime. I made so many memories there, and I hope all other visitors do too

T Mullins. Age 11

On the Radio

At one of our outings we talked with someone who seemed fairly interested in what we were doing, and then she told us that she was a reporter and asked if we’d be up for an interview for a story. So a couple weeks later we had her over for a chat while she pressed record. Another week or so and we were on the Australian equivalent of NPR. Go have a listen, World schoolers put Central Victoria on their curriculum.

Just because you’ve got kids, doesn’t mean the international travel has to stop, says one couple from Atlanta, Georgia.

They’re living the dream having sold their house and many of their belongings to fund their open-ended global exploration, with their four children, who are all under 11. 
With no fixed return date, these world schoolers are using the globe as their classroom and couldn’t be happier.

Duration: 8min 48sec
Broadcast: Sat 15 Sep 2018, 6:00am

On Saturday Breakfast with Anne-Marie Middlemast .- ABC

Sorry Day

Apology Letter

Since being in Australia, we’ve learned a bit about Sorry Day. If you don’t know, it’s a day set aside (since 1998) to remember and commemorate the mistreatment of Australia’s indigenous population. An official and national apology was delivered by the prime minister (in 2008) that is a great step for healing.  I do understand the relations are still strained in places, but an official statement of apology and acknowledgement of wrong doings is still huge! Here is the apology:

I move, That today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history. We reflect on their past mistreatment. We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations – this blemished chapter in our nation’s history. The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future. We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians. We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country. For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry. To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry. And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry. We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation. For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written. We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians. A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again. A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity. A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed. A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility. A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia. https://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/our-country/our-people/apology-to-australias-indigenous-peoples

We missed the actual day (May 26) but have learned about the history and I’m very impressed. I think it is one of the most respectable and honorable overtures extended by any organization, let alone a government.  

We have noticed many signs and attitudes that express that we are on land that is traditionally under the stewardship or one tribe or another. Castlemaine and the surrounding area for example, is part of the Dja Dja Wurrung people. There are signs posted in official buildings and before events begin there is a Statement of a Welcome to Country and Acknowledgements of Traditional Owners

I hadn’t realized before arriving that there were many many different tribes among the indigenous australians. Here’s a quick map showing the different indigenous peoples:

The nation of Australia, was founded as a British penal colony. England was out of room in their prisons and they found a new land, so naturally, they wanted to exile prisoners to be the next colonists. I think they were just bitter about having just lost their last colonial project to rebellion. In my big picture of history the colonies in Australia started immediately after the Brits lost the American colonies. They had a war about it and in the end parted ways with their colonies, so maybe they needed a rebound. Captain Cook claimed the land for England in 1770. The American Revolution in 1765 – 1783. Then in 1787 the First Fleet departed from Great Britain for Australia to begin European colonization. They started this new colony by deporting their convicts and exploiting yet another land that didn’t belong to them. In the US, I’ve learned about the treaties made between the Native American tribes and the colonies, but in Australia they made no treaties. They saw the indigenous Australians and savage barbarians and didn’t count them as human. As in the americas, disease followed the settlers and wiped out many of the natives at first contact. Then they simply removed any indigenous people that were in the way. There were plenty of laws created to strip the aborigines of their families and rights and very existence. Decades passed, a century passed with not much change. Between 1910-1970, many Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families as a result of various government policies intended to “civilize” them.

The generations of children removed under these policies became known as the Stolen Generations. This caused intense generational trauma to the indigenous peoples. Many lost their language and culture as a result. This special culture who has existed undisturbed for 40,000 years in Australia. The longest unbroken beliefs and myths are Australian. There are even new studies that are proving aboriginal people were the first agricultural people in the world. They have suffered greatly with the “invasion” from the British. Their land has been exploited for gold and other minerals and land taken for farming and grazing pastures for sheep and cattle. Anyways, if you’re familiar with any world history you’re no stranger to a native culture’s mistreatment by a “Western” or “White” or “European” or so-called “Civilized” people. Africa, the Americas, Australia, Pacific Islands, etc etc etc.

Anyways, that’s enough of my history soap box. Australia has publicly said something that not many other countries or governments or even organizations have said. They’ve been mature enough today to say “Sorry”. They even commemorate it with a national sorry day every year. I think it’s fabulous! They are acknowledging that their history is tarnished and they want to correct the wrongs. The first step to making things better is admitting past failings.

I think many other countries could take a lesson here (The US, UK, Spain, France, Portugal etc). Many other places have been exploited. Whole people have been exploited even, stolen from the coast and sold into slavery only because they didn’t have guns to fight back or defend themselves. I think the South, no, the whole United States could work to repair some racial issues with official apologies for slavery and racist laws. Maybe that would go a long way rather than the arguments around removing statues/monuments for fear of appearing to support certain old (yet wrong) ideas. There are many reparations to be found with our past (and current) treatments of our own indigenous people, so many broken treaties and trails of tears. Other organizations have things to apologize for as well! Perhaps it’s something churches with troubled pasts could learn maturity in this as well. There are many stories of child abuse and churches more interested in defending their good name than in defending real victims, it’s never too late to man up and own the error and make things better! My own Mormon tradition could benefit from some heartfelt apologies and acknowledgement of wrongdoings (polygamy/polyandry, racist teachings as doctrine, homophobic tactics, shaming, even some excommunications, etc). It takes a lot of maturity to recognize past faults and even more to come out publicly and apologize! I’ve heard many times that an organization (church or country) should not apologize because it’s a sign of weakness… I call bull. I think that it’s a sign of strength and honor and even love. While Holding back on an apology is a sign of immaturity. It takes a lot of bravery and vulnerability to say sorry and own up to something you’ve done wrong. There’s a song that I learned as a child that has stuck with me, “Do what is right and let the consequences follow”.

We can see examples of good and integrate that good into ourselves. This has become part of my focus in our nomad travels. Find good (wisdom or maturity or love) and work to integrate that into my life. Granted, this can be done at home too, (so you have no excuse) but it has helped me to break out of the bubble and comfort zone of home and see new places and new people even new problems and new solutions.

The Aboriginal Flag

To continue this Australian Sorry story, last year in 2017, the Aboriginal leaders of Australia gathered together and came up with a statement asking for representation, called the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Sadly, it has been rejected by the Australian Government. Hopefully things can work out still, but this shows that just saying sorry is not enough. It’s a first step and we must continue on the path of rebuilding to make a real difference. Still, I’m super impressed with the respect and maturity the Australian nation has shown. Good on ya, mate.