Updated October 2016
My name is Sarah van Gelder. I’m co-founder of YES! Magazine. Beginning in August 2015, I took a road trip around the United States. I visited 18 states, five Native American Reservations, a dozen or more cities and small towns, and I covered 12,000 miles.
Here’s an interactive map that shows where I went. The one below was later hand drawn for the book I wrote about the trip, The Revolution Where You Live: Stories From a 12,000 Mile Journey Through a New America.
I left in search of hope. I was deeply worried about the climate crisis, the crisis of inequality and racial exclusion, ugly partisan divides and big money corruption. It seemed like maybe our society would just fall apart.
I came back believing we have what we need to do much better. In fact I found enormous intelligence, creativity, and constructive energy at the grassroots, and I met people who were finding their power and making real progress.
I was so inspired by what I learned that I decided to write a book. The Revolution Where You Live: Stories from a 12,000-Mile Journey Through a New America is available for pre-order now at YES! Magazine.
This blog site was where I shared what I saw and thought about as I traveled. Some is featured in here. I wrote portions by recording my fresh impressions on my phone as I drove mile after mile through this enormous, beautiful country. The book contains some of the images and stories you find here but a lot of other stories and insights, and include 101 Ways to Build Local Power, a foreword by Danny Glover, some of my favorite photographs, and much more..
How I got around
I began with a used pick-up truck and a generic tiny camper.
But that seemed sort of, well, boring. I wanted to travel in something more beautiful.
So I asked my friend Katie Ahvakana, a talented young artist and member of the Suquamish Tribe, to paint something on it. I thought she’d do something small on the front, perhaps…
But she, and her new boyfriend, Toma Villa, had something more in mind.
I told them I thought of the camper as a snail shell because I would be carrying my home on my back, because, like a snail, I would be traveling slowly, taking the time to get to know people. It was a way of reminding myself that I was doing “Slow Journalism.” And I was inspired by the Zapatista’s use of the snail shell image in their Caracoles (zones of good governance) in Chiapas, Mexico.
I hadn’t, though, expected that they would turn the whole side of the truck into a giant snail shell.
Then Toma and Katie used cedar and ferns to create the pattern on the back …
… and Katie painted an emblem of Mother Earth, with two canoe heads, painted in Coastal Salish style, to represent a journey, and two paddles.
“The paddles face up to symbolize that you are traveling in peace and coming together with others to celebrate,” Kate told me. “And the crescents and moons are to help you find the way back home.”
The journey was life changing. I travelled alone, but I was almost never lonely. People took me into their homes, told me their stories, and showed me what they love about their communities. Some of them reached out to me via this blog or on Facebook or Twitter to invite me to visit.
Everywhere I went, I met people who might seem too ordinary to capture the attention of politicians or media, but who have amazing stories to tell.
I have come to believe, as a result of this trip, that we have much more power to make change at the local level than we thought. In fact, I came to believe that really deep change has to happen locally, in our communities, in the places where we live and work and gather. Only together can we bring out a real revolution of values and practices that can save our world.
Just to give you a taste, here are a few of the photos I took along the way.
I invite you to explore blog posts from my road trip here, and to read the book, The Revolution Where You Live.