About My Road Trip

img_1694Updated 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.

The Revolution Where You Live map

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.”



My Takeaways

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I invite you to explore blog posts from my road trip here, and to read the book, The Revolution Where You Live.

11 thoughts on “About My Road Trip

  1. Sarah–my husband and I sold our house in Seattle and have gone on the road through North America for the next 6 or so months looking for the next place to call home. We are looking for a place not only to dig in and have a family, but also to begin an community arts space (I am a writer and my husband an artist). We often get discouraged on our travels, but stumbling upon your blog has re-inspired us. There is hope and positive change, inclusion and engagement out there! We will be following your journey. If you have any interest in following us, we’re at http://www.greatbeahanadventure.com
    Best of luck to you and thank you for your work here!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sarah,
    There are many looking for hope in these times, I look forward to following your journey. There is always reason for hope and I
    have an off line invite for you that may provide additional insights to movements that are underway.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Sarah,
    I live in a small town in the Driftless region of Wisconsin, and have a website that is dedicated to telling stories of community resilience —mostly focused on small town USA. (realsmalltowns.com). I invite you (encourage you!) to come visit our community, and would love to show you around and talk more with you about what I have discovered over the past 5 years of visiting small towns across the country — looking for what is working. Please feel free to contact me. Happy travels!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I should have added that our region is rich with hope and creative solutions to some of the country’s most pressing problems. We have the highest percentage of organic farms per capita (in the US), in addition to strong permaculture and biodynamic movements —all of which support a thriving local food hub. We have strong arts and music, a folk school, accessible alternative education (and a new college in the works), natural medicine and alternative death solutions, a large Amish community, a Community Rights Alliance, and bountiful natural beauty. All of this abundance takes place in the “poorest” town in the state, and despite the challenges that come with having Scott Walker as our governor with his relentless efforts to undermine grassroots and people-powered initiatives replacing them with corporate interests. I hope you will visit!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Sarah,

    I’m about to be the education intern at Yes! starting in January and just returned from a cross-country road trip as well and stayed with local farmers (through an organization called WWOOF) along the way to learn more about sustainable food systems and permaculture.

    I met a young couple in High Point, North Carolina who are struggling to revolutionize the way their city is handling its food desert crisis (according to a recent Gallup poll, the area is #1 in the nation in food insecurity and I don’t know why major media outlets aren’t covering that!). The city of High Point has terrible government infrastructure, but this couple has managed to pull together a local community of people invested in providing High Point residents with healthy and affordable food. The couple has spent the past two years building a model of sustainable agriculture on their own private land, and I told them they should be getting the attention of national news and food safety organizations in order to affect change in their local government – maybe Yes! could help them out with that.

    Perhaps you would be interested in meeting with them? If so, email me at simone_larson@hotmail.com and I’ll put you in touch with the couple.


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