Manupalooza spent many years playing in bands, organizing DIY shows, and supporting counter-culture and sustainable lifestyles. Throughout her adventures, she had the opportunity to meet people of all walks of life and backgrounds. Recently, she decided to immortalize some of those amazing experiences by writing her first book: "Grrrl On The Road." The self-published book deals with her adventures as a solo female traveler. It's also an opportunity for Manu to share more about the DIY/free cultures and underground communities that have inspired her. Keep reading to learn more, and check out our full interview with the author!
Can you tell us more about your journey from being an active member of the underground music scene to becoming a solo female traveler? How did this transition happen?
It was 2013, and I'd reached an impasse in my life as a feminist diy musician and rebel; I felt like I'd achieved everything already. I had squatted, run free spaces, and helped fight for them to stay, started and supported countless actions, fronted a movement (Ladyfest in Europe), and just interviewed for two documentaries. I had activism burnout; I honestly felt like retiring and needed new inspiration in my life. Simultaneously I had a double life; I was working in one of those mind-numbing office jobs in a cubicle in a building with glass windows that couldn't be opened. My soul was dying, and I was displaced both in my scene and the overground. I spent hours every day looking at photos of our planet and its beautiful nature. I longed to roam and explore.
There were not (and still are not) many travel books written by women, the feminist inside me wanted to prove that you don't have to be Kerouac to thumb the streets and sleep wherever the tide took you. So I DIYed it. I did it myself. Traveling the alternative way goes hand in hand with the values of the underground. Non-materialistic living is an essential element of the ideals of both groups. Dumpster diving, squatting, and hitch-hiking are not new to members of the various sub-cultures, from raving soundsystem tribes to the busking nomadic folk. In fact, it's a lot more challenging when I do readings with these individuals in public, as they know it all already!
How did your involvement in the DIY music scene prepare you for the challenges and experiences you encountered while traveling?
I owe so much to DIY. It empowered me as a person, gave me the space to explore different identities, taught me to write, play an instrument, organize concerts and festivals, think outside the box, improvise, work together with others, that failure is an option and without experimenting you get nowhere, to dear actions, get out of your comfort zone, to try shit out even though you're not an expert, to be critical and ask questions, to listen and be humble, to not be afraid, to do a lot with little. I strongly believe these lessons armed me against many moments during my world trips. Self-defense workshops I attended at squat festivals got me out of tricky or unsafe moments (such as taking up space, being vocal, and using strong body language). In between my world trips, I even combined communities; I have organized several gatherings for both alternative travelers and squat/off-the-grid persons alike, discussing ways people can not only travel but also live differently, to share skills, both groups sharing the goal to Reclaim Their Lives (these events are documented in the book). Finally, DIY gig organizing meant that I could stay with comrades in Thailand, Brazil, and New Zealand...since I had organized gigs for their bands back in Holland when they'd been touring some time ago!
Your book focuses on being a solo female traveler. What were some of the most empowering and challenging moments you faced, and how did they shape your perspective on life?
Being alone is not for everyone. While traveling, I have witnessed many homesick, emotional, dislodged, and lost humans. Some never returned quite the same, so just being strong and keeping on keeping on is the main challenge, I would say. I had to confront all my demons when hiking for many days by myself in nature. I had to let go of many preconceptions and implicit stereotypical thoughts I didn't even know I had until I was faced with them. I had to self-motivate constantly and find reason in what I was doing. When you only have yourself to rely on, you must tune in with your instincts and learn to listen to your intuition. You need a lot of silence to achieve that. When you are in a city living in the rat race, you are constantly distracted by sounds, alarms, messages, and other non-natural interruptions. I try to apply this in my daily life now that I am back, which is so difficult in a world that requires you to be connected and responsive 24/7.
Your journey involved embracing a sustainable lifestyle. What is the best starting point for people looking to embark on this pathway?
Visit a community, organization, or project that embraces these ideals!Society as a whole is becoming more conscious, but there's also a lot of greenwashing. If you are interested in living this way, do your research and be critical of which organization you want to support or get involved in!
I don't expect everyone to be P.C. every single moment in their life, and I'm not either, but the important thing is to stop and be conscious of your choices. Do I really need this? Can I reuse something I have? Perhaps I know someone with this object, skill, or free time I don't have? Can I fix something that’s broken? Is this product or service local? Where does the profit go? How is it made? Can I make it myself? Do I even actually need it? When you have completed this circle of thought, you may end up with a different conclusion than when you started!
Nomadwiki, Trustroots, and WOOFing are some cool websites to check out if you want to become a conscious, sustainable, and alternative traveler.
How did your travel experiences contribute to a more meaningful way of living?
I experience my local reality with more appreciation now. There is everything you need in Europe, seriously, go and see it! I became grateful and obliged to my surroundings, realizing that adventure is available close to home. It's all in your mindset. Every day, you have an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Hosting a traveler is just as rewarding as couch surfing. The world is deeply interconnected, and there's no " over there." I'm a privileged white person, and I need to recognize this. Finally, we are all in the same boat, and everywhere in the world, people laugh, cry, love, and grieve the same way. I'm more tolerant and accepting of others.
Your transition from a structured job to a nomadic lifestyle requires a lot of courage. What advice would you give to people who aspire to follow a similar path?
I get this question a lot, especially in my readings. There's always a terrified teenager or middle-aged person that wants to try this but is blocked and paralyzed by fear. I would say: start with a mini adventure. Get on your bicycle and go to the next city. Go and hitchhike with a friend to the next region. Maybe attend a festival working as a volunteer. Visit your local squat, hippy village, or conscious community and ask questions about how they operate. Camp in a stranger's backyard: many websites for this type of hospitality exchange exist. Maybe host a traveler yourself, and ask them lots of questions. Read blogs and books from others that have done the same (just by buying one of these books, you are supporting someone on their own path). For instance, my book " Grrrl on the Road" hahaha!
There's one week left on my crowdfunding; 15 August is the last day! Find out more and check it out right here.