Frequently Asked Questions:
1.Does this brochure only exist in English?
We are sorry, yes. Tut uns leid, ja. Si, lo siento. Oui, desolees. ( …)
This brochure was a lot of work only in one language already, but you can do it yourself if you like. Also you can (soon) find some of the texts in German for download on our website!
The texts are all anti-copyright (except the one about agave-museum by …) and free to copy and spread as you wish.
2.„skillsurfers“ – what is that?
Skillsurfers is (/was) a project in the context of the “travelling school of life” network.
Or, more precisely: it is the name which we gave to our group of people,
who were doing an experiment about selforganised learning while travelling in a group.
The word is made up from a word game of “skillsharing” and “couchsurfing”:
We travelled with busses and went to visit ecological, social and cultural initiatives and interesting projects (like ecovillages, associations, free schools, cultural and social centres) in Switzerland, France, Spain and Portugal for 8 months, and we „couchsurfed“ there – but with the main of focus of learning something in the places, and teaching something, too. We defined like a “selforganised class”, skillsharing with the people in those places and within our own group.
2. Why did you do this tour?
The reasons and intentions why people came on our tour were very different:
- There were people who just wanted to travel around after finishing school.
- There were people who wanted to learn about special topics which they cannot learn about in schools and institutions.
- People who wanted to try something radically different from schools and universities, and who wanted to learn how selforganised learning outside of institutions could work.
- People who wanted to promote ideas they have and projects they are doing on a more international level, network and share experiences with similar projects…
*And also people who just wanted to hand out, and meet interesting people from all over the world.
3. Who started the project and who came on tour?
We are a selforganised group, working together with partner organisations and projects, but not having any own legal form (/..).
A small, stable core team of 4 people travelled all the trip together, and did most of the „project work“, like fundraising, website, presentations, etc, while many others joined the trip for a bit and helped as they could.
We had lots of different people from different countries and backrounds in this trip,
and the group was changing all the time! From 6 to 16 people, from 1 to 4 busses. Sometimes we splitted up and arrived in a project with only 2 people, sometimes we came there with a mass of people.
The core team consisted of 3 people from Germany and one guy from the US (who is living in Europe since some years), and a supporting team in Berlin (who did not come on the tour). But moreover we had people from France, Spain, Latvia, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Canada, US, England, Sweden, Slowenia, Ireland in our group.
4. How did you finance the trip?
We tried to use as few money as possible and recycled a lot of stuff, from clothes and food to lots of other things like folding chairs ;-) We also got some fundings money and donations. Like a donation of ecological bureau material, some solar panels, and food donations (like 1000 litres of soy milk, and lots of packaged tomato and mushroom sauce).
These were „recycled“ old models of solar panels, which we got as a donation cause the company could not sell hem anymore, and soy milk and sauce which would have been thrown away as the expiring date was almost over. (For information about dumpster diving and food destruction you can see check article about food destruction)
We also put a lot of private money in the project (especially for the busses and fuel). Donations, especially for this brochure, are still very welcome!
5. How did you prepare for the tour and what equipment did you take?
We brought the busses, a trailor, private things like clothes, sleeping bags etc of course, some tents, a library, stuff for painting and crafting, bureau and writing materials, computers, food (which we usually put in the trailor), cooking equipment (pots, a gas kitchen in one bus, fire bowl, etc) and many many more things…
So, as you can maybe see already: the preparation of the tour was a lot of work. It included getting all our stuff together, buying and preparing the busses, getting cooking materials (pots etc) and food, tents etc etc.
It was also about preparing contents: buying and collecting books together for the mobile library was one of those things.
Then we did all this fundraising, writing and sending applies to EU and another foundation, and emailing and calling companies we had researched to ask for support. We were busy finding partner projects for cooperation, to have better credibility among those funders, and for having legal forms like an association which can give donation bills.
We did researches about projects we wanted to visit and started contacting them. Keeping contact with them.
We made a website and a blog, sent messages via mailinglists and had several introduction meetings where we met up with new interested people…
6. How did you find out about the places you visited?
First: we used networks like wwoof, the eurotopia book, intentional communities, couchsurfing/hospitalityclub/bewelcome, and even myspace/facebook, to find out about interesting places. We also did research on the internet about certain topics we were interested in and searched for places.
The more interesting places were those though, which we had heard about from direct contact with people. Before we started the tour we asked friends, and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends if they knew something. We often used mailinglists for that, or asked people to ask for us in mailinglists which they were in. On the road, in the places, we kept hearing about other interesting places…
In the end we had heard about a few hundred interesting places to visit, and it was really hard to decide which ones we’d visit…
To make it easier for you, we made a list of the places we visited and their websites in the end of this little book. (Of course only those places who have websites and want to have publicity!).
There you can also find names of networks we know that you can search through. And some research tips and tricks.
7.How many projects did you visit?
In those 8 months, it might have been around 40 (counting all projects, also those who we only met and had a short talk)
8. And how long did you stay in the places?
Very different, from visiting places for only one afternoon and getting a guided tour, to staying for a month in a place and really living there.
How long we stayed depended pretty much on the place, and if we were welcome to stay:
Often the time we stayed was just enouph to get a quick impression of the place,
to see if it is a place where we want to come back to later to stay longer and learn more.
And to collect informations about infrastructure, things you can learn, etc
that we can use ourselves or pass on to other people later on
9. What connected you as a group?
What basically connected most of us
was the wish to travel in community instead of travelling alone.
And also that we were tired of travelling without a “mission”,
and that we were very inspired by the ideas of “travelling school of life”:
of learning with and from each other in the places life actually happens in,
instead of being in schools or universities.
Of creating learning networks for so-called peer-to-peer-learning:
one from another and together in mutual support.
We were trying to find other ways of learning,
collecting informations and inspirations,
and of course: travelling, meeting people and hangin out ;-)
10. How did you organise within the group?
We experimented a lot: in the beginning we had no fix organisation structure at all. Then we started to develop a structure with many meetings, and a project suitcase with different books. Like a boom for meeting notes, one for contacts, one for presentation, and the „black book“ o write as a personal diary that should never reach public.
We used the internet as a main tool of communication and organisation, and brought some laptops along.
Main tasks we had to do was simple work like finding food and shelter, cooking, building up and maintaining our infrastructure, cleaning, (…) , writing articles, (…), but also more skilled work like taking care of the website, contacting projects and keeping these contacts alive, doing workshops and presentations about the project, and taking care of the finances and bookkeeping for our fundraising.
During all the tour we did not manage to create enough transparency (and motivation), to make these more skilled tasks into responsibilities that everybody could take care of. So basically it was the core team of 4 people who took care of these „skilled work“, whereas the rest of people did more of the basic infrastructure work, like cooking etc.
11. Did the group organisation work well?
Hmmm… not so… Depends on how you see it. What did not work so well was the rotation of responsibilities and tasks. I would say, that everybody brought a lot and gave a lot, but it was always the same small group of people who did the “essential project work”
You can check the articles “future of skillsurfers”, “group processes” and “tools for group communication and project management” if you are interested in that part.
12. What did you learn about?
We learned about many topics, and each individual about other topics…
What we definetely all learned about is group processes and communication.
One of our aims is to spread the knowledge we found, and make it accesible to people. So you will find a lot of things here, in this brochure.
In the end of the book there is a guide and „dictionary“ with all he words and topics you might not know about, and where you can find more information about it.
13. Did you take care about ecological and social aspects of your project?
Some things we did…
We got some solar panels on our roofs, to reload batteries of laptops, and for light. These were „recycled“ old models of solar panels, which we got as a donation cause he company could not sell them anymore.
We recycled a lot: We went for dumpstering food and we got clothes from free shops. We experimented with more efficient ways of cooking with wood and sun, like with rocket stoves for instance. One time we also tried to built a solar stove (mainly from recycled materials), which was too big in the end to transport, and so we could never finish the project and make the stove work.
Our website is hosted on an „eco-friendly“ CO2- and energy-saving server (—> nevertheless the internet is one of the most polluting things, just after flights, so don’t misuse it!!!).
This booklet is printed with an eco-friendly printing method on recycled paper, by a small company who is run as a collective.
Aren’t we great?? ;-)
Well, actually, we wanted to do a lot more: One of the main topics of the project was ecology, so we feel a bit bad about having been less ecological while travelling than we would have liked been.
We thought a lot about doing this tour with bikes or with a donkey or whatever ;-), and had a cooperation with a project who did something similar with a ship (see migrobirdo article). All these ways would of course have been way more ecological!
But we decided against it, and actually planned to make our busses run on recycled fuel, to show that it is possible. In the end we did not find the time to organise this with someone who had the technical know-how to do it. We were just too busy with other preparations. But it would have been possible, and I would advice anyone who plans to travel with a bus to do it!
Still I think what we did was quite ecological, at least compared to other people who are drivin their huge BMW, sitting in there alone, having 4 seats empty but not wanting to take any hitchhikers though!
The busses actually were homes for up to 6 people each! We used them for sleeping, transporting things and people. For the very basic human needs while travelling. No extra comfort…
And as we did not have any empty flats elsewhere, it was quite ecological, too, if you put it that way: compared with the energy for heating which we would have used if we had stayed in cold Germany/Sweden/… our busses eat comparably few oil and are quite ecological. (didvided through the number of people who made their living in them).
In the end it is about inforing people about eco-project and ways of life, and I think what we did was worth it, hinking about the possibility that we might inspire people to live their lifes in a different way.
NEVER EVER FLY TO ANY OF THE PROJECTS IN THIS BOOKLET PLEASE, OR YOU TOTALLY GOT IT WRONG!!!
About social aspects… before the tour started, we got an email from an American guy who was travelling in South America and who told us, that he found it quite ridiculous what we were doing. Travelling around in the wealthy Europe, and thinking we could change anything by that.
I then told him, that what the Zapatistas from Mexico say is: if you want to support the change, then do it in the place where you are.
We tried to organise different in within our group, kept it open for people who don’t have money, for reasons of being from poorer (European) countries for instance. (We’d have been open to people from other poor countries as well, of course, but somehow we could not find any…). We did not expect any papers, any organisation experience, nothing. We tried to be inclusive, ried to bring people to places which they would have never gone to otherwise.
We know that we are priviledged kids, and that there are many people in this planet who cannot affort to do anything like this trip. Even here in this country there are many people who don’t have the money or the “education”(=papers) and jobs to earn that money. But exactly this is one more reason to shout oud loud and say: we have to change something, here! For us, and because it is better for the rest of the planet!
Think global, act local!!
We want to show, that alternatives do exist, and that they are doable!
Not by the state, not by “school system” or anything, but by US, the people.
This is the social aspect of our tour.
14. How do you want to spread this knowledge in wihin "the mainstream society?
This is what we ask you. Help us to get it there. This brochure is made in a way, so many people can understand what alternative lifestyles are about. Show it to them.
15. Will you do another tour like that?
Check the article „future of skillsurfers“ at the end of this booklet.