The Funky Five at Cycle Alaska testing out potential bike gear. From right to left is Kanaan Bausler, Andrew Flansaas on the ground, Max Stanley, Colin Flynn and Chris Hinkley.
Story last updated at 5/16/2012 - 12:09 pm
On June 1, five Juneau residents, mostly fresh out of college, will launch their kayaks into the Gastineau Channel. They plan to paddle to Vancouver Island then bike to Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina. Seven additional friends will be joining the group - the self-named The Funky Five - on the kayak portion of what they are calling A Trip South.
I first got wind of this trip while watching last fall's Juneau Underground Film Festival, a showcase of locally made short films. The Funky Five, consisting of Andrew Flansaas, Christopher Hinkley, Colin Flynn, Kanaan Bausler and Max Stransley, submitted a satirical reenactment of the evening they decided to embark on what will undoubtedly be a trip of their lifetime. The group sat around a large campfire, pretending to come up with the idea for the first time, hamming up the progress of the idea for the JUMP film. The film ended with a solicitation to funders.
My initial impression was that the group wanted to embark on an adventure-filled extended vacation, with the primary focus of having fun, and were trying to use their boyish charm to bill their trip as a "project" worthy of financial backing. Though I find nothing wrong with this coming-of-age style voyage, the group actually has a much larger and selfless vision.
The group's overall goal is to complete a film that explores the communities they encounter. They've been making films for more than ten years, under the production company name of Bad Larry Productions. They do not have a strict agenda, but are adamant about immersing themselves in the various cultures in which they find themselves. Their one expectation is that they will have unexpected opportunities, of which they will take advantage.
To better illustrate their mission, Kanaan Bausler wrote a "Why" statement on the trip's website, provided below.
"Global warming. Overpopulation. Civil war. Economic depression. The list of conflicts that our species is facing in this modern age could go on for days. One may feel at times that everything is going wrong, that the world is upside-down and inside-out, that we are trending more and more towards devastation. Yet we strive to remember that there is so much beauty in the world to appreciate. Still, the question remains: how did we get here? And how can we make progress in a better direction?
Our proposed expedition, from Alaska to Argentina, will seek to further understand these problems. We feel that the root cause of most modern problems lies in the separation of local ownership and responsibility over communal properties. When distant forces control the actions of local people, elements of adaptability are lost. This prevents the people from being able to effectively manage their situation in times of change. As the times are clearly always in a state of change these days, more and more humans are experiencing the ill effects of macro-management. An alternative way of living is to reinvest in the familiar, to work towards independent organization of communities. We believe that the people we meet along our journey will have answers to these conflicts, and will be able to show us techniques of local living that may be applicable to a wider audience of citizens. We hypothesize that the communities that exhibit these qualities will not only be more sustainable, but will also contain individuals that are actually happier than the average person.
We see examples of this type of conflict everyday in our homeland of Southeast Alaska. The Tlingit are the native people of our region, humans who inhabited this land before the European and American explorers came to claim territories. Prior to colonial contact, the Tlingit lived in direct communication with the landscape, subsisting by taking what they needed and in return enriching the environment with their culture. When the Euro-Americans arrived, the Tlingit were influenced and in many instances forced to develop a more restricted relationship with their home places. The newcomers to the area over-harvested resources and did not respect the wisdom of the people who belonged to the place. This coerced the natives to significantly alter their lifestyles in order to survive. The adopted changes put the people at an immediate disadvantage, as they became the least experienced participants in the new system. Today, modern Tlingit continue to show the effects of this history, as a large proportion of the population still live in relative poverty. However, those that are fortunate enough to engage in traditional subsistence techniques and cultural practices often demonstrate a high quality of life.
We believe that if local people can maintain an intimate relationship with their location, then the community will be much more resilient to challenges and therefore more satisfied with their given situation. Thus the solution to global conflicts lies in the empowerment of independent communities. In our travels, we hope to find examples of groups along the Pacific coast of the Americas that are demonstrating elements of self-sufficiency and love for location. We plan on learning what each group is doing to improve their connection to the local place, and then sharing their story through writing and film. Additionally, engaging in this style of travel will promote the concept of developing meaningful relationships with foreign communities, as opposed to the high-speed, get-the-photo, check-it-off-the-list approach of modern commercial tourism. We hope to benefit everyone involved with this project, from the financial supporter, to the person we encounter along the way, to the viewer of the film, to ourselves. By traveling internationally to document the growing localization movement, we will be doing our part to contribute to the global happiness and advance the human condition."
Seaward Kayaks is sponsoring the first leg of the group's trip, and has provided them with the 12 kayaks they will need to paddle from Juneau to Vancouver Island. The company has a factory on the island, where the Funky Five will leave their boats, pick up their bikes they will have shipped, and ferry to the mainland.
The group is funding their own travels, but they are looking to raise $4,800 for film equipment. Their first promotional event, on May 19, will be hosted at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. From 5-8 p.m., there will be a potluck dinner, a "Tour de Franzia" wine tasting and two speakers. Shaadootlaa, a local Tlingit woman, will speak about the Tlingit trade route south to Mexico. Scott Foster, a local kayaker, will also speak. Music will be performed by the Great Alaskan Bluegrass Band and. Following the dinner and speakers, a dance party will begin at 9 p.m., with DJ Manu.
The event is not likely to raise the $4,800 the group needs for film equipment, but it will serve to publicize their fundraising tool called Kickstarter. According to Kickstarter's website, it is the "World's largest funding program for creative projects." It works like this: a fundraising goal is set, and a deadline to reach that goal. The website accepts donations, and if the $4,800 is met by the group's deadline of midnight on May 26, they receive the money. If they fall short, they do not get a penny of pledged money.
Assuming the Funky Five reach their goal (or find the funds through another means) their trip begins in June, and may last over two years. Along the way, they plan to write about their experiences, and send updates and stories of their adventures to the Capital City Weekly. We will publish their posts and chart their route and progress, so keep picking up the paper to find out just what the Funky Five has gotten into.
To help the group purchase their film equipment, visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/atripsouth/atripsouth?ref=live.
For more information on the trip, visit www.atripsouth.com.