Margarita Navarrete-Hutchinson is a Change Agent! I met her while manning the Austin Time Exchange Network booth at the first Austin Sustainable Swap (for Micro-Farmers, Crafters & generally skilled Folk). She made the Swap (aka A.S.S.) so much fun that I became a regular as long as I lived in Austin. We talked about the Swap and her newest initiative, the Transition Travel Agency.
Cliff the Change Agent: What is your overall vision?
Margarita: A world full of volunteers, each doing their part to assist each other as we journey onward through our lives, together. A planet filled with self-empowered, self-responsible people, who are doing their best to not just co-exist peacefully with their fellow humans, but also to collaborate with each other, and co-create a sustainable reality–and enjoy ourselves in the process.
CA: Can you tell us how you were inspired to develop that vision?
MNH: I became aware that “I am responsible for my own experience.” The choices I make may affect not only myself, but everyone and everything around me—because my decisions affect my perceptions, and how I choose to perceive the world affects how I interact with it, and within it. [Margarita is a full-time, licensed Massage Therapist.] Perhaps I have massage school to thank for that awareness; a better understanding of anatomy and physiology helped me to better understand myself.
I figured that out at 23 and began the process of actively practicing it, with many stumbles along the way.
A couple of years later, I enjoyed my first Burning Flipside, and was ecstatic to participate in a community of people who thought similarly to how I did. [Burning Flipside is a Texas event in May that is inspired by Black Rock, Nevada's Burning Man festival. The site of the festival is frequently called Pyropolis]
Burning Flipside is 100% volunteer operated, on every level. No one gets paid. Whatever money that is made off the event goes to pay for the land rental, event insurance, police, fire department, and art grants.
After a few years I became frustrated that we weren’t sharing our “reality” with the “default” world [the term for everywhere BUT Burning Man events]. I no longer needed the escape to Pyropolis, because “out here,” I am “at home.” (When we arrive at a burn, greeters welcome us with “Welcome Home”, alluding that “home” is not “default”) No matter where I go now, I’m always home.
CA: So you began to put it to work at A.S.S.?
MNH: It’s likely that Flipside is the inspiration for the Austin Sustainable Swap, a voluntarily sharing with the community event. At Burn events we have Theme Camps. I decided to put together a “default world” theme camp, so we could make it little less “default”.
Originally, the idea for the Austin Sustainable Swap was born out of the desire to promote my husband’s gourmet mushroom business. I thought, how can I promote his business, and maybe mine as well–and while we’re at it, give other entrepreneurs the opportunity to promote themselves as well?
It naturally progressed to, “Since we’re all gathering together, let’s make better use of the space and have it be a place for community members to bring their still reusable but unwanted stuff, for community redistribution, and contribute it to SafePlace [b/c their contributions were down].” And skills!
I’m a huge fan of sharing, and facilitating sharing–especially knowledge and ideas! So the theme of the Austin Sustainable Swap is just that–sharing. Partly because I like to surround myself with like-minded people; partly because this is what I want to see more of in the world. One Burning principle that is unstated, but that I most certainly learned thanks to the Burning community, is that This (whatever This may be) is a Do-ocracy. If you feel like something is lacking, then do it.
CA: How did the Transitional Travel Agency come about?
MNH: The Transitional Travel Agency came about thanks to the Home Funeral Guide training by Donna Belk that I attended at the end of February this year. We were asked at the closing of the training, “What do you consider yourself? (A Home Funeral Advocate/Guide/Educator, Death Doula, Death Midwife, etc.)” I responded with “I am a Transitional Travel Agent,” because I feel called to do Home Funeral advocacy and education, Death Mid-Wifery, as well as Abortion Doula volunteer work. (I don’t intend to charge for any of these services). Those are all death transitions.
And then I thought, there’s so many transitions we go through in life, not just dying, but birth, and everything in between–and any one of us may be a Transitional Travel Agent, if we enjoy helping people as they are undergoing any of the various changes that may experienced in a lifetime.
CA: Tell us more about TTA
MNH: The Transitional Travel Agency advocates volunteerism.
I think that the ultimate goal of the Transitional Travel Agency is to promote volunteerism globally, by encouraging individuals (wherever they may be) to volunteer in their communities, without need for affiliation to any particular organization. Its purpose is to help create free agents–agents free to assist however they would like to, when they are willing and able to be of service. By telling people, “I am a Transitional Travel Agent, and this (xyz) is how I like to help,” it may encourage and motivate other ordinary folk to share their time and skills with their community, as well.
CA: And your motivation?
MNH: Eventually, we will have a more collaborative society. I feel like I am merely one among the many who feel compelled to follow this path; there are so many other individuals who are working towards the goal of a more collaborative society. Perhaps it’s a cross-cultural awakening.
I’ve been asking myself, “Why do I feel so compelled to advocate volunteerism instead of the myriad other things I could be doing with my time?” I enjoy volunteering – I could be doing more active volunteering if I just worked with already established organizations, particularly Thinkery and Hospice–except my schedule is so wonky all over the place.
Just me volunteering and hanging out with other volunteers won’t cut it; I want to see even more volunteerism in the world. There are a lot of reasons: I think it would make life easier on the whole, it’s so good for my own mental health and the minds of others would benefit, too. That takes my thinking to, “why am I trying so hard to control what other people do?” No, I’m working towards attracting/drawing the kind of folk who are as naturally drawn to volunteerism as I am…and who enjoy life as unstructured as I do.
This is me attempting to build my community, because I like to surround myself with inspiring and self-responsible people. It’s not about controlling anything; it’s more about allowing connections to happen, and creating a space where that is more likely to happen. It’s that simple.
CA: How can people get involved?
MNH: We had our first A.S.S.torming on July 19th, my way of asking for community collaboration. We need more HELP. The Austin Sustainable Swap isn’t very sustainable without community participation, which can only be done by asking for it. Right now, I’m learning to ask for help–it’s important!
The Transitional Travel Agency is recruiting! And we always will be. It is the beginning of what will be a global network of volunteers, assisting in whatever way they can/want, whenever they are able. Join us?!
MNH: It was a good exercise for me, too. I’ve been asking myself, “why am I doing this?” “why do I feel so compelled to advocate volunteerism?” This helped me sort that out.
Editor’s note: Next week, we will begin looking at Tools that help Change Agents thrive!