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Van Life: A poet and power plant operator's nomadic shift fosters joy, creativity and community

Poet, farmer, community leader and nomad
Miami to van life

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I’m excited to invite you to my conversation with Renaldo Holmes, known by Holmes to all who know him, he is the person behind HolmesFindsFreedom on Youtube and Instagram. Holmes is a talented poet, educator, farmer, community organizer and nomad.

Holmes says that poetry saved his life and wants others to experience the healing power of spoken word. He had a bad stutter as a child and had hard time communicating and making friends. He would write a lot of poetry and eventually discovered spoken word. Holmes went to his first open mic, knowing he would stutter, and was terrified. The host told him he had two options - stay on this stage and recite your work no matter how long it takes or quit and walk off the stage. He stayed on the stage and that changed his life. He began going back every week and his stuttering got better until he was able to cure himself of it completely. This is a perfect example of the courage, passion, dedication and creativity that Holmes approaches life with.

Several years ago Holmes sold his home, left a career as a power plant technician in Connecticut, and set out on a journey of adventure and self-discovery. He wasn’t feeling fulfilled in his life and didn’t want to live out his days continuing to feel like something was missing. He traveled all over the United States and eventually settled in a neighborhood in Atlanta. He bought a plot of land and started growing food for himself and his community.

"Stewarding the soil, rebuilding the soil is actually we are healing each other. We are connecting and healing each other. So it really became a huge part of my life. To the point that, even now in my journey, I don’t feel complete if I don’t have some kind of relationship with the soil." -Holmes

Holmes growing food with his community in Atlanta

During the pandemic, Holmes felt called back to nomadic life. He sold his property, bought a van and embarked on a new adventure - spreading seeds, his farming knowledge and joy in every community he visited. He found his way to Mexico, working for a few urban farms before settling in a small rural farming community. Holmes fell in love with the people, culture, lower cost of living and way of life in Mexico. Holmes also felt greater love, acceptance and ease being a Black man in Mexico. He didn’t feel like people looked at him differently because of the color of his skin.

With funds running out, Holmes made the difficult decision to return to the United States so that he could put a plan in place to move to Mexico permanently. He returned to his power plant job in Connecticut and is continuing to live out of his van so that he can save money. A passionate grower, Holmes hasn’t let van life keep him from farming. When he returned to Connecticut, he put a call out to his community to see if anyone would let him grow food at their house and someone offered their front yard. This summer he grew a bunch of produce and continued making his wonderful tutorial videos for his online following.

"Your gifts, your talents - that is your currency. That is how you can give and pour back into people. In my opinion that is how you can really impact people in the world the most. Cultivate your gifts. Cultivate that light and life inside and share it." -Holmes

His goal is to build some passive income streams to sustain him for the long term and save enough money to buy a small parcel of land in Mexico where he can homestead and live off of the land.

This is a story about the healing effects of poetry, the community building power of growing food and fostering courage, commitment and vision to work towards your dreams.



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