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Interview

mit Driftwood Holly

Driftwood Holly is a German-Canadian artist originally from Germany who has been living in Yukon for over 15 years. Discover yet another wonderful talent and interesting personality.
You may find more about Driftwood Holly here…and don’t miss his new tune „mothers“…

For you dear readers, I asked Driftwood Holly where in Germany he grew up and asked a little background information about his younger self. Because he is from East-Germany, I did question him also about the last years before the wall came down and how his desire to travel the world/play music truly showed. When you read his biography on his website, you discover that the Yukon operated some magic on him, so I asked Driftwood Holly about that too. Finally, I inquired as well about his connections to Germany/Canada and his recommendations for people who would like to establish themselves in Canada/Yukon or a new country….

I grew up in Oberwiesenthal, a little mountain village in East Germany. For the first part of my life I tried to become a ski jumper. I started when I was six years old. But training with some of the future world champions made it clear, that I would not go very far. I switched to Nordic-combined and kept trying to better myself, so I could travel the world. We had it pretty good as kids in sports in East Germany and it was exciting to be in such a competitive environment. Unfortunately I didn’t make it all the way to the top and I got out of it when I was 19. But I still love going home to Oberwiesenthal and hang out with all these great athletes who made history coming from Fichtel Mountain. I think it was back then that I developed a longing for travel. There weren’t many ways to see the world when you lived in East Germany but sport was one of them. So I had to try…….
After my career in sport I was instantly drafted to the East German army. Many of us athletes ended up there because we had no relatives in West Germany, so they could put us on the borders because we were less likely to flee the country. So I ended up being a border guard on the Berlin wall. I got there in August 1989 and it was my first brush with world politics in the sweet age of 19. It was strange and maybe the most dangerous time in my life. Being trapped between the world powers, in a time of chaos. Being in an army is a difficult thing to begin with but this one was special. I was there when Michail Gorbatschow spoke his famous words and took his army home. I was also there when Erich Honecker lost his job. We even ended up in the crazy situation that all the checkpoints were open for the people, but we still had to protect this wall under order. We had to make a lot of decisions which were way over our heads or the capability of young adults. But due to all of us staying cool under tremendous pressure it became a peaceful revolution. Not all of the higher ranks in the East German army were bad. There have been some real peace keepers and we can all be thankful for those. I have been through some nerve wrecking adventures in those seven months when the wall came down, but it took me years to realize that I was part of a historic event of this magnitude…….
After the wall was down we were able to travel the world. But I decided to work hard and rebuild our lives. I took over my grandfather’s roofing company and worked my 14 hours a day for many years. I was successful, I had many things and I had a very solid income. But capitalism is not “pro life”. Capitalism is “pro money” and pro money only . So East Germany became more and more a hostile market and a very hard competition. I loved my job and building things with my hands, but it looked like endless chain of hard labour and you never knew if you would get paid in the end. I think it was then when my longing to see the world and the desire to explore awoke again. So I went on my first trip to Peru, Costa Rica, then to Africa and many other places. Over 40 countries. Always coming home and going back to work, being a good boy. But ever since I read Jack London’s “Call Of The Wild” the North West had my heart. Getting more and more frustrated with having a routine and a very predictable future, I planned my first real big adventure. The Yukon River. And I wanted to do it alone. This trip did not just change my life and my way to travel forever, it also made me fall in love with Dawson City. A town that makes you think you walk right back into your childhood. After Dawson nothing was the same for me and I sold my company, moved to the Klondike and began to homestead……….
I picked up the guitar while I was travelling the world. For me it was a way not to be alone out there. You sure meet a lot of people while you travel and you’re constantly in different societies but if you “Move On” you’re alone. But you’re not alone if you have an instrument with you, then you have a second spirit travelling along. This is how I got into music. I was 28 by then ………
I never thought I could write music myself. But I think my colourful life made me look at this world from so many different angles that I began to tell my story. Now I couldn’t even live without it anymore. It became my most important language, my medicine and my way of life and has been my most exciting adventure so far.
If you come to the Yukon you either hate it or it grabs your heart for good. It’s a rough country where nothing is easy and you pay for your own mistakes. But it rewards you with a beauty that is incomparable. The North is not for everybody but it truly gives you the possibility to figure out who you are. And I think I needed that. That’s why I am still here. And maybe Dawson reminded me a little bit of my old country. Up here people fix things, people celebrate a lot, and it doesn’t matter much what you own. It matters what kind of person you are. I began to feel home here, that’s why I stayed.
It was quite a step to leave Germany. At home I knew how things worked; here, I knew nothing. I think what we Germans really struggle with, is that we have to work all the time. It seems like we have this inner voice that always tells us to move forward with things. We always have to accomplish something. But that is not true. We have to live our lives as well and enjoy things in our own pace. I still struggle with this but I got a lot better. I still love Germany with all my heart. The good food, technology that works and our desire to finish things are qualities I admire.
What I like and dislike about Canada? The Canadian liquor law is a joke. That you cannot drink a beer sitting by a river is just wrong. That you can not have a mold wine in public when it’s 40 below is also hard to understand. And I also didn’t know how many environmental disasters happen in Canada. We always see the postcard Canada, but I see things that break my heart. What I really like about this country is, that people are friendly when you meet. There’s always a happy “how are you?”; I enjoyed that a lot when I arrived here. It felt like everybody was happy. What I also really enjoy is, that people seem to work to live and not to live to work. Big difference to Germany. But the most important thing for me here is the wilderness. I just function in the bush really well and it gives me endless possibilities to explore myself and the beauty of the forest….
My recommendation to everybody who is immigrating to another country? Don’t think your problems go away by leaving your place. The new country will not make you happy. You have to do this: be open for new things and try to learn from your new home. And don’t lick your snow shovel at 40 below or loose your dog team. Cheers Driftwood Holly

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