Crossing Borders: One Family Crosses An Ocean And A Continent For Their Cause

May 29, 2018

In today’s digital and mobile world, there are so many ways to get the word out about a cause. Some people use social media, others start a podcast or blog, and some take it on the road. 

One European family is driving across the United States for their cause – Solution Focus. 

"Well, it's a European RV. Looks a little bit different than the RVs in the US.

This is Dominik Godat, father of the family driving across the country in the name of SF – or solution focus, a type of problem-solving and way of life. Their family and I are sitting in their RV and he’s telling me about their current lifestyle.

"A Fiat Ducato," he said. "Yeah, it’s always funny, we had an oil leak a few weeks ago and we called a mechanic and told them there was a Fiat and they’re all, “Oh, no I can’t come, I can’t come!'”

“We’re booked, sorry!”

That's Dominik’s wife Elfie Zerney

"If you would travel in Europe you would say, “Wow, this is a rather big RV.' While traveling here in the states we realized, we are usually one of the smallest ones around, yeah," she said.

Elfie and Dominik shipped their RV from Hamburg, German to Halifax, Nova Scotia. They drove down the east coast to Florida. Traveled through the Gulf Coast area, through Texas, into New Mexico, Colorado and made a stop here in Utah.

"We wanted to create a space with this RV where people could feel invited to connect with us," Elfie said.

Credit Dani Hayes

And they are doing that by grabbing people’s attention with their vehicle. The RV is not only obviously European but is decorated with brightly colored messages and paintings about Solution Focus.

"People smile, they look at it and say, 'I like your RV' or 'I want to talk about that with you,'” Dominik said.

"We even had one guy stopping at the lights and honking and then saying, 'Hey! I’m on your website!' which was so cool," Elfie said.

So, what is Solution Focus? Elfie explains.

"So, Solution Focus for me is, like a way of looking to the world, a way of experiencing things in different ways. What we do here is we kind of draw a picture of our preferred futures. So, we more, like, analyze what we want and talk about what we want instead of what we don’t want."

Here’s an example of the solution focus process from Pam King, SF practitioner and friend of the traveling family.

"When I work with a family, they may come in and say, 'Oh, there is so much fighting with the children, and we’re having much difficulty in our home.' And I’ll say, 'So, you want something different than that?' 'Well, yes. We don’t want so much fighting.' 'Well, what would you like instead?' 'Well, we would like them to get along.' 'Oh, and when they’re getting along, what is it that they are doing exactly? Can you describe that to me?' 'Well, they might be playing.' 'Oh, what do you like to play?'”

SF practitioners get to know the people they are working with and their problems by asking a series of questions – each question influenced by the last question’s response.

"People come to us and they don’t know what to do," Dominik said. "They’re stuck and they think everything is not working. And we’ll talk to them and ask, “Well, what’s working well?” They find that there is change already going in the right direction. When we ask them, 'Well what do you want?' and they find that there is always things that are already there that they want. So, we amplify and try to amplify useful change with people, with our clients, in our conversations."

Dominik and Elfie actually met at an SF conference and had a shared goal to spread the word about Solution Focus. They became a couple, had a baby and, two years ago, decided to take the message on the road.

"We wanted to have a Solution Focused journey where we know what we want and [our] preferred future," Dominik said. "And we know what has worked well in the past, and we’ll just take one little step and see what happens. And one little step was to buy an RV. So, we bought this RV very quickly and everything else emerged from that because we knew as soon as we had an RV, this journey was getting real."

Their daughter Bibiana is a little over three years old and is not in school quite yet. Dominik says that one of the purposes of their tour is to put solution focus into practice in their own family, and Bibi creates many opportunities for her parents to do that.

"She is connecting us to so many people," Elfie said. "When we’re in a coffee spot, for instance, she goes from table to table and usually picks up, you know, the great people and connects us to them and we enter, like, really good conversation."

Last April, the family’s visas expired and they are currently in Canada spreading the message of SF there. They plan to come back to America after six months up north to explore some of the country’s national parks and maybe come back to Utah and stay while.

“Elfie was always dreaming of going skiing so we had three days of skiing,” Dominik said.

"We love skiing in Utah,” Elfie said. “And we will always have this memory that our three-year-old daughter had her first day on skis here in Utah, beautiful Utah.”

The UPR Original Series "Crossing Borders" is a yearlong storytelling project between UPR and the USU Office of Global Engagement - providing services for international students and scholars; and facilitating study abroad opportunities for students and faculty. Details found here.