Fortune favors the bold. A phase that propelled Grand Duke Travis to ruling the mirco-nation of Westartica. In 2001 Grand Duke Travis saw a legal loop hole while in the military regarding who can lay claim Antarctica. Prior to this, the Antarctic Treaty said that no country could lay claim to the land however it did not specify that no one individual could lay claim to it. The treaty also states that no nation could build on this land either save research facilities. Seeing an opportunity Grand Duke Travis wrote to 9 different countries with his claim to the land and formed the mirco-nation of Westartica.
There has been much debate over the legality of this claim however according to the law, Grand Duke Travis is legally the ruler of Westartica and his rule should be honored around the world. Like other micro-nations finding their place in the thick of things, Westartica has faced its own challenges and triumphs. We had the privilege of speaking with Grand Duke Travis himself about what its like to lead the nation of Westartica.
Classic Entourage Mag: Grand Duke Travis, an absolute pleasure sitting down with you. How are you and how is Westarctica fairing?
Grand Duke Travis: Westarctica is doing very well at the moment. During the COVID-19 shutdown, it appears that many people are discovering us while they search the internet for items of interest to relieve their boredom. We’ve welcomed 41 new citizens and nearly ten new peers since the global lockdown began.
CE Mag: Creating your non-profit was a genius idea and could help the planet tremendously. What helped inspire you to create this?
Grand Duke Travis: After running Westarctica as a sovereign nation for nearly ten years, I was getting kind of disheartened by the fact that we hadn’t made much progress toward our goals of advocating for Western Antarctica. Although plenty of people were interested in our project, there was a dreadful lack of funds to actually make anything meaningful happen. Forming a non-profit seemed like the most productive method of raising money, but it also created a situation where the responsibility for reaching our goals would be dispersed throughout our donors and board of directors. This was a major turning point for Westarctica: it gave other people a stake in the organization.
If we’re all driving electric cars and air and water pollution has ceased, maybe we’ll be in a position to cede our claims in Antarctica?Grand Duke Travis
CE Mag: What does the future of your nation look like? Where you like to see it in 200 years from now.
Grand Duke Travis: 200 years is quite a long time to plan ahead, but I hope by then we’re a major international presence. Although, really, in 200 years, I hope there isn’t a need for Westarctica to exist as a non-profit any longer… If we’re all driving electric cars and air and water pollution has ceased, maybe we’ll be in a position to cede our claims in Antarctica? Of course, if things continue the way they are, perhaps all the ice in Antarctica will have melted and my great-great-grandchildren will all be living on South Polar islands that were once mountains!
CE Mag: What do you want your legacy to be? Who do you want to inspire?
Grand Duke Travis: I already feel like my legacy is as a pioneer. If I died today, my Wikipedia article would just be focused on my activities as Grand Duke of Westarctica. My career as an actor, writer, and my entire time in the U.S. Navy would largely be forgotten. I would like to inspire people to make their own rules!
When I tell people I created my own country, the first question they often ask is: “Is that legal?” I reply: “What law is on the books that says, ‘You can’t make your own country?’ And even if it was illegal, what authority would have the power to arrest me?” This will generally get them thinking. We spend our entire lives bounded by the rules of society, but those rules are merely customs, they aren’t laws. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be restrained by fictional, invisible boundaries that only exist in our collective subconscious.
The core element of every micronation is a desire to create your own reality, and it’s surprisingly easy to do and to get others involved. But it does take courage, ingenuity, and perseverance. Just like starting any new venture, people are going to criticize and belittle you, but if your heart is in it, then go for it. I like to joke that micronational leaders are like entrepreneurs who aren’t trying to make money.
CE Mag: Can you talk a little bit about the process of forming a mirconation? Do you believe in the future mirconation will scale up to be recognized by such entities as the U.N.?
Grand Duke Travis: Each micronation is created through a different method, but I was the first to actually send a letter stating my claim over Western Antarctica to the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat (in the United Nations) as well as every signatory member of the Antarctic Treaty. That was the easy part: a self declaration of sovereignty. The hard part is enforcing that claim and actually behaving as a sovereign nation.
I don’t believe micronations will ever enjoy mass recognition by the United Nations. Westarctica is a unique case and I’ve been fortunate enough to study international law to the point where I do see a path forward to achieve actual sovereignty. Even then, it’s unlikely we’d be recognized as a UN member state. As it stands, Westarctica currently enjoys non-consultative status in the NGO branch of the United Nations. Since 2015, we’ve been contributing to discussions and conferences concerning the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, but they do not recognize us as a sovereign nation.
CE Mag: When coming up with the laws that governed your nation, how long did it take to formulate something that felt reasonable?
Grand Duke Travis: Westarctica’s first legal codes were based on the French Civil Code and the constitutions of several countries. However, they were really impracticable because we don’t actually inhabit the continent. Just last year, we convened a small committee to draft a new constitution that would be practical and realistic. It took a year, but it was finally ratified a few months ago.
CE Mag: Can you talk a little bit about the day and the life of a Grand Duke?
Grand Duke Travis: Each day is a little different, but I answer a lot of e-mails. I’m very fortunate to have a council of nine government ministers who assist me in running the business of Westarctica from day-to-day. The Prime Minister has lifted a tremendous administrative burden off my shoulders, but he also points out a lot of things that need to get done, which often fall to me. Updating our various websites, managing the company finances, and engaging with questions from the public are all things I do daily.
Less frequently, I have to give public speeches, provide interviews to the press (like I am right now) and travel around the world to represent Westarctica at public events. In the past few years, I’ve traveled to France, Germany, Canada, Mexico, and all over the United States as the public embodiment of our nation.
CE Mag: How do you think other mirconations treat Westarctica? Is there a jealously that is felt when there are conventions or is everyone pretty friendly?
Any animosity or jealousy, typically fades in the first few minutes of meeting face to face.Grand Duke Travis
Grand Duke Travis: Westarctica has been around for nearly 20 years, and I’ve always tried to be as professional and engaging as possible. As a result, we have a very good reputation in the micronational community and if there were to be a G8 of micronations, we’d be a member. So most of the other micronationalists are excited to meet me and to interact with members of our delegation. They look to more experienced micronationalists for guidance and advice. I end up having my picture taken with a lot of people I just met for the first time. Any animosity or jealousy, typically fades in the first few minutes of meeting face to face.
For example, we have a territorial dispute with the micronation of Talossa, which was created in 1979 (before I was even born). When I met their delegates at MicroCon 2017, it was a moment of exhilaration for me, despite the fact that the leader of the delegation was the Governor of their Antarctic colony. The very person who should be my bitter enemy. We got along splendidly and agreed not to raise hostilities around our competing claims.
CE Mag: While ruling a nation what are some common stresses that affect you that other nations relate to? How do you handle them on a day to day basis?
Grand Duke Travis: Probably the most annoying thing that any established micronation has to deal with is “declarations of war” from petty individuals who are desperate for some kind of attention. President Kevin Baugh, the leader of Molossia, one of the most well known micronations on earth, has said he receives around 10 war declarations per month. His standard practice is to ignore them. But they’re still an annoyance.
A huge part of my mandate as Head of State is to educate the public about what Westarctica is and why / how we exist, so even though I frequently have to deal with disbelief and naysaying, I’ve got my talking points down to the point where I can perform “verbal judo” on virtually anyone.
CE Mag: Thanks for chatting with us! Truly an honor. Do you have any advice for some up and coming leaders that may look up to you?
Grand Duke Travis: I live by two quotes: “Audacity, audacity, always audacity.” and “Fortune favors the bold.”
Grand Duke Travis gave us a handful of goals for the upcoming year:
June: Expansion of the Westarctica Leadership Institute with additional courses of study
July: Annual Polo Gathering in Los AngelesNovember: Meeting of our Diplomatic Corps in Nerja, Spain (this event occurs on even-numbered years)
December: Launch fundraiser for an Expedition to Westarctica
July: Host MicroCon 2021 – a conference of over 150 micronationalists in Las Vegas, Nevada.
November: The Glacier Ball – a gala ball in Nashville, Tennessee to celebrate Westarctica’s 20th year of sovereignty.
December: Launch a 2-person expedition to plant the flag in Westarctica
Find out more information about about Grand Duke Travis and Westartica @ https://www.westarctica.info/
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