Can you tell us about your background?
I am a recovering branding expert, whose 18 year career once focused on creating campaigns for green – eco business, non-profits & conscious business. In 2008, California’s economy took a turn and I decided to “be the change” instead of a victim. Then my 9-year-old son, Miro and I began the process of redesigning our lives, with the dream of spending stress-free quality time together. After I closed my business, selling and gave away all of our possessions, Miro and I hit the road for a permanent adventure in mid 2009.
Over five years, 15 countries and many personal changes later, Miro and I continue to slow travel, living an inspired possession-free-lifestyle, volunteering and learning naturally. We are both following our interests which guide us on the road, as the planet has been transformed into our classroom. Often I say “we are blessed to be accidental unschoolers” and has become and I’ve become an advocate for “life learning” at any age. In fact, we’ve have taken this philosophy to heart and are producing a series of teen and young adult oriented immersive learning retreats in Latin America called Project World School.
We describe our greatest accomplishment as the ability to participate in the world without fear. We invite you to follow along on our journey as a single mom and a teen-age son living the history & culture of foreign lands, encountering amazing people, interacting as global citizens, serving as volunteers, and naturally learning along the way at RaisingMiro.com.
Why did you start raisingmiro.com?
Miro and I set out on a one year journey in mid-2009. We intended on traveling from the United States to Argentina over the course of that year. We started that blog to capture the memories of our travels, share with friends and family and create a record of our experiences. We had no idea we’d actually be creating a community and help other families to step out of their comfort zones and learn to trust their inspiration. Oh, it’s five and half years later and we still haven’t made it as far south as Argentina, but know one day we will.
Can you tell me what Project World School is?
This is a project Miro and I started together in 2012. But first I have to give you a little background in order to create some context around why we created it in the first place.
Throughout our years of travel, we adapted “unschooling” or “natural learning” as our form of education which became the foundation for what was to follow. We had never set out to be an unschooling family, actually didn’t even know there was such a thing before we left on our travels in 2009. Though our own process of living, traveling and learning naturally, we discovered there was a name for what we were doing, and that we were indeed “unschoolers”.
As a parent, I took my role in the process seriously, adapting a partnership paradigm in learning and life, being the best facilitator for my son, listening to his cues, offering support, providing resources and committed to learning right along side to him. We were conscious about this choice and took on the task of learning intentionally.
We made joint decisions about our lives, deciding where to go, when to go and how to live. We have been living in true partnership and both of our needs were being met as we learned to compromise and make adjustments along the way.
But as Miro moved into his teen years, community started to become a greater need for him. A couple of years ago, we were invited speak at an alternative education conference. We flew back to the States to make our presentation and received great feedback and support. But the greatest outcome from that trip were two points of clarity for Miro.
First, Miro realized that he was hyper sensitive to the commercialism which was a part of everyday American life. It is difficult to recognize that when you are living within the culture, but when you are away for a number of years the sensation seems stronger. Also, Miro perceived that people seemed very busy, interactions between strangers were more formal and disconnected. Miro reflected that he felt a great sense of freedom within our lifestyle and preferred that pace. Miro concluded that he preferred our life of travel and had no interest in returning to the States to live. At least for now.
But his second epiphany took me off guard.
During the conference, Miro connected with many other self directed learners (unschoolers) for the first time, in-real-life. Yeah, he had friends when he attended primary school in the States, with nothing more in common than being the same age and living within the same geographical area. He does not describe those friendships as deep in any way. But finally, as a 13 year old teenager, Miro came face to face with his peer group, an intelligent, quirky, liberal minded, self-directed group of teenage learners. “Finally”, he thought, “my community, my people”. And that experience alone, left an impression on Miro which changed the course of our lives.
We flew back to Peru, and furiously started to make plans to focus of our first planned immersive family retreat into a learning community specifically designed for teens (which it is now).
Now we are on our third year of producing teen retreats in the form of an immersive learning communities known as Project World School.
We are committed to the following:
We hold the vision sacred, to co-create a learning community through the participation of all attendees, of every age, nationality, role, and walk of life during this retreat. We participate within a collective learning community allowing inspiration to flow through unlimited natural learning channels. The environment and community encourages exploring new grounds, stretching our comfort zones, and supporting our new interests, with a commitment to dignity and respect. Together we become conscious of our individual and collective world views within the context of our immersive experience. In the broader picture, we witness uncharted learning experiences that help expand individual and group identities within a cultural context serving to empower the creative human spirit. The goal is to engage all participants and encourage participation through multidisciplinary reflection, dialogue, vision-building, experimentation and exploration.
Every retreat focuses on a specific theme related to each of our host countries. In 2015 we will be hosting our first retreat in Ecuador and will host two others in Peru. Our learning communities merge immersive learning experiences with personal and social development focusing on global citizenship, cultural sensitivity, developing relationships, through exploring ethics and conflict resolution.
Participants both lead and follow in an atmosphere of dynamic co-creation and immersive discovery. Each day builds upon the last, with every exploration leading the group into uncharted directions.
However, this is not your typical study abroad program. Project World School utilizes the power of a learning community to produce a project driven by goals, knowledge acquisition, and changes in a global perspective.
Here is the 2015 schedule:
Ecuador – Surfing & Marine Conservation- April 28 – May 22, 2015
A high-octane, 25 day learning community adventure retreat in Ecuador surrounding marine biology with an emphasis on conservation, biodiversity & environmental sciences. Special bonus, surfing, biking, and snorkeling in the beautiful Ecuadorian Pacific coast exploring a little of surrounding jungle areas.
For more information, please visit: http://projectworldschool.com/ecuador-surfing-marine-biology/
Peru- Cusco & the Sacred Valley – June 29 – July 23, 2015
A 25 day learning community retreat centering in Cusco & the Sacred Valley. This retreat has an emphasis on exploring Andean culture, history, archeology and traditional artisan disciplines with a trip to the enigmatic Machu Picchu.
For more information, please visit: http://projectworldschool.com/peru-cusco-sacred-valley-retreat/
Peru- The Amazon Jungle – August 3 -August 27, 2015
A 25 day learning community retreat taking place in the Amazon rain forest, with an emphasis on conservation, sustainability, natural medicines, ethnobotany and biology.
For more information, please visit: http://projectworldschool.com/peru-the-amazon-jungle/
It sounds like you’ve got a lot planned for Project World School. What is your ultimate goal with it?
Our highest vision for Project World School is to be a catalyst for change, transforming individual world views that effect our collective perceptions of humanity. We do this through hosting immersive cultural learning experiences that promote personal development within the context of a global learning community.
We envision a time when Project World School becomes an integral part of self-directed learner’s adolescence. We envision a world where these teens go back to their homes and communities to make changes, share greater cultural awareness, and become thought leaders.
Project World School retreats will become a network of temporary learning communities throughout the world to encourage interaction before, during and after the month long events.
Since you decided to be a nomad how has your life changed for the better or worse?
When Miro and I made the decision to leave the United States in 2008, we had no intention of permanently leaving our “normal life”. We believed we’d be traveling for the duration of a year, and would be forced to return and continue our lives where we left off. Just as my son and I decided to take on this adventure together on the first place, we jointly decided to continue it as we were one year into our travels. Now five and a half years later, we both agree this was the best decision we could have made for our lives. Together my son and I have experienced so many internal changes, grown as individuals, strengthened our child / parent bond, and discovered and learned based on so many new interests.
Miro and I both are learning from the world, participating in the world and receiving a “real world” education in exchange. Together we both have had the opportunity to experience our own humanity through so many things, like volunteering, connecting with people young and old, from all walks of life and social status and together stepping outside of our comfort zones and feel safe.
In contrast to most Americans, Miro is learning that consumerism and ownership is not that important, and has seen the supply chain from sweat shops and cheap labor in some economically challenged countries, as well as visiting farms and local markets to experience the supply chain. Last, Miro experiences within himself a sense that he can really do anything in his life that he desires.
I know you are American but will all your travels do you find yourself identifying more as a world citizen or do you still strongly identify as America?
We often identify with being “global citizens” and focus on experiencing and understanding greater world perspectives.
We have experienced this in our lives through travel and bring this experience to our Project World School retreats. We feel that having the ability to adapt a greater global perspective is the key to transforming into a more peaceful world.
An example, experienced through our Ecuador Surf & Marine Biology Retreat may be spending a day with the fishermen on the coast and another day with the workers in the famous shrimp farms, both who work hard to provide for their families and seeing life through their eyes. Then spending a few days with the conservationists and learning about their concerns for a struggling ecosystem. Afterwards we participate in hands-on rescue and witness effects to the marine biology. Each person in this cycle has an individual point of view, a different concern, a contrasting world perspective. And we bring to the experience our own filters as well. It’s not about judging what is right or wrong, it’s about having the tools to process each global perspective as valid and experience life through different eyes, thus broadening our own global world views and ultimately developing greater empathy and a more peaceful world.
For parents who want to lead a nomadic life, what advice would you give them when it comes to raising a family overseas?
The best advice I can give to any family who is considering long term travel it to travel slowly. We opt to live like a visiting local away form the tourist zones. We choose to eat, shop and spend time with locals absorbing as much of the culture and fully immersing. With children, this might include putting your child into a local school. Other ideas might include volunteering or some sort of other community service. (I have an article on why we volunteer as a family here)
How do you find the balance between work/travel?
Just as we don’t separate life from learning, we don’t separate work from life. Travel is our lifestyle and since we are doing what we are truly and deeply passionate about, there is no separation between any of those aspects. Every new place we go, we are learning, we are wide-eyed and we are present. And we are always inspired and sometimes that transitions into greater projects.
As far as resources what are the best ones to use as an entrepreneur?
Online tools keep us connected to the world through social media, on top of our finances through online banking and schedules and tasks through Google Calendar . My files are managed through several tools including Evernote and Google Docs.
What is one way in which you connect with people when you travel?
We love couchsurfing.org. It has been a terrific resource for us. We loved the idea of hosting folks from other countries when we lived in Los Angeles before our travels started. We hosted people from all over the world. Then when we decided to travel ourselves, we started to “couch-surf” and stayed with families of all size, people young and old, college students and couples. We stayed with wealthy families and students who were dirt poor but all of whom opened up their homes to us and shared their country or town with us. We’ve connect with folks before visiting their country or city and always have a friend waiting for us when we arrived. We’ve connected with other travelers and over the course of the last 5 ½ years, we’ve always hosted other travelers when we’ve settled for a period of time. It’s a wonderful community and we are so glad we had this resource. Couchsurfing’s motto had been “Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch at a Time.” and we experienced just that.
Here at UYD we like to find out how people are using their difference to make a difference. What is one way you use your difference to make a difference?
We feel strongly about empowering teens and young adults to feel safe in the world, learn naturally and experience other world perspectives. We have transformed our travel adventures into a worldschooling experience to share with others. Ultimately, we want a kinder and more gentle world that is not powered by fear-based messages and perceptions. That is what we are building. That is how we are making a difference.
Tell us how you see multicultural individuals making an impact in the world.
To learn “empathy” is merely an intellectual exercise. To see the world through someone else’s eyes plants the seeds of compassion and creates a deep connection to other global perspectives creating a kinder and gentler world.
That is greatest the impact multicultural individuals can make.
Where can we find out more about you and what are you up to?