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Announcing: Off-Trail Learning & How to Live Nowhere

I just launched two big new projects!

Off-Trail Learning

Off-Trail Learning is a new website I’ve created for young people (ages 14-21) who aren’t satisfied with traditional education and want to blaze their own trails through life. I’m also restarting my podcast under the same name—listen to the first new episode here. If you know a young person who wants to take more control of their education, send them to Off-Trail Learning! (Thankfully this means I’m not paying $1000 to Trump.)

How to Live Nowhere

How to Live Nowhere is an online book I’ve created to explain the nomadic way of life that I (any many others) lead. It’s for twenty- and thirty-somethings who want a location-independent lifestyle that’s mentally, emotionally, financially, and romantically sustainable. After writing the initial content in January I spent the last few months polishing it and creating a gorgeous new website.

How to Be Interesting

On my recent Unschool Adventures New Zealand trip, I started a list entitled “WAYS TO BE INTERESTING / MAKE FRIENDS / CREATE NEW OPPORTUNITIES”.

Being “interesting” is a mysterious characteristic that many people want but no one is exactly sure how to obtain. I was ruminating on this and decided to attempt to create a list of simple, positive prescriptions that might make someone more interesting.

(Of course, “interesting” depends on the company you keep. It’s not so simple. Really, this was about what I, weirdo Blake Boles, along with the other weirdos in my group, found interesting. Bias acknowledged!)

My trip co-leaders and participants gave me lots of useful feedback. Here are the highlights:

  • Obtain traditional success and then give it up.
  • Go on a long human-powered journey (e.g. walking, biking).
  • Speak candidly (or write publicly) about your failures and struggles.
  • Curate the best links/articles/resources about a topic near to your heart, and share them.
  • Organize a community skill-share.
  • Host potlucks and dinner parties.
  • Partner dance.
  • Do extreme personal growth challenges.
  • Break minor rules.
  • Find ways to get something for free that others pay for (ethically).
  • Speak a second language.
  • Be an active listener.
  • Craft things by hand.
  • Build your own house.
  • Give valuable things away without expectation of repayment.
  • Actively seek out people who challenge your beliefs.
  • Put down your goddamn phone/laptop.
  • Travel without a fixed plan/itinerary.
  • Be comfortable with silence.
  • Figure out your communication style and attempt to improve its weaknesses.
  • Vow to never complain.
  • Give free walking tours of your local area.
  • Use Couchsurfing to meet and/or host travelers.
  • Actively acknowledge what you’re grateful for.
  • Don’t do something just for the sake of being interesting.

What are we missing?

Original list:

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Is Following Your Passion a Bad Idea?

sogoodtheycantignore-coverSo Good They Can’t Ignore You is a book I’ve been ignoring for a long time.

Published in 2012, the book’s author Cal Newport—author of How to Become a Straight-A Student, How to Be a High School Superstar, How to Win at College—struck me as suspiciously straight-laced and unquestioning of traditional education. A brief examination of his personal story revealed an extremely high-achieving, productivity-obsessed Ivy League graduate who seemed to have played by all the rules, profited handsomely, and now peddled the idea that “following your passion is dangerous advice” (the central theme of his book). This felt like a book I could indeed ignore. It’s also possible that I wanted to avoid confronting criticism of my own 2012 book, Better Than College, which promoted the “follow your passion” philosophy.

But over the years I also noticed that Cal writes an insightful blog and seems like a genuinely good person. He’s received endorsements from many authors who I admire and have endorsed my own work: Daniel Pink, Derek Sivers, Seth Godin, and Ben Casnocha. And, I had to admit, the “don’t follow your passion” thesis compelled me by the sheer virtue of its contrarianism. Having just finished leading 11 teenagers around New Zealand’s South Island for 6 weeks and feeling reflective about my own career, I bought the Kindle edition and read it in 2 days.

Here’s the deal: Newport’s book makes valid points that will help recent graduates and mid-career professionals think about their next big moves. But its central thesis—that following your passion is a bad idea—is dangerously oversimplified. The real message in this book is: when you follow your passions, make well-informed decisions instead of impulsive ones. Continue Reading

Pay Yourself in Time, Not Money

I’m 33, and last year I earned $30,000.

Perhaps that should give me pause. Compared to other male college graduates who make $65,000 around my age—or my peers in tech who make much more—I’m seriously lagging.

I’m not that concerned. In fact, I feel utterly rich, because last year I took home another income: 8 months of my life.

To explain: I’m a self-employed travel tour leader. I work intensively for brief periods of time (e.g. leading a 6-week trip across New Zealand), earn a chunk of money, and then stop working. I’m also a writer who brings in roughly $600/month from two self-published books that largely sell themselves on Amazon. Occasionally I do paid speaking gigs and private education coaching.

In 2015 I earned my $30,000 doing the equivalent of 4 months full-time labor. The majority of that time was spent trip-leading; the rest accrued from the 1-2 hours of laptop work that I do most days of the week (business e-mails, trip planning, writing, coaching).

Another way to see it: I earn $90,000 per year, but I take two-thirds of my compensation in the form of unadulterated free time.

I choose to pay myself in time, not money, because it’s a better currency for obtaining what really matters to me.
Continue Reading

What I’m Doing in Guatemala

This summer I found cheap plane tickets to Guatemala, so I decided to spend my January in the city of Xela (a.k.a. Quetzaltenango).

When friends ask what I’m doing in Guatemala, my answers include:

  • brushing up on my Spanish with 2 hours a day of one-on-one tutoring
  • working on a new writing project, with fewer distractions than I’d have back in the U.S.
  • developing new Unschool Adventures trips
  • hanging out with my long-lost friend David, who lives in Xela, and making friends with other travelers and expats
  • enjoying living in my own 1BR apartment on the third floor of a nice building overlooking the city (price: $450/mo, which all my new Xela friends tell me is terribly expensive…ha! $450 would buy me a nice parking spot in San Francisco)
  • escaping the U.S. winter in favor of the sun, mild temperatures (high 70 / low 50), and longer days of Central America

But the real answer is: I’m doing the exact same things that I do back in the United States.

Something I love about my location-independent life is that work, travel, and vacation all sort of blend together. Here in Guatemala I don’t feel the need to “see the sights”, hike volcanos, go out every night, or check off any boxes. I’m not traveling around the region. I’m living the same life and doing the same work that I do when living in the U.S., with a few fringe benefits like inexpensive food, housing, and Spanish lessons.

I’m not traveling. I’m not on vacation. I’m just here, being Blake, in Guatemala. It’s really nice.

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My 1BR apartment overlooking Xela