Hi everyone—here’s your autumn edition of la vida de Blake: an update on my projects, programs, dreams, schemes, successes, failures, plans, and travels.
Right now I’m in the middle of running the Adventure Semester: the longest, most structured, and most ambitious program that my little company has ever offered.
If summer camp and boarding school had a baby—and it enrolled a bunch of unschoolers—it would look like the Adventure Semester. The idea of the program is that each weekday, a group of 4-5 teens work together to complete a unique adventure challenge that’s fun, growth-promoting, and meaningful, mentored by a staff member. Between Dev (my co-director), myself, our six staff, 23 teenage participants, and 10 weeks of challenges, that’s enough action to keep a grown man occupied during most of his waking hours. (Luckily I can still steal an hour or two in the early mornings—like right now, 7:05am, sitting in a cafe in downtown Paonia—to remember that life exists outside our little bubble.)
The coolest part about the Adventure Semester is that we’re documenting it heavily and sharing everything online, as it happens. On AdventureSemester.com you can browse all the challenges we’ve done so far, the brief daily videos and blog posts that our groups create to summarize their experiences, and beautiful weekly highlight reel videos.
It feels great to be back in the saddle and personally working face-to-face long-term with young people after taking a year-long break from running programs after last fall’s Nepal adventure. This kind of work creates an unmatched feeling of power and magic in my life.
The Adventure Semester group in Paonia
Directly after the Adventure Semester, I’m embarking on six months of world travel for both work and pleasure. Here’s the rough itinerary:
- Nov/Dec: Road-tripping to New England to visit family & friends and then back to California
- Jan: Spending one month in Xela, Guatemala to beef up my Spanish, learn to dance salsa, and scout for a possible U.A. program
- Feb/Mar: Leading the Unschool Adventures Simply New Zealand adventure with 11 teens
- Mar/Apr: Spending three weeks in New Zealand to trail run and explore new destinations
- Apr/May: Spending one month in Buenos Aires, Argentina to dance tango and scout for a possible U.A. program
- May: Back to the U.S.
Why don’t I stay in one place? Why am I traveling so much? The short answer is: because I can. More precisely: because I’m unattached to a lease or mortgage or significant other, I still love independent travel (and the interesting people I meet along the way), I despise the winter (thank you, southern hemisphere), I’m inspired to become a better partner dancer, my creative voice desires the stimulation that travel provides, and I can afford it. I seriously doubt that I’ll regret traveling as much as possible while I still can—so that’s exactly what I’m doing.
I started The Real Education Podcast early this year as an experiment in digital publishing, a way to reach new audiences, an excuse to meet new people, and a fun side project.
From February through August I dutifully published one episode a week (and then, after reflection, once every other week). The podcast never “took off” in the viral sense—not that I expect any alternative education podcast to go viral—but it has garnered over 9,000 unique episode downloads thus far, gave me the chance to interview some neat people, and earned enough money through donations to cover its equipment and first year of operating costs. I also received a few nice emails and other appreciative feedback about the show: a currency in itself.
In September, as I geared up for the Adventure Semester, I stopped interviewing and producing episodes—and that’s where I remain. I know I’ve got at least one more interview in me because I have 19 episodes and I’d prefer a nice round 20 (twice the number of my original goal), and I’ve got the perfect interview subject standing in front of me each day: my co-director Dev Carey. After that episode, I’m not sure if and when I’ll continue podcasting. I won’t take my nice microphone with me on my international travels, so the show will almost certainly stay dormant for that period. What 2016 holds for the Real Education Podcast, we’ll see.
For years I’ve schemed and dreamed about starting an all-online program for self-directed teens: something that could enable me to work from anywhere in the world, positively affect more young people, have a more consistent monthly income, and exercise my creative muscles between face-to-face programs.
This summer I piloted one version of the Online-Coaching-Microschool-Hybrid-Thingy with a handful of teens, and it went well. I threw the same idea out to a bunch of trustworthy adults for feedback, and it received positive reviews. But ultimately the idea hasn’t left me saying hell yeah instead of no. So I’ve decided to chill out, wait, marinate, and revisit it after the Adventure Semester. Stay tuned.
Hogwarts and New U.A. Programs
I have nothing new to report about the Hogwarts project since my mid-2015 review; it’s still in stasis. As for new Unschool Adventures programs, I’m scheming a long (10-12 week) Argentina Semester for 18-21 year olds, a 4-week Writing-and-Partner-Dancing Retreat for teens, a 4-week How to Move Out of Your Parent’s House retreat for teens (run by my friend Matt Sanderson), and perhaps a Guatemala Spanish and Salsa Intensive. Possibilities abound, and nothing is set in stone. And if you’re wondering if the Adventure Semester is happening again, it definitely might—but Dev and I are waiting till this first program ends to make that decision.
What is Home?
Remember when I said I’d buy a house in Tahoe? Well, I ended up renting a house in Tahoe this summer, and it was awesome. I hosted lots of friends and Couchsurfers, felt a sense of place and “home” in the High Sierra, and… was glad that I didn’t have to continue dealing with it after the summer. So I’m torn on the home ownership thing; it continues to be a clear life goal, but I’m not sure if playing landlord while the travel bug still bites is the best idea.
Home—for now—will continue to be wherever I rest my head. (And probably Lake Tahoe again next summer.)
As a nomad, blog posts like these (and my newsletter) are the best way to keep everyone updated on my life. Thanks for being a part of it.
My autumn home at the Adventure Semester