2015 started with what would become a major theme: driving.
Beautiful, snowy, desolate Central Utah
I found myself becoming very familiar with Interstate 80 and Highway 50 as I drove from California to Colorado and back multiple times this year, and later, all the way to the east coast and back.
What was I doing out there in Colorado? I summed it up in my mid-2015 year in review. Essentially, I spent much of the winter and spring in Boulder recording a new podcast, playing around with different ideas for online businesses (none of which panned out – here’s why), trail running, and taking some serious time to rediscover my creative muse and figure out my next steps. I often felt lost without a writing project or trip to lead. It was a challenging but ultimately necessary time.
Other highlights of the winter & spring included:
House- and dog-sitting for my friends in South Lake Tahoe. Tahoe received almost no snow last winter, freeing me and Lassen (above, canine) to trail run to our heart’s contents.
Doing presentations and teen workshops in LA, Chicago, and Virginia. Here I’m giving the keynote at a Virginia home educator’s conference.
Helping to organize a work party on Ronona Ranch, home of my friends The Roddys, and a potential space for future Unschool Adventures retreats.
Backpacking the Lost Coast (in far Northern California) for my friend Nate’s bachelor’s party. (Photo: Becky C.)
Come June, my heart told me to go where it always tells me to go in the summer:
Google Maps knows my priorities.
I returned to South Lake Tahoe, the closest thing I have to a home, and rented myself a one-bedroom house. A real house! All my own!
Okay, it’s more like a rustic cabin. But still real! And still my own!
A summer of adventure ensued with copious amounts of swimming, trail running, biking, backpacking, friends and family visiting, and hosting Couchsurfers (almost all of them from Spain—I don’t know why). I worked a brief spell as a backcountry cook for a Tahoe Rim Trail trail crew, served as a medical volunteer at the Western States 100 ultramarathon, and upped my self-supported backcountry running abilities.
Working on the Tahoe Rim Trail with Morgan
Tahoe, I love your mountains.
Tahoe, I love your lake.
Tahoe, I love you.
A few extra special summer highlights included:
A hardcore off-trail 4-day backpacking trip on the Sierra High Route with my friends Matt, Julie, and Morgan. (Photo: Morgan F.)
Visiting family in Connecticut for my grandpa’s 85th birthday
Watching my dad (left, robed) perform a major role in a Shakespeare performance
Working at the Not Back to School Camp: my tenth summer! Here I’m attempting to name each of the ~85 campers as my staff talent performance on the second night of camp. (Photo: Nathen L.)
Last but certainly not least: Running 32 miles on the John Muir Trail with my friend Hannah.
Wondering how I afford to do all this stuff without working full-time? I wonder myself sometimes. Then I look at my detailed month-by-month budget and remember. Essentially, I saved a good chunk of money by running three Unschool Adventures programs in 2014, and I used that to exist for the first half of 2015. I also earned side incomes through my presentations/workshops, private education coaching, staffing at Not Back to School Camp, and monthly book royalties from my two self-published titles.
Come mid-September, it was time to move out of the Tahoe house and get back on the proverbial saddle. I drove back to Colorado (my fifth voyage) to start my longest and most ambitious teen program: The Adventure Semester.
For 10 weeks I had the pleasure of working with 23 teens and 7 fellow staff in a full-time sleepover program meant to build leadership, teamwork, organization, and self-directed learning skills. We spent the first five weeks on Dev Carey’s off-grid High Desert Center property in Paonia, the next four weeks in the Crested Butte hostel (which we rented in its entirety), and the final week in a downtown Denver hostel. Each weekday was a brand-new adventure, and by all accounts the program was a success. Visit AdventureSemester.com to browse the many videos and blog posts we produced throughout the adventure. Below are some of my favorite moments.
Our entire group (minus Marian, Rutabega, and Ariel) at the High Desert Center
On the summit of Mt. Lamborn, outside Paonia, with aspen colors in full force.
Every weeknight of the Adventure Semester, groups presented about their day’s challenge—often hilariously.
Looking for the lunar eclipse over Paonia.
An evening meeting in the Crested Butte hostel
On the day that teens gave us challenges, Eric and I just felt fabulous
My fearless road-trip adventure group, somewhere outside Aspen.
For the final Denver challenge, I blindfolded four of the teens and dropped them in Boulder with special missions.
The Adventure Semester wrapped up in mid-November, after which I drove eastward to begin a month-long road trip to visit family and friends in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Indiana, and Missouri. I also attended my first blues dance festival and gave a couple well-received presentations at self-directed learning centers. My favorite moment was when I met John Taylor Gatto, my long-time teacher-hero, at his apartment in NYC. (It was the third time I’d met him, and our longest conversation yet.)
John Taylor Gatto: age 80, bed-ridden, and still kicking ass. (Here’s the Facebook post about the visit – my most popular post, ever, by far.)
I drove back to the west coast in time for Christmas with my bay area family, and then promptly boarded a plane for Oaxaca, Mexico, where I’m currently typing this post. By tomorrow I’ll be in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, where I’ll spend my January learning Spanish and writing, followed by a U.A. New Zealand adventure, 3 weeks of solo adventure time in New Zealand, and then 5 weeks in Buenos Aires to lay the groundwork for a 12-week U.A. Argentina Semester and dance a bunch of tango.
I’m still not very good at answering that age-old question:
…but after my travels in spring 2016, I expect to be back in South Lake Tahoe for the summer and early fall, and then leading another Unschool Adventures trip in the autumn. But who knows for sure? You’ll just need to read my 2016 in Review.
I spent a lot of time in my head this year, and in the process I think I learned a few important things about myself. I rekindled my creative muse and appreciation for trip leading, and I have a few interesting work opportunities on the horizon. All in all, it was a good year.
As always—thanks for following along.