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2017 in Review

Welcome to my annual year-in-review post. I had a very busy 2017, jam-packed with adventures and travel. Let’s see where I’ve been!

Medellín

In January I escaped to the southern hemisphere with my good friend Julie to explore Medellín, Colombia: a place that has called to me for years. We split an Airbnb, hiked, and worked on personal projects. This is where The Way of Adventure, my free online course, was born.

Yours truly and Julie overlooking Medellín

Buenos Aires

The next twelve weeks I spent leading the Unschool Adventures Argentina Semester. This was my longest program, the first I led alone, and the first offered exclusively for ages 18+. The 16 young adults participants lived in three group apartments in three different neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, and I met them periodically for social events, meals, and adventures. I enjoyed my own high-rise apartment and an actual personal life and social life (gasp!) on an Unschool Adventures trip—another first. Here are more trip photos.

The Argentina Semester group with Spanish teachers Facundo & Virginia

Since my first Unschool Adventures trip to Argentina in 2008, I’ve had an on-and-off love affair with Argentine Tango; on this trip I fully indulged that affair by dedicating taking 10 weeks of private lessons with my teacher Alejandro Puerta. We danced stubble-to-stubble for an hour and a half, twice a week, in his private studio. I attended milongas (social tango dances) across the city at night, and I finally conquered my anxiety of asking total strangers to dance.

While in Argentina I also redesigned the Unschool Adventures website, wrote and delivered a new education talk, and then turned that talk into a new article of which I’m proud.

Europe

After a quick stop in the U.S. to attend a fusion dance weekend, I jetted to Europe in May to give a talk homeschooling teens & parents in England and visit friends in Scotland, Norway, Denmark, and northern Germany: all new places for me. Then it was time for some hiking.

While I’ve known about the Camino de Santiago for a long time, its flatness and crowdedness turned me off. But then I discovered that the “Camino” is actually 7+ different routes, and two of them—the Camino del Norte and Camino Primitivo—offered more challenging terrain and far fewer peregrinos (pilgrims). I spent two weeks hiking on these Caminos in northern Spain, and they did not disappoint. The best part was the warm community of fellow peregrinos with whom I shared the hike.

On the Camino Primitivo in northern Spain

After the Camino I spent a few weeks with friends in Valencia and Barcelona, both of which captured my heart. I loved Spain so much, in fact, that I designed a 6-week Spain trip for teens in May/June 2018 (that includes 2 weeks hiking on the Camino del Norte and 2 weeks in Barcelona) that filled up quickly.

At the very end of my time I joined another fusion dance festival in rural southern Spain—a truly memorable event. I left Europe with warm feelings and an enthusiasm to return again soon.

West Coast U.S.A.

In July I made a quick stop in New York to help run a super-secret adult summer camp—no further comment—and then spent a month in South Lake Tahoe, my seasonal home-base in the mountains of California, where I backpacked with friends, and hosted Couchsurfers, and got my life in order after 6 months abroad.

In August I presented at California’s biggest homeschooling conference, ran a short dance-oriented teen trip in Colorado, and worked my twelfth season of Not Back to School Camp in Oregon. A small group of friends and I summited Mount Whitney (the highest peak in the lower 48 states) in one day, an outdoor goal that had long eluded me.

Me and Fred on the approach to Whitney at 5:30am.

September is my favorite month to be in the mountains, and this year I dedicated it to another long-held dream: living really close to the wilderness. I rented a tiny apartment outside Bishop, California, where I did some epic trail running and backpacking in the highest of the High Sierras. I also created Launchpad (my first paid online course) and redesigned blakeboles.com.

At the end of the month I enjoyed yet another fusion dance festival in Seattle an zipped over to Europe for 2 weeks to visit a nice woman I met earlier that year. Then I zipped back to California to prepare for…

Southeast Asia

With my head still spinning from jet lag, I met 11 teen unschoolers and 2 other trip leaders in San Francisco to begin the 7-week Southeast Asia trip. The group started in northern Thailand and ventured through Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia before departing from Bangkok. We gave the teens lots of freedom to design their daily experiences; the intention was to beef up their abilities to design and lead their own travel adventures in the future. Here are more trip photos.

The Southeast Asia group outside Luang Prabang, Laos.

Like all Unschool Adventures trips, this one was different and brand-new from all others, and while I considered it a success I didn’t feel inspired to return to Asia anytime soon; the language barrier made it difficult to escape the role of tourist.

I spent the final few weeks of December celebrating the holidays with family and friends across the United States. But the travel adventures weren’t over, as I boarded a plane to Paris to join a New Year’s Eve fusion dance festival with that same mystery woman. A wonderful end to a wonderful year.


Lastly, a follow up. Last year I tried to predict “what 3-5 things will have made the year amazing.” My predictions included:

  • running the Argentina Semester and Southeast Asia trip
  • doing a speaking tour abroad
  • dedicating myself to tango and fusion dancing
  • launching my first online course
  • spending 30+ days in the wilderness

The results?

  • Unschool Adventures trips are always amazing—mostly thanks to the wonderful young people I with whom I have the privilege to work.
  • I did speak abroad, but only twice. The full-fledged tour is happening in 2018.
  • Dancing: check! Taking 10 weeks of private tango lessons, dancing with strangers in Buenos Aires, and going to 4 different fusion events were, indeed, amazing.
  • While I did launch The Way of Adventure and Launchpad, neither felt like the best use of my time.
  • I only spent about 10 days in the wilderness: a minimal amount, but satisfying.

As I wrap up this year, I’m onky one big commitment for next year is: I’m going to waste less time on social media and my phone. A few ways I’m intending to do this include:

  • restricting my Facebook access to one day a week
  • removing all social media apps from my phone
  • disabling email notifications on my phone
  • keeping my phone outside of my bedroom (to prevent early morning and late night use)

As I explore a new career trajectory in 2018, I intend on doing some seriously deep work. I’ve got no time to waste. Let’s see how it goes.

Thanks for reading and caring. Until next year!

—Blake

(If you enjoyed this post, you can check out similar posts from 2016, 2015201420132012, and 2011.)

Published December 13th, 2017.