What to expect when expecting natural learners in Peru?
I wasn’t sure what to expect actually, but I knew it was going to be fun, regardless! Not only fun for both Miro and I, but fun, life-changing and eye-opening for the unschoolers joining us. And today, marks the end of the first week of a full 5 week visit. I’ll summarize what we’ve done so, but as you know, we’re not a travel blog filled with itineraries, we’re here to share our experiences and how they affect us as human beings. But on that note, the things we do are always the outward expressions that spark the inner experiences which is where the REAL traveling happens.
Let’s back up. In case you aren’t following us on social media and have just happened to stumble upon this blog post, let me give you a bit of background. Miro and I are full-time travelers who are feeling our way around the world. We are unschooling, partnering in our lives, and committed to being present for each other, guided by inspiration. We share those experiences here on our blog…. I’m pretty sure most of you knew that already.
This past spring Miro and I presented at our first unschooling conference, located in the United States. We came to unschooling accidentally, actually, which is something we talked about in our conference presentation. However, it was a natural lifestyle choice for us and we both continue to learn, follow our passions and enjoy our lives.
As a result of visiting the Sacred Valley last year, Miro and I had a vision to bring unschoolers to Peru to experience the magic that so enchanted us. We’ve been in the planning stages of an unschooling retreat, focused on teens and families. Our retreat was originally planned for June of this year, right now actually, but we didn’t have enough folks signed up so we decided to reschedule the retreat for November 5 – November 20 this year. And from the feedback we’ve received, we’ll sell this event out and schedule another one for the following year… For more information about the retreat, please do visit our retreat site here.
But just because we canceled, postponed, and rescheduled the retreat, didn’t mean there still weren’t those interested in coming to Peru. I mean who wouldn’t be? So conversations and plans started to form. First, it started with Luke, who serves as the teen leader at two of the radical unschooling conferences in the States. Luke has an amazing relationship with the teens in the unschooling community and their parents alike. And he wanted to come to Peru to experience “our Peru” inspired by our lives. (how cool!) And because Luke was coming, I think it was easier to have this free flowing trip unfold which included the participation of three other teenagers accompanying him and staying with us.
This trip, however is not the retreat and we are not being paid for hosting this group. We are sharing our time, our home, our resources, our hearts and our souls with this group because it makes us happy.
So, conversations started between me and the parents and Luke and the parents. Miro and I started to think about how and where we were going to host, and things we were going to do. We had a lot of relationships developed through planning the retreat. We had done a lot of research and were familiar with the pricing. Both Miro and I have traveled extensively throughout the Sacred Valley and although we weren’t producing a formal retreat for these teens, we have all the support in place.
For me, it’s the greatest honor being entrusted with these teens to be able to share our world with them. And for all intents and purposes, for the 6 weeks, I have become Mom to four teenagers (including Miro).
That might sound crazy to some, but to me, the teenager years are the most incredible, inspirational, informative, expressive and explorative years. What a complete honor to be able to share that with this group!
So, meet the teens, there’s Ben, Xavia, Devin and Miro. Then there’s two 20-somethings, Luke and his friend Shauntae. Add me to the mix and we’ve got an incredible dynamic smiling group.
The first week is coming to a close. I wanted to share with you some of the highlights from my perspective, so far.
Peru meet our Group, Group meet Peru
Miro and I took the 22 hour bus to Lima so we could meet the group at the airport. We held invisible signs at first then we made silly signs to hold that made us laugh. Miro was beyond excited to see 3 of his unschooling friends and Luke (the big kid) and was so looking forward to sharing his world with the group.
(And I was so happy that this was possible for him too.)
The exhausted group made it in one piece after many hours of travel. Driving from the airport to the hostel was entertaining, “Wow, look at that! What does that mean in Spanish? Why is that like that?”
The questions kept coming, the enthusiasm was contagious and the laughter was a constant roar. We were seeing from the observers perspective that slice of pure presence, the “in-the-moment” experience that connects a person with life, and pure joy. Such an honor.
We stayed at fabulous hostel called The House Project. The staff was amazing and the hammocks in the center of the courtyard presented the perfect hang out space. I realized that the traveler’s life style for us is familiar, but for everyone of the teens this is their first experience at a traveler’s hostel. Additionally, this was Luke’s first time out of the country so new experiences were to be had by all.
Every one slept in a dorm room. The 4 boys were in one room complete with four beds, and Xavia, Shauntee and I were in another room upstairs from them. Our dorm room had 2 extra beds and each of the three nights we were there, they were filled with other travelers from faraway places. If you’ve never traveled or slept with strangers in the same room, I can imagine that might be a significantly new experience. Nothing, oh nothing is taken for granted when experiencing travel through the eyes of a first time traveler.
The first morning, we all met for breakfast at the hostel, a perk included in our nightly dorm bed price. I’m certain the group was not likely accustomed to eating simply what was served, versus choosing what they wanted. Breakfast contained bread and butter with jam, scrambled eggs, coffee or tea. It’s a small thing, but as a traveler on a budget, we were grateful breakfast was included. For a first time traveler on a budget, it was a new experience being grateful for what was offered.
Group on a budget
This group is on a serious budget. Based on the time Luke could get off work and the best prices for airline tickets, their visit is going to end up being 6 weeks. However, the budget for each person is very small, only $1000 per person for the duration. That causes limits on what we can and cannot do. But not to worry.
The first morning in Lima, we all met for our first budget meeting. We divided the overall budget by the time they will be here. 1000 divided by 6 = $166 dollars they can spend a week.
But first we had to factor in some of the “hard costs”.
Miro and I live in a teeny tiny house. We wished we could host everyone, but it’s just not possible. So we cleared our the furniture in our living room which also serves as Miro’s bedroom and put everything on the balcony. Before everyone arrived I purchased 3 mattresses which we put on the floor, so everyone has a place to sleep. The room with the mattresses on the ground and the teens in their own sleeping bags provides ample space for 3 teenagers, including Miro. But what to do with the other 3 people? We looked high and low to rent another small apartment that was close to us, and super cheap. That was difficult because it’s high season here in Cusco, but we did manage to find a super cute 1 bedroom. That serves as the home for the other 3 folks. The cost for that apartment is 750 soles a month or roughly $275. So, that meant each of the 5 travelers, 3 teens included, needed to contribute $60 each for the cost of the second apartment.
Next we had to look at getting to Cusco. I proposed two options.
First, take a bus on the southern loop, taking our time to Cusco, breaking up the bus ride. The first stop would be Huacachino where we would spend the night in a hostel, go sand surfing and dune-buggy riding. Cost for that would be about 150 soles per person, roughly $50. From there, I proposed we stop in Arequipa, maybe take a two day trek through the Colca Canyon to see the condors (which we haven’t done yet!). Through research, I’ve been able to surmise that excursion would cost about $75 for 2 days and with the transportation and food we were estimating about $125 total. Without the trek, Arequipa would cost about another $50. After that, we’d take the overnight bus to Puno, stay the night at Lake Titicaca. That excursion and overnight stay would cost around $50 also. Last, we’d take the bus to Cusco, arriving at their new temporary home.
The second option was going straight to Cusco from Lima. Flights cost $150 each way, which takes one hour. However the bus ride costs $60 or 160 soles but takes 22 hours. After much discussion, the group looked at their budget and voted on taking the bus and heading straight to Cusco after Lima.
This is really the first time the teenagers are responsible for managing their own money and accountable for their own spending, especially for something such as their living expenses. This is big and it’s a real life lesson. And such an honor to be a part of this process with them.
We decided to stay in Lima for three nights and although we did splurge on one fabulous all-you-can-eat-sushi night, the group managed to start thinking frugally.
The first day we took the group to the quaint ruins called Huaca Pucllana ruins, located in Miraflores, a suburb of Lima. It was the first time any of our group have ever roamed through an ancient ruins built by an ancient civilization. I admit, I love history, anthropology and culture and my enthusiasm was enough to carry the group, but we actually had a blast!
The rest of the time, we explored our surroundings, went to the Malecon, half the group rented surf boards and headed to the ocean. We played in the park and generally the teens settled into enjoying each other’s company, playing fantasy imagination games and telling Chuck Norris jokes.
We took public local transportation, jumping on a crowded collectivo to visit the magic water park (Magico Circuito del Agua). It was an eye-opening experience for them to sit on a crowded small van that stuffs passengers in like sardines and creaks, rattles and jiggles with every turn. Eyes wide open and laughter brought us to our destination where we all played in the water. We found trees to climb, fountains to temp, teenage girls celebrating their quincenieras in ball gowns to photo bomb. So much fun!
Spanish, Spanish, Spanish!
Everyone was speaking Spanish around us. Soon the quesitons came, “how do I say this _____ in Spanish? How do I say that?” Then it turned into “¿Cómo se dice…?” and the Spanish started rolling! Then Miro led informal Spanish classes and everyone’s vocabulary is starting to expand. Even the Chuck Norris jokes were translated into Spanish.
On the Go!
The 22 hour bus ride went, well….. ok when we were driving down the coast. But the turns and curves weren’t easy on 3 of the teens, who managed to throw up all over themselves and the floor around them. Neither Miro nor I get motion sickness and our tolerance for these sorts of travel adventures seem to much higher (and we’ve certainly had some travel adventures in the past!).
We had opted for one of the most luxurious bus lines Oltursa, which had reclining seats, which made such a comfortable sleep for us on previous trips. Our hearts went out for those who had a rough time, but there was nothing we could do, as the bus pushed onward.
We eventually made it to Cusco and not a moment too soon. The thin morning air temped our lungs as we made our way to our tiny house on the hill. Up the steps we went, each traveler carrying their load, packs, suitcases, carry ons and camera bags. Excited to be here, but weighted down by the thin air, up the stairs we moved as if our legs were in quick sand. And the rapid heart beating reminded us to take it slow in the higher altitude. Later everyone settled in, rested and focused on recuperating from the long bus ride. Coca tea, lots of water and glorious sleep are the traveler’s best friend.
We’ve spent our first few days here in Cusco taking it easy, going to the market, sharing the lay of the land. Our friend and ethnobotonist, Scott, did a market presentation and shared his knowledge of the sacred plants of Peru.
The teens have been non stop role playing, acting silly, watching movies and giggling. The giggling. The most glorious sound filling our tiny house.
Last night we devised a system for meals, planning and budgets. We created a board where everyone can record their spending so they can be accountable to THEMSELVES. We also agreed to shop communally and create a dinner schedule leaving space for people to sign up for that night’s dinner.
Some of the observations within myself, I’d like to share.
First, I’ve committed to myself to let go of “clean kitchen syndrome” for the duration of our time together. I have replaced my former position with “happy kitchen syndrome” and have left space for this new definition to fill itself out.
Second, I am grateful we put the drape up creating an enclosed space for the teens. The former furniture from the living room populates our two balconies now and my bedroom. With nothing in the “teen zone” but the mattresses on the floor and a few table surfaces, I thought they could divide that space and unpack. Nope. Stuff all over, scattered about, thrown and tossed with so much freedom. I love it!
I LOVE IT EVEN MORE, SINCE I DONT’ HAVE TO SEE IT!!!
Lastly, I’m grateful I have a door on my bedroom. It allows me to stay in here and get some writing done, like this blog post.
I’m loving our first week together, and if I had to say there was a theme, it would be “foundations” of life. I await with so much excitement to see how the rest of the adventure unfolds together.
As I write this a chorus of laughter comes from the next room, behind the curtain.
I’m filled with so much joy in this moment.
(for more photos by the amazing and talented Xavia Claire Vicente, please visit her at flickr.)
Read the entire Unschooling in Peru Adventure here, by week: