“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” – Jack Kerouac
Lainie & Miro are experiencing a global education through world travel.
Miro & Lainie (mother 51 and 19 year old son) share their adventures from the Road of Life, discussing issues of humanity, global citizenship, unschooling & worldschooling, slow travel, family travel, volunteering, travel inspiration & living in the moment as they explore the big beautiful planet, they call home.
On their tenth year of travel, 36 countries and many personal changes later, Lainie & Miro continue to slow travel, living an inspired possession-free-lifestyle, volunteering and learning naturally from the world. They are following their interests on the road, as the planet has been transformed into their classroom. Often you will hear Lainie say “we are blessed to be accidental unschoolers” and has become and an advocate for “life learning” at any age. Lainie & Miro describe their greatest accomplishment as the ability to participate in the world without fear.
Now, after having led this lifestyle for over half his life, Miro now writes articles about responsible travel, cultural immersion and learning from travel, as well as articles that detail some of his experiences and outlooks as a grown worldschooler. Having come out the other side, he now wishes to support and encourage the community he helped create and establish with his mother on their 10 year experiment.
Q & A with Raising Miro
We wanted to share our story with you and felt the easiest way to do so was through a little Q & A. If you have other questions for us, please send us a note through our contact form. These questions are addressed to Lainie, and will hopefully give you inspiration and a better idea of where we came from and how we’ve grown these last 10 years.
Why did you start raisingmiro.com?
Miro and I set out on a one year journey in mid-2009. We intended on traveling from the United States to Argentina over the course of that year. We started that blog to capture the memories of our travels, share with friends and family and create a record of our experiences. We had no idea we’d actually be creating a community and help other families to step out of their comfort zones and learn to trust their inspiration. Oh, and we just started on our seventh year and we still haven’t made it as far south as Argentina, but know one day we will.
What made us decide to leave a “normal” life and travel long term?
When Miro and I made the decision to leave the United States in 2008, we had no intention of permanently leaving our “normal life”. We believed we’d be traveling for the duration of a year, and would be forced to return and continue our lives where we left off. Just as my son and I decided to take on this adventure together on the first place, we jointly decided to continue it as we were one year into our travels. Now four years later, we both agree this was the best decision we could have made for our lives. Together my son and I have experienced so many internal changes, grown as individuals, strengthened our child / parent bond, and discovered and learned based on so many new interests.
Traveling as a single parent has challenges, what has been the most difficult part?
I actually have nothing to compare it to since I’ve been a single mom since the time my son was born. I am accustomed to being the primary care-taker and although the parenting challenges change as Miro grows, I can’t honestly say what the hardest part is. We just keep making adjustments, and I’m not sure if they are unique to being a traveling family or not. But the hardest part of being a single parent has always been maintaining time for myself, making space for a personal life. But that’s not really a travel specific issue.
How do you handle education? What does a typical “school” day look like?
As we started our trip, I had no idea such a thing called “unschooling” existed. However I noticed Miro was talking about geography, sociology, history, economics, mythology, language and second language, literature, math, science. I sat back one night and realized how brilliant the idea of having the world teach my son was! Engage in life and children (and adults) learn!
Soon thereafter, I discovered the formal name for what we were doing as ‘unschooling’. In some circles it’s called “radically unschooling”, “worldschooling” and “roadschooling”. There are similar principals to each of those ‘disciplines’ which is based on child-led learning. This is a radical departure form homeschooling circles that teach a formal curriculum only in the home environment.
The philosophy behind unschooling is that children will learn what they need to know when they are ready and want to learn it and this flows through every other aspect of life. The whole essence of unschooling is that children, when empowered, will learn based on their individual interests.
I’ve seen games spark Miro’s interest in mythology, quantum physics, history and culture. We’ve had an open platform to discuss humanity, violence, and choices because of video games. I’ve also seen Miro’s research skills improve as the internet and google are second nature to him. I didn’t like going to the library to research when I was his age because it was so overwhelming for me. To have the library at your fingertips is a drastic change for this generation.
I have discovered first hand that by virtue of being in this world, we can’t help but to learn. Children learn naturally and retain so much more when they are engaged and leading the process themselves. I realized this just by observing an empowered Miro blossom daily. As a result of my unschooling education, I am growing as Miro teaches me how to be a better and more effective parent in the process.
What are some passions you’ve discovered or been able to nurture during your travels?
We are unschooling so I do not project my agenda on Miro in terms of what I think is important he learns. Rather, I support him and do whatever I can to provide opportunities to peruse his interest.
Along those lines, on our travels I found a wonderful Tae Kwon Do teacher, enrolled (us) in an English speaking improv class and purchased many books (too many to count) on Mythology, Poetry and Creative Writing. But even without an intentional learning environment, learning happens. Through travel, Miro has learned history, geography, culture, economy, politics, anthropology and art. Miro currently has taken over writing most of the content on this site, though I still pop in from time to time.
Some of the surprises have been, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine Miro would causally pick up a new language without even trying. Nor did I think he’d become interested in learning horticulture. Also surprisingly I never thought he’d be comfortable working in a medical veterinary triage caring for animals.
All of these things have been life learning experiences, and learning just happens. No lessons involved.
What’s the most awe inspiring place you have visited?
Miro and I have climbed up volcanos, even into a mud filled one on one occasion, trekked through mountains, explored remote townships and floated down the Amazon River.
One time, Miro and I visited a remote jungle village where the only transportation in was to ride on top of an active railroad track, on the back of a motorcycle that was retrofitted for the journey. We were trained in strategies to jump off in the case of an oncoming train.
Another time Miro and I got lost a cloud forest while exploring the valley of the giant palms on what was turned out to be a 6 1/2 hour hike. On another occasion, Miro and I trekked up to a glacier along with 50,000 other pilgrims to participate in the oldest and highest indigenous festival in the world.
Together, Miro and I have explored over 40 archaeological sites, spanning time, history and cultures, some sites dating over 5,000 years old. We’ve even walked through an unmarked grave yard where 3 ancient generations were buried including the Incas.
We’ve seen historical landmarks, sites where battles were lost and won, participated in ancient ceremonies and visited many sacred places of worship. We’ve explored beaches, jungles, forests, mountains, farms, capital cities and metropolis, remote villages and islands. We’ve traveled by bus, train, plane, motorcycle and bicycle.
But the most inspiring place we’ve been has been the inner journeys we’ve taken together. That journey has included connection with people from every walk of life, every age and every economical background. The connections we’ve made with other travelers and locals alike continues to inspire us and give great meaning to our journey.
I think the rewards gained from our life-style choices are immeasurable. Miro is learning from the world, really participating in the world and receiving a “real world” education in exchange. My son has the opportunity to experience his own humanity through so many things, like volunteering, connecting with people young and old and stepping outside of his comfort zone. In contrast to most Americans, Miro is learning that consumerism and ownership is not that important, and has seen the supply chain from sweat shops and cheap labor in some economically challenged countries, as well as visiting farms and local markets to experience the supply chain. Last, Miro experiences within himself a sense that he can really do anything in his life that he desires.
What is the biggest change that you see in yourself since leaving the US in Miro?
The biggest change is how we perceive the world, what our place is in it and that people every where are so much alike.
Before we set out, our perception of traveling was very different.
Before we set out, we were in a ‘defining’ mind-set and it seemed very important for us to have a plan.
Before we set out, it seemed scary and unknown.
Before we set out we defined our travels ‘doing’, instead of ‘being’.
But being on the road, our perception of life actually shifted and we have learned to live in the moment without the need for plans, that life and traveling were not scary at all, and it was ok to live at a slower pace guided by inspiration and doing the thing that bring us joy.
Miro is such a mellow, go-with-the-flow kind of guy. He’s growing up in this lifestyle, so it’s difficult to determine if the changes I see in him are because he’s been traveling, or because he’s now a teenager. . I’m not sure who he would have become had we remained in the states with our old lifestyle, but I am so honored to be a part of his life because who he is now, is an amazing, intelligent, sensitive and globally minded young man.
What advice can you give people who want to go after their dreams and change their lifestyle?
The only tip I have for a family of any size or shape who is considering a similar lifestyle, is to learn to listen to your inspiration. As a family talk about what inspiration feels like, tap into it together and become aware of it’s signs. Your inspiration will be your guide as you travel, a way of experiencing the world around you and a way of sharing the incredible moments together.
My travel advice to you is about the journey inward.
This focus will keep you grounded when your rational mind is cycling through the giant to do list, feeling stressed and fearful, and experiencing self doubt. Yes, it’s all part of the experience, (and it’s magnified once you are on the road) unless you have tools to keep the surface noise in check.
Just what is that spark of inspiration that led you to this place? Let’s look at the ‘spark’ itself. Like any living thing, it needs attention to stay activated, to remain alive. Simply, give it attention. Give it attention often. Feel the feelings associated with your inspiration and just sit with it. With a little practice, you’ll be able to access that feeling at a second’s notice, and it’s there with you when you need it.
Imagine the quiet place inside of you that contains that complete knowing that you are doing what you are doing because your inner guidance is guiding. It’s there, doing it’s job, doing exactly what’ it’s designed to do. Guiding.
And you are not alone, every single person has this inner guidance system. I call it inspiration. Some call it purpose, intuition, motivation, gut feeling or faith. Some even call it God. It doesn’t matter what you call it, but the singular, most poignant piece of advice I can give you is to trust it.
Did you hear that? TRUST YOUR INNER GUIDANCE SYSTEM.
Now, here’s some thoughts to try on while you are sitting with your inspiration:
Trust everything will be ok.
Trust the world will support you and your family.
Trust that things will always work out.
Trust that the world is a safe place.
Trust you will find a way to support yourself and your family.
Trust things will happen in it’s own time.
Trust, trust, trust.
With so much constant change, how do you keep some sense of stability for yourself and Miro? How important is a sense of stability to you anymore?
We don’t find stability in being stationary just as we don’t find stability in movement. Our location continues to change, and that keeps us present. But in terms of stability? I think everyone in the United States is struggling with that right now with the recession and all economic challenges. At least we’re out in the world enjoying our lives. I find stability in that. And Miro had a parent who is giving him full attention, support, making sure his needs are met. That’s stability.
Why do we travel?
Traveling solo for a year in my early 20s shaped who I was to become and ultimately how I experienced the world. However, I had no idea how much that experience would shape my life… 20 years later, I found myself a single parent blessed with an incredible son, owner of a successful boutique design agency and collector of so many things that my 2000 square foot loft was bursting at the seams. The acquisition of possessions defined our lives and like any good American, I worked hard to create more. But even with an abundance of possessions I realized how empty our lives felt. We didn’t have time or energy to enjoy the world around us, nor did I have time to spend with my young son. In 2008, the economy crashed in California and we were forced to make a change.
We consciously replaced the “hurry up”, “rush quickly”, “follow that schedule” and “produce, produce, produce” with something more meaningful; travel. I remembered how it felt to slow down, connect with humanity and there was nothing more I desired to do with my son. I knew intuitively traveling with Miro was what I was born to do. After one year of travel, together we decided to transform our trip to an indefinite long-term-travel-lifestyle. We are now completing our fifth year of consecutive travel, Miro and I have slowed way down, continue to learn from the world and collect nothing more than meaningful memories.
Can you tell me what Project World School is?
Project World School, is a series of temporary learning communities around the world designed for worldschooling teens and families so they can experience cultural learning withing a group educational experience. Project World School was founded by mother and son Lainie Liberti and Miro Siegel, who have traveled the world for over five years. Considering themselves to be “accidental unschoolers”, both have learned tremendously from their worldschooling experiences. Through their journeys, they were inspired to collaborate with other worldschoolers. From this desire, Project World School was born.
Since you decided to be a nomad how has your life changed?
When Miro and I made the decision to leave the United States in 2008, we had no intention of permanently leaving our “normal life”. We believed we’d be traveling for the duration of a year, and would be forced to return and continue our lives where we left off. Just as my son and I decided to take on this adventure together on the first place, we jointly decided to continue it as we were one year into our travels. Now five and a half years later, we both agree this was the best decision we could have made for our lives. Together my son and I have experienced so many internal changes, grown as individuals, strengthened our child / parent bond, and discovered and learned based on so many new interests.
Miro and I both are learning from the world, participating in the world and receiving a “real world” education in exchange. Together we both have had the opportunity to experience our own humanity through so many things, like volunteering, connecting with people young and old, from all walks of life and social status and together stepping outside of our comfort zones and feel safe.
In contrast to most Americans, Miro is learning that consumerism and ownership is not that important, and has seen the supply chain from sweat shops and cheap labor in some economically challenged countries, as well as visiting farms and local markets to experience the supply chain. Last, Miro experiences within himself a sense that he can really do anything in his life that he desires.
Do you find yourself identifying more as a world citizen or do you still strongly identify as America?
We often identify with being “global citizens” and focus on experiencing and understanding greater world perspectives.
We have experienced this in our lives through travel and bring this experience to our Project World School retreats. We feel that having the ability to adapt a greater global perspective is the key to transforming into a more peaceful world.
An example, experienced through our Project World School Ecuador Surf & Marine Biology Retreat may be spending a day with the fishermen on the coast and another day with the workers in the famous shrimp farms, both who work hard to provide for their families and seeing life through their eyes. Then spending a few days with the conservationists and learning about their concerns for a struggling ecosystem. Afterwards we participate in hands-on rescue and witness effects to the marine biology. Each person in this cycle has an individual point of view, a different concern, a contrasting world perspective. And we bring to the experience our own filters as well. It’s not about judging what is right or wrong, it’s about having the tools to process each global perspective as valid and experience life through different eyes, thus broadening our own global world views and ultimately developing greater empathy and a more peaceful world.
Tell us how you see multicultural individuals making an impact in the world.
To learn “empathy” is merely an intellectual exercise. To see the world through someone else’s eyes plants the seeds of compassion and creates a deep connection to other global perspectives creating a kinder and gentler world.
That is greatest the impact multicultural individuals can make.
In general terms can you share how you and others you have met on a similar path accomplish this lifestyle from a financial perspective?
We live day to day. I’ve become clear that “working” is no longer my life’s purpose as it once was. To go from earning $10,000 a month to living off of that amount per year, didn’t happen over night.
We made adjustments about what we valued. If Miro and I did not adopt an attitude to “collect memories” versus to “collecting things” we would not be able to live the way we do. So the first step of living within our means is changing our relationship to “stuff”.
As Americans, I had to relearn how to live within my means. I recognize I was privileged before, where I had the ability to buy whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I would put things on the credit card and have anything I desired in a fraction of a moment. Instant gratification in terms of purchasing and adjusting that relationship to money took some practice. My life before was completely different, that’s for sure.
Now, we have no credit, no savings, no safety net to fall back on. I don’t have a husband to help. Miro’s dad doesn’t contribute at all either. My family (although I’m certain they won’t let us starve and have certainly helped us in the past) does not support us in any way. Without credit cards, both Miro and I have to always be acutely aware of what we are spending and what we have in that moment. Without a savings account we cannot plan ahead. Without a permanent source of income we become grateful for each day. And because we don’t know what is going to come in each month, so we have had to learn to be comfortable with what we have, no planning for the future and always living in the moment. For many, I suspect that’s the most difficult obstacle.
Is living on a shoe string the most difficult part? No. I think the “uncertainty” is what prevents many from taking on this lifestyle. And I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not stress-free.
Not intended to scare you, but we have had the experiences on three separate occasions over the past five years of completely running out of money. Are you surprised? We had under $10 in our bank account without any idea of how we were going to earn more money. And this happened on three separate occasions. Did I freak out? Maybe a little. But each time, we were able to find a solution.
The biggest lesson we’ve learned from becoming self sufficient while traveling is creating multiple streams of income. Not one is consistent and our income varies from month to month, some months, close to nothing comes in. The key is to diversify. Here’s how we’ve managed up to this point:
- web advertising
- freelance writing
- freelance consulting
- income from our retreats
- small profit from Miro’s sales from his store
The funny thing is, we always seem to have exactly what we need. It was possible, because we did rethink everything including the way we participate in this world. And creating multiple streams of income seems to be the solution.
Every time we thought we were stuck in the world without money, we’ve magically been provided for. And living with the knowledge that we are always going to be ok was a shift out of fear that is more valuable than any stream of income.
I’ll say that again.
The most valuable asset we have is living without fear and knowing that we will always be ok.
But I know that takes time to get there.
Besides the financial aspects, what are some of the other considerations needed to maintain your unschooling / travel lifestyle?
Our story is not just about unschooling or traveling. It’s about a total lifestyle makeover including travel, simplifying our lives by choosing to be present and living from inspiration. I could not give you an example that could be replicated in the US. In fact, I could not provide a formula that would work for anyone else other than ourselves, since everyone’s paths are unique and individual. But what I can share are some of the areas we focused upon in hopes that it sparks your own unique paths of inspiration..
My son and I left the US in 2009 with the intention to travel the world for 1 year. The first thing I have to share is the importance of flexibility. We have been on the road now, just starting our 6th year and we’ve only traveled throughout Latin America. And we are completely satisfied with our choices, since they are indeed, our choices.
We’ve become intimate with our own inspiration, how it feels in our bodies and what it’s messages are. We now recognize that spark inside of us that ignites our creativity and passion. For both Miro and I, travel inspires us, but so does many other things. And now, we listen as it’s become a huge factor in our decision making.
Like inspiration, this another of those internal gifts we’ve tapped into and have learned to recognize it’s voice. Our intuition keeps us safe, and guides us with gut feelings and acts as our inner guidance system.
This is huge. Trust the world. Trust that we are learning. Trust that we are on path. Trust that our decisions are right for ourselves, right now. We do have trust in these things and more.
Yes, we are unschoolers, and academic information plays a role in our lives too. It compliments the experience and deepens our learning. But for me, as a parent, it helps me understand the dynamics of learning, the process of developmental stages, the nature of being human, how we are wired and how we grow. It is my responsibility as a parent to keep my son safe, support his dreams and allow him the space to make his own mistakes. The internet has been the best library for us for all subjects; academic, health, safety, emotional, spiritual and travel resources. I can’t imagine how we’d manage without it.
Fear is powerful. Fear, as a topic, comes up quite a bit for us now. But not how you may think. It comes up in the form of questions asked of us, seeking the tricks we used to overcome fear in our lives. I’ve thought long and hard about this. We haven’t become ‘fearless” nor are we extraordinarily brave. We’ve merely learned to transform our relationship to fear and prevent it from becoming a dominant force in our lives.
My former reactions caused by fear have pretty much ceased but the lessons they’ve granted us are profound.
Did we transcend fear? I’d say no. But what we did learn over the last five years was how to identify, demystify and overcome fearful thoughts as they came up. I wrote about fear in detail here:
Presence directly relates to our relationship with “time”, something we never seemed to have enough of when we lived a conventional over-scheduled life, back in Los Angeles. Now we have time. Now we are present in our lives individually and with one another. We have learned to be present with so many things, our feelings, the mundane, our thoughts and interests, our inner going-ons, the world around us, everything. I can’t imagine life any other way now. Seems like upon reflection, our lives before had a lack of “presence” and we were superficially going through the motions that mimic life. Kind of like living in a matrix, but we had an inkling there was something else out there. In fact, wanting to have “more time” was one of the greatest catalysts for our lifestyle change in the first place.
Along with the practice of being present in our lives, we started to feel appreciation and gratitude for everything around us. The sound water drops make when floating downward in a public fountain, the way my computer hums when it starts up, the sounds of barking dogs in the deep night. Gratitude to see my son wake up based on his own rhythms, the ability to buy fresh food from the markets and shake the hands of the farmers who grow it and the ability to learn something new each and every day. So much to appreciate, so much to be grateful for.
What is the difference between “unschooling” and “worldschooling”?
The definition to both words are not unanimously agreed upon among the practitioners or communities involved.
However a general definition of “unschooling” is to live as if school does not exist. There are deeper philosophies at the foundation of the unschooling movement that include supported self-directed learning as an outcome of natural learning, usually facilitated by the parent(s).
Some even incorporate the “child-led” philosophy into every aspect of the learners life, allowing complete freedom not just focused on learning, but within food choices, bedtimes and hygiene issues. They are known as “radical unschoolers”.
Others incorporate project based learning or other forms of formalized curriculum into the mix and consider themselves “relaxed unschoolers”.
But as for “worldschoolers”, the definition is less formalized.
Some refer to worldschooling as the act of “unschooling” during travel, while others call themselves worldschoolers as expats who enroll their children in local schools throughout the world for full cultural immersion.
There is no wrong or right way to apply any of the “unschooling” or “worldschooling” terminology in my opinion. I believe each family needs to breathe their own meaning into one that works for them.
We consider ourselves “worldschoolers” and define the meaning in this way:
Miro and I have practiced the principles of “radical unschooling” as we’ve moved through our journey together. We didn’t set out to do so, only discovered that was the name for what we were doing after we had been living that way for almost a year. However, when my son asks for support on certain self-directed projects, we use the principles of “project based learning”, where I support him through project management and in that aspect we would considered a “relaxed unschooler”.
My son’s self directed learning has always been interest led….with one clear exception: learning from ideas we are exposed to as a result of our travel experiences.
Since we’ve been living a “travel lifestyle” for over five years, those exposures tend to be daily experiences. In other words, by virtue of being in the world, we are exposed to things, ideas, cultures, environments, history and experiences that may have not been guided by either of our interests, rather guided by travel. But we see it as an opportunity to pursue greater information to place context into our experiences. It’s immersive learning, not necessarily driven by interest, rather driven by experience. Therefore, our self definition is that as a “worldschooler”, versus solely identifying as an “unschooler”.