What We Do
Since 2008 Unschool Adventures has run long-term international trips and U.S.-based retreats for self-directed learners ages 14-19+. The ultimate goal of our programs is to build the skills, experience, and self-confidence that a young person needs to transition into independent adulthood.
Our trips typically enroll unschoolers: young people who are given large amounts of freedom and responsibility to design their lives and educations as they see fit. But you need not use the term unschooler to join; we’ve had traditional homeschoolers, alternative school students, and high school students join us in the past. We welcome any young person who is enthusiastic and prepared for the trip to which they are applying. Learn more about unschooling and related educational philosophies at Off-Trail Learning, the resource website created by Unschool Adventures director Blake Boles.
The magic of any Unschool Adventures program is the community. We bring together self-directed, conscientious, and kind-hearted young adults alongside experienced trip leaders who understand the self-directed mindset. Many participants have commented that simply living and adventuring with a group of such high-quality peers and staff is a life-changing experience in itself.
An Unschool Adventures program is not one that you can simply sign up for—you have to show us that it’s an experience you clearly understand and want to be a part of. Every Unschool Adventures applicant is interviewed via Skype before receiving an invitation to join. We only accept motivated and prepared applicants, which directly contributes to the quality of our temporary communities.
What We Offer
Unschool Adventures isn’t like other travel companies that offer regularly repeating programs; we design each trip with a unique mission in mind. We do this in order to take advantage of changing world conditions (e.g. weather, prices, safety, suitability for groups of Western teenagers) and the strengths & backgrounds of particular trip leaders.
Our international trips are typically 6-7 weeks long and typically voyage to destinations in the Southern Hemisphere during the North American winter (which is summer in the Southern Hemisphere). Previous destinations have included Argentina, Chile, Peru, New Zealand, Australia, and Nepal. (See all our previous trips here.) We enroll 11 participants ages 14-19 (upwardly flexible) and travel together as a single group. International trips are announced roughly eight months before the anticipated departure date.
For teenagers seeking a less-intensive and larger-group experience within the United States, we offer 4-week-long retreats. We rent an entire youth hostel for our group and stay there for the entire month.
The Writing Retreat has is our most popular program, and the only one we’ve repeated multiple times. In 2016 we ran a new retreat, Real World Retreat. Both of these may make a comeback in the future, but we cannot offer solid predictions, because availability of our favorite hostel (in Crested Butte, Colorado) fluctuates wildly.
We occasionally offer longer programs (10+ weeks) in the United States or abroad, such as the 2015 Adventure Semester (ages 15-19) and 2017 Argentina Semester (ages 18-21). These programs give participants a huge boost of independence, offer an excellent price-to-length value, and are announced roughly a year before the anticipated departure date.
The Unschool Adventures trip-crafting philosophy has long been “go big or go home”—especially when expensive flights are involved. But we recognize that not everybody wants to (or can afford to) go big, s every once in a while we offer a program of 1-2 weeks in length.
We don’t typically run programs in July, August, and September because there are lots of other great summer offerings for young adults during those time (like Not Back to School Camp) and our trip leaders are busy.
Our participants often take away intangible skills—such as personal leadership, organization, and clearer intentions—and we’ve decided to see if we can help foster those skills in an online format. Our first digital workshop in Fall 2017 is Launchpad.
How We Operate
We are constantly experimenting with new and different trips, and we’re not always sure which will be a hit and which will be a dud. This means that not every trip that we offer ends up running. As an intentionally small and lean company, we cannot afford to run trips at a loss. If a trip fails to meet minimum enrollment numbers, we cancel it and try something new.
This means that if you see a trip that you really want to join, apply before the priority application deadline! That’s when we make a “go” or “no go” decision about the trip based on early interest. We’re relying upon you to tell us whether an Unschool Adventures trip should run or not.
Something else to know about us: we plan far in advance. Big trips are typically announced 7-12 months ahead of their departure date. We do this in order to (1) give us the time we need to plan and prepare a high-quality trip, and (2) give you time to find another program in case the one you want doesn’t happen. (We don’t like wasting anyone’s time, especially yours.)
What this means for you is: plan ahead for an Unschool Adventures trip! Don’t wait till the last minute (or even the last few months) to look for one of our trips. The best way to stay appraised of our trips is to join our email notification list to get an e-mail whenever new trips are announced.
The Unschooling Approach
How does the unschooling approach reflect in our trip leadership? We grant participants large degrees of freedom and responsibility in creating their experiences—always within reasonable safety limits. Unlike more traditional teen travel programs, on a Unschool Adventure you might find yourself wandering around a foreign city in a small group, figuring out how to cook dinner from scratch, or planning a week of our itinerary.
To learn more about the unschooling, check out College Without High School, Better Than College, and The Art of Self-Directed Learning by Blake Boles (director of Unschool Adventures), The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn, and the works of John Holt and John Taylor Gatto (among many others).
Who We Are
Unschool Adventures LLC was formed in 2008 by Blake Boles to serve the community of teenage unschoolers connected to Not Back to School Camp. Abbi Miller helped start the company and co-lead the first three trips. Since then we’ve run trips with a variety of talented trip leaders who sign on to lead specific trips. Our LLC is based in Colorado.