Real World Retreat 2017

The Real World Retreat gives 16- to 20-year-olds the skills and confidence necessary to move out of their parents’ houses, support themselves financially, build community, and continue living a meaningful, learning-centered life.

When: April 22 – May 20, 2017 (4 weeks)

Where: Ludlow, Vermont

Who: 20 participants (ages 16-20, flexible)

Leaders: Matt Sanderson (program director) with three other leaders TBA
View all leader profiles

How Much: $2000
Includes all food, housing, and group activities. Does not include charter bus to/from Boston airport.

Arrival/Departure Airport: Boston

Priority Application Date: November 1st, 2016

Application StatusCanceled
We did not receive enough interest by the priority application to offer this program. Sorry!

A Real World Adventure

The mission of the Unschool Adventures Real World Retreat is to give unschoolers, homeschoolers, recent graduates, and  other self-directed learners (ages 16-20) the skills and confidence necessary to move out of their parents’ houses, support themselves financially, build community, and continue living a meaningful, learning-centered life.

Think of this retreat as a giant scavenger hunt. You’ll be given a list of challenges meant to help develop skills or practices that will serve you in becoming the adult you’d like to be. Each week we will narrow the focus of the challenges. We’ll start with big picture ideas like creating a personal mission statement and considering what makes a fulfilling life, and we’ll end with specific practical skills like changing your car’s oil and creating the perfect cover letter.

Tackle these challenges on your own or in small groups: the choice is yours. Trip leaders will offer a different workshop each day, focusing on the skills needed to complete one or more of the challenges.

Some examples of challenges from our 2016 retreat included:

  • Find a rental apartment or house and meet with the landlord for more information.
  • Shop for a week’s worth of meals for the entire group spending only $6/person/day.
  • Create a product or service and sell it to a total stranger.
  • Locate an interest-based social group and join one of their events.
  • Write an inspiring stranger in a field you’re interested in working in, ask for an interview (or an internship!)
  • Draft a realistic personal monthly budget.
  • Understand credit cards, investments options, and taxes.
  • Submit a résumé and cover letter to five different organizations you admire and try to get noticed—and if they reject you, write a compelling follow-up note.
  • Create and practice a sustainable health routine that includes exercise, healthy eating, and time outdoors.
  • Creating an accountability system for yourself with the help of another person.
  • Create a recipe book with two weeks worth of simple dinner recipes that you’d like to prepare and eat.
  • Explore and implement the scientific literature on what creates happiness and well-being.

Learning to change oil, Real World Retreat 2016

Who Should Come to This Retreat?

This retreat is designed for young adults who are motivated to move out of their parent’s homes within the next year or two. More broadly, it’s for anyone starting an independent life who wants to stay motivated and organized—and who doesn’t want to get taken advantage of by landlords, credit card companies, or employers.

The Unschool Adventures leaders are not here to convince you that these challenges are worthwhile; you should join this program only if you see the inherent value in what you’ll do and learn. The trip leaders’ mission is to support you along this journey and create a safe, comfortable, and friendly group living environment.

The Real World Retreat is also for those who are to eager to meet their future housemates, road-trip partners, accountability buddies, and business partners. This is a highly social retreat for those seeking new friends and connections.

Daily Life

Our group will spend the month living in the Homestyle Hostel in the town of Ludlow, Vermont (location map), which we rent in its entirety. Nestled within a small ski town and within easy walking distance to the cafés, shops, a library, and Okemo Mountain Resort, this location offers an incredible place to explore.

To keep the place in order, participants take responsibility for organizing a group chore system with the help of trip leaders. We cook our own dinners (lead by small groups who are learning how to budget and plan meals at the same time) and provide do-it-yourself breakfast, lunch, and snacks available 24/7. Many of our activities will require that participants be up and active during normal business hours, so we ask that everyone maintain quiet hours after 11pm.

Each week a different small group will also take on organizing non-challenge-related group social activities. In the 2016 retreat these activities included a hike, sports game, movie, journey into town, talent show, dance, story night, and a Harry Potter night.

Every evening there is an all-group meeting that then breaks into small-group meetings (with groups of 5-7 participants and one staff member), providing an opportunity for deeper connection on a daily basis.

The Homestyle Hostel in Ludlow, Vermont: your home away from home

A Day in the Life


Small group meeting

What does a typical day at the Real World Retreat look like? Our days vary widely, but here’s a rough sketch of the flow:

  • Get up around 9am
  • Build your own breakfast (bagels, eggs, fruit, etc.)
  • Optionally participate in a low key morning activity (often a TED talk or participant-led workshop)
  • Attend the workshop of the day
  • Eat lunch (lunch spread provided at the hostel each day from 1-2pm)
  • Work solo or in collaboration on challenges of your choice
  • Set up some one-on-one time with a staff member to assist you with a challenge
  • Do a chore (average 30 minutes each day)
  • Join the afternoon group outing (or stay at the hostel and nap, relax, Skype with family, etc.) or help prepare dinner
  • Work on more challenges
  • Eat dinner with the group and attend the nightly meetings (both large-group and small-group)
  • Enjoy free time in the evening to socialize, star-gaze, or dream up future adventures with your new friends
  • Shhh–quiet hours start at 11pm

Arrival and departure days:

  • April 22: Arrival at Boston Airport, group shuttle to Ludlow, move-in, and orientation.
  • May 20: Early morning shuttle from Ludlow to Boston Airport. Sadness!


Click here to browse photos from the 2016 Real World Retreat in Crested Butte, Colorado. This year we have a new location but the same (awesome + improved) program!

Help Spread the Word

Below is a flyer for the Real World Retreat. Feel free to print and post it in your local learning center or share it online. Thank you!

Frequently Asked Questions

Please read our general FAQ, too!

Frequently Asked Questions

Please read our general FAQ, too!

What are the extra costs on this retreat?

The Real World Retreat program fee covers all food, lodging, and group activities. The fee does not cover travel to and from the Ludlow, Vermont. You may choose to drive to Ludlow or fly to Boston airport and take our group charter shuttle to/from Ludlow. We will arrange the charter bus in March as we finalize our enrollment numbers; this service will cost up to $65 each way based on final numbers. (We pass on the actual cost of the shuttle directly to families.)

We additionally recommend that students bring $150-$200 for snacks, toiletries, and other incidentals during the retreat.

What is the sleeping and laundry situation?

Our hostel has rooms with 3-6 dormitory-style beds each. Participants and staff stay in different rooms. Each participant will have a limited amount of personal storage space! Linens, blankets, pillows are provided by the hostel, but bring your own towel! Public laundry facilities are located nearby and the we will do participant laundry once a week. Linens will be changed twice during the retreat.

What is the weather like?

Expect highs in the 50s-60s and lows in the 30s-40s. Snow and rain are possible; bring warm and waterproof clothing and shoes.

How can I stay in touch with friends and family back home?

Via cell phone and internet. Fast wi-fi is available throughout the hostel.

Is this retreat appropriate for younger participants (age 14-15)?

This retreat will be most useful for young people who are actively considering moving out of their parents homes in the next 1-2 years. We assume that this applies to those 16 & up. But if you’re younger and still planning on moving out (e.g. starting college early), we’re happy to consider your application.

When is the program fee due?

We ask for the entire program fee ($2000) to be paid upon enrollment. If this would cause undue financial stress to your family, we can arrange an alternative payment plan. $500 of the program fee is non-refundable and considered a deposit to secure the participant’s space. (If the program is cancelled due to low enrollment, the $500 is refunded.)

Go top