Humans of México 2022

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An exploratory adventure con mucho Español

“Tell me about your life.”
Háblame de su vida.

The world is full of fascinating stories—if you’re bold enough ask for them.

In this trip, we will discover both the country of México as well as the people of México.

Get ready for creativity, connection, and challenge, in both English and Spanish.

Bienvenidos a Humanos de México.

When

January 6 – February 17, 2022 (may shift slightly)

Where

Mexico

Who

10-12 participants (ages 14-19)

LEADERS

Blake Boles & one other leader

Cost

$5500. Flights & lunches not included (see FAQ)

Applications Are Open

The priority application deadline is June 30, 2021. Apply by this date for your best chance of joining this adventure!

San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

Listen to Blake explain the trip in his own words (4 minutes)

Trip Purpose

Every Unschool Adventures trip is created with a few specific purposes in mind.

Learning Spanish

Make no mistake: If you want to improve your Spanish-language abilities, this is the trip for you!

No matter whether you’re starting from scratch or you already have some experience under your belt, you’ll get a chance to speak and hear Spanish every day of this adventure.

The mission is not for everyone to become fluent, nor is it a language-learning competition; the goal is for you to feel more comfortable interacting in Spanish than you did before the trip. The only way to do this is to do this: so that’s what we’ll do!

In the beginning of the trip, we’ll do a week of formal language learning (small-group Spanish classes & homestays), but this is just to prepare us for the trip’s primary mission, which is…

Interviewing people we meet

This trip is called “Humans of México” in reference to Humans of New York, the famous photojournalism project that documents the lives of ordinary people in New York City.

The concept is simple:

  • meet a stranger
  • get permission to interview them
  • ask them a few good questions
  • record their answers
  • take their photo
  • grab an interesting excerpt from the interview and post that (with the photo) on the UA Instagram

All of these interviews will happen in small groups (3+ participants). While the staff will help you get started and feel comfortable with this process, soon you (the teenage participants) will be doing this completely on your own.

You will get really good at approaching strangers, interacting in Spanish and/or English, taking “no” for an answer, and asking interesting questions. These are highly transferable life skills—but more importantly, you will have a ton of fun, you’ll return home with great stories to share with friends and family, and you’ll experience what it’s like to be more of an interactive “traveler” than a detached “tourist.”

Group mini-adventures

Want to go for a hike? Learn to dance salsa? Explore a market? Visit a cool old church? Join a festival we just discovered?

Interviewing strangers won’t occupy all our time. Every day of the trip, leaders will come up with interesting mini-adventures to offer to the whole group. If you want to join, fantastic! If you don’t, no problem—you can stay back and relax, or maybe even go off and do your own thing. Which brings us to…

Independent exploration

Every Unschool Adventures trip gives participants more freedom and responsibility than the typical organized teen travel program.

On this trip you’ll enjoy lots of time to wander around cities (the safe parts) in small groups, buy your own lunches and snacks, visit interesting places, and maybe even discover things that the trip leaders and guidebooks have never heard of.

You’ll walk from this trip as a more knowledgeable, confident, and savvy traveler: someone ready to embark upon your own international adventures in the not-too-distant future.

Unschool Adventures with high school students in Salta, Argentina, 2012

Where We’ll Go

Our group will meet in a major U.S. airport (probably Dallas/Fort Worth) and fly together to Southern Mexico, where we’ll spend time in both Oaxaca and San Cristobal de las Casas. We’ll also visit the beach town of Puerto Escondido. The trip will end in Mexico City, where we’ll fly back to the same U.S. airport from which we departed.

We are carefully selecting our destinations based on official safety reports and on-the-ground information from colleagues in Mexico. The final itinerary may shift; see the FAQ for more information.

Everyday Activities

Here’s what a typical day on this trip will look like:

  • Breakfast provided by UA staff + morning check-in
  • Mixture of group activities, interviews, and free time
  • Lunch on your own (in small groups)
  • Dinner co-created by UA participants & staff
  • Evening group check-in & meeting
  • Free time for relaxing, socializing, etc.

Week-by-Week Itinerary

Days 1-3: Arrival & orientation in San Cristobal de las Casas.
Days 4-10: Homestays & Spanish classes in San Cristobal de las Casas.
Days 11-20: Beach life in Puerto Escondido.
Days 21-30: Exploring Oaxaca City and nearby areas.
Days 31-41: Mexico City!
Day 42: Departure

This tentative itinerary will be finalized in late 2021.

Unschool Adventures in Chile, 2011

Covid-19 Safety

We feel confident that, by January 2022, we will be able to travel to Mexico in a way that effectively mitigates Covid-19 risk for both the Unschool Adventures group and the people we meet along the way.

Covid-19 vaccination will be required for all participants. Because this trip involves extensive face-to-face interaction with people of all ages, we believe that having the Covid-19 vaccine is the most appropriate choice for reducing everyone’s risk of contracting or spreading the disease.

If you’d like to join this trip, plan on getting fully vaccinated by mid-December 2021. (This policy applies even if you’ve already recovered from Covid-19.)

Frequently Asked Questions

How much is the airfare? What are the additional costs?

The Unschool Adventures program fee ($5500) includes:

  • Breakfasts and dinners
  • All accommodation and ground transport
  • All UA-sponsored group activities
  • Laundry (once a week)
  • Trip t-shirt

In addition to this program fee, participant costs include:

  • Group airfare purchased through a group travel specialist designated by UA, estimated at $600-1000 roundtrip (subject to fluctuation until we lock in our group contract)
  • Domestic airfare (purchased independently) to our meeting airport (likely Dallas/Fort Worth)
  • Personal budget for lunches, snacks, souvenirs, toiletries, and personal activities (we suggest $5-$10 per day)

Who are the trip leaders?

Blake Boles and one other female leader—hopefully Mica Peker—will guide this trip. Learn more about them here.

How will the interview process work?

Interviewing people who we meet along our journey (both Mexican citizens and other travelers) will be a constant part of the adventure. Our aim is to have fun with this, not force everyone into a mandatory creative project. That being said, if you’d like to join this trip, you should expect to participate in every aspect of the interview process: asking questions, recording and transcribing responses, taking photographs, and posting online. If you’re more about one part of this process then another (i.e photography enthralls you; transcribing responses bores you), we’ll do our best to let you focus on that area…but everyone will participate in the asking of questions. If that intimidates you, remember: it’s a group effort! You’ll never be alone with a stranger who’s speaking rapid, indecipherable Spanish to you.

Speaking of Spanish, we will be conducting these interviews in both Spanish and English, as appropriate. If you meet someone who only speaks Spanish, then the interview is in Spanish! If the members of your group don’t speak much Spanish, then the interview will be limited. That’s fine! (Throwing yourself into situations like this is exactly how you’ll learn more Spanish.) If you find someone who speaks English (either a little bit, or fluently), then you can interview them in English… or English and Spanish! The possibilities are rich. And yes, you can use Google Translate—and any other tools you’d like—to make the most of these interviews.

Which regions of Mexico will we visit (and avoid)?

We will be sticking to frequented tourist destinations within Mexico. We will not visit any states listed as “Do Not Travel” or “Reconsider Travel” on the U.S. Department of State website (with the exception of Mexico City, where we’ll avoid high-risk neighborhoods). When traveling between regions we will use first-class bus services.

How can I start learning Spanish ahead of time?

Our group will connect online before the trip begins to discuss the many different ways to start learning Spanish. Signing up for a class or doing your own self-directed learning is strongly encouraged, too!

How will my child stay in touch with loved ones at home?

The world is a very connected place now. We will have wifi access in virtually every location, although it may not always be fast. Participants can expect to be able to send messages and emails, at least once a day, virtually everywhere we go. If you provide your own international cellular data plan, then we expect that you’ll enjoy widespread coverage.

What will the accommodations be like?

We’ll typically stay in youth hostels with bunk rooms (4-6 beds per room) and shared bathrooms. Teen participants may share rooms with participants of other genders or with trip leaders, but they never share rooms with strangers. We only stay in well-reviewed youth hostels. During the homestay portion of the trip, participants will enjoy private rooms, shared bathrooms, and two prepared meals a day.

What gear do I need to bring?

We’ll provide a full packing list upon finalizing our group. You won’t need anything special for this trip—just clothes, toiletries, and a smartphone that can record audio (for the interviews). If you’re think about bringing larger electronics (such as a laptop) or musical instruments, please check with trip leaders first.

What happens if my child needs medical attention?

If a participant requires medical attention, a trip leader will accompany them to the nearest tourist-grade medical facility and immediately get in touch with parents/guardians. Safety is Unschool Adventures’ top priority, and our company maintains a perfect safety record.

Can teen participants go anywhere and do anything in their free time?

Unschool Adventures gives its participants more freedom, responsibility, and opportunities for self-direction than the typical trip-leading company. We’re also still responsible for their safety, which is why we have a few non-negotiable guidelines for unsupervised time:

  • When you go out, we ask you to stay in groups of 3 or larger. No solo wandering, sorry! (We do make an exception for very short trips around the block.)
  • We may not let you go out after dark if we feel it’s too risky.
  • While we don’t have formal bedtimes, we do require that you get enough sleep to participate in our group activities.
  • We have zero-tolerance rules about alcohol and drug consumption or possession.
  • Potentially dangerous free-time activities (including bike-riding and swimming) require trip leader approval, and we don’t always say yes.

How does U.A. manage the risks of letting teenagers independently explore large cities?

If you’re nervous about the thought of letting your child wander around in foreign cities—we understand! And please know that we have more than a decade of experience in safely facilitating this kind of exploration in cities such as Buenos Aires, Barcelona, Bangkok, and Kathmandu.

First of all, your child will never be walking around cities totally on their own (see “Can teen participants go anywhere and do anything in their free time?” above). We require that all participants stay in groups of 3+ and have a functional cell phone with them. (We do make an exception for the “one person / one block” rule which allows a participant to quickly run down to a corner grocery store, for example, which is on the same block as our residence.)

Secondly, we only allow participants to independently explore areas that are known to be tourist-friendly, and only during the day. The majority of uncomfortable incidents happen at night, in the wrong neighborhoods—so that’s what we avoid.

Finally, we encourage you to consider the risk of letting your teen independently explore any large city, whether in North America or abroad. There are always risks involved with such travel; we believe the biggest ones can be mitigated with clear rules and consistent communication. The personal growth and empowerment that comes from this kind of independent exploration is huge—we’ve seen it over and over again.

Can you accommodate my special diet?

We can accommodate vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free (but not celiac) diets. Please remember that while traveling, it’s not always easy to cater to special diets—the more restrictive your diet, the more flexibility and patience you’ll need to have a successful trip. Don’t worry, we’ll make sure you always get enough to eat!

When is the program fee due?

A security deposit of $1500 is due upon enrollment, and balance is due on October 1, 2021. All fees are payable by check or money order; you may also pay by credit card with a 3% surcharge. The international plane tickets will be purchased sometime in October, facilitated by our group travel specialist. Plane tickets are payable via credit card. If you require a payment plan to make this trip feasible for your family, please write to blake@unschooladventures.com.

Is there a possibility that this trip won’t happen?

While the majority of Unschool Adventures trips do end up running, sometimes a trip fails to meet minimum applicant numbers by the priority application deadline and we must cancel it. (We would hate to disappoint you, but we also don’t want to waste your time if a trip is clearly not going to meet minimum numbers!) There’s also a chance that Covid-19 will ruin everything again—booo!—and we’ll need to revise the trip parameters or cancel it altogether.

What’s the application process?

After applying, we will get in touch with you via email to set up a time for a video interview (beginning July 2021). Here are some interview tips. Upon acceptance, you’ll have two weeks to submit the trip paperwork and $1500 security deposit.

More Questions?

Read the general FAQ, and email Blake anytime at blake@unschooladventures.com.

Unschool Adventures in Buenos Aires, 2012

Header photo: On the roof the Spanish School in Peru, 2011

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