Spain 2018

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Welcome to Spain

Join Unschool Adventures for our first trip to Europe! This trip has it all: intensive Spanish learning, homestays, hiking, city life, and plenty of time for self-directed exploration. It’s a classic Unschool Adventures itinerary, appropriate for both experienced travelers and those going abroad for the first time. Nos vemos pronto!


May 6 – June 17, 2018




12 participants (ages 14-19, flexible)


Blake Boles, Fred Sabater, and Cori Shooter


$6250 + flights & lunches


Trip full

Trip Purposes

Every Unschool Adventures trip is created with specific purposes in mind. Here’s what we’ll set out to accomplish:

Developing Spanish language skills

If you’re interested in learning and using a new language, this trip is for you! We begin with a 2-week intensive Spanish language immersion experience at Entrelenguas Spanish School, where you’ll enjoy small-group Spanish classes (tailored to your ability level) and a homestay with a local family (who only speaks Spanish). As the trip continues, you’ll be encouraged to speak Spanish with shopkeepers, locals, and other nice people who we meet on our journey. This trip will provide a solid foundation for anyone who wants to begin (or continue) developing their Spanish language skills—especially if you want to travel independently in Spain and Latin America in the future.

The hilltop town of Ronda, Spain

Hiking in the Basque Country

The Basque Country of Spain is famous for many reasons, but most notably for its natural beauty and stunning coastline. We will spend two weeks hiking across this gorgeous land, following one of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes: the Camino del Norte. Each day will be a new adventure as you hike through lush fields, golden beaches, tiny towns, and big cities. This will also be a physical challenge: the average hiking day will be 9 miles—with a few 15-mile days at the end—with a good amount of elevation change. If you’re new to hiking, don’t worry: you’ll be carrying very little weight on your back, you’ll have lots of time to prepare, and we’ll take lots of breaks along the way.

Self-directed exploration in Barcelona

Barcelona is a world-famous destination for its art, food, beaches, and cosmopolitan nature. In the final 2 weeks of our trip, we’ll live together in our own rented apartments in the heart of the city! Barcelona is a magical city with many secrets to discover, and we’ll give you the chance to discover those secrets in both the large and small groups: each day will be a mixture of leader-organized activities and self-organized free time. And of course, we’ll have lots of opportunities to go to the beach. Get ready to come home with sand between your toes.

Experiencing the diversity of Spain

In some sense, there is no “Spain.” While it’s technically one country, Spain is composed of very different subcultures, languages, and traditions. On this trip we’ll spend 2 weeks in each of three distinct corners of Spain: Andalusia, the Basque Country, and Catalonia. The latter two speak their own languages and have even considered separating from Spain to form their own countries! This trip (and trip leader Fred, who was born and raised in Catalonia) will help you understand how diverse the country and its people are, and by extension, how diverse and interesting the world can be.

Balancing group time and personal time

Finally, on every Unschool Adventures trip, we strike a healthy balance between all-group activities and self-directed free time. Most days of the trip you’ll enjoy significant chunks of free time to rest, explore, organize your own mini-adventures, get food, or take a quiet afternoon to journal. This is a trip for self-directed learners who crave the freedom to co-create their travel experience.


May 6: Depart the USA
  • Meet the group in New York City (JFK airport)
  • Do the group orientation in the airport
  • Fly together to Malaga, Spain
May 7-20: Spanish Intensive in Ronda
  • Get picked up at Malaga airport and transported to Ronda (2 hours)
  • Move in with your Spanish-only host family. Two participants will stay with each family in a shared room. (Don’t worry if your Spanish isn’t top notch, the host families are experienced with hosting foreign students and expect you to be learning.)
  • On weekdays, enjoy breakfast with your host family and then attend group Spanish classes at Entrelenguas from 9am – 1pm (with breaks), tailored to your specific ability level
  • Get lunch with fellow participants and new friends from Spanish school
  • Meet group leaders in the afternoons for a short hike, group game, conversation, or Spanish-related activity
  • In the evening, return to eat dinner and converse with your host family
  • On the weekends, enjoy the chance to go on mini-adventures with your friends, join an leader-organized activity, hang out with your host family, or do your own thing

An aerial introduction to Ronda, Spain. (Courtesy Entrelenguas)

A student film about family life with an Entrelenguas homestay family. (Courtesy Entrelenguas)

Spanish class! (Photo: Unschool Adventures South America 2011)

May 21 – June 2: Hiking in the Basque Country
  • Fly from Malaga to San Sebastian, check into a youth hostel in Irun
  • Ship your unneeded gear and clothing to Barcelona, keeping only a lightweight daypack
  • Hike Stage 1
    • Irun to Pasai Donibane (16km/10mi)
    • Pasai Donibane to San Sebastian (10km/6mi)
    • rest day in San Sebastian (0km)
  • Hike Stage 2
    • San Sebastian to Zarautz (18km/11mi)
    • Zarautz to Zumaia (15km/9mi)
    • rest day in Zumaia (0km)
  • Hike Stage 3
    • Zumaia to Deba (actually, Ermita de Calvario) (18km/11mi)
    • Deba to Markina-Xemein (18km/11mi)
    • Markina-Xemein to Gernika (25km/15mi)
    • Gernika to Bilbao (25km/15mi)
    • rest day in Bilbao (0km) – optional visit to Guggenheim Museum
  • Stay each night in a youth hostel with dorm beds, showers, toilets, and wifi
  • Enjoy lots of free time in the afternoons (after hiking) to rest, swim, explore, journal, etc.
  • Take turns helping prepare breakfasts and dinners for the whole group; do lunch on your own (with friends)
  • In case of illness or severe weather, take public transport (accompanied by a trip leader) to the next night’s destination

View from the Camino del Norte near Pasaia Donibane

The beaches of San Sebastian

June 3-16: Barcelona
  • Take the train from Bilbao to Barcelona (7 hours)
  • Move into our two awesome Airbnb apartments located near the Sagrada Familia (this one and this one, 1km apart, 7 trip members in each)
  • Enjoy two weeks of self-directed exploration in this world-famous city
  • Each day, one trip leader offers a half-day activity which you may optionally attend: e.g. cultural events, tourist activities, volunteering with an alternative school, outdoor adventures
  • The other half of each day is reserved for total free time: explore the city with friends, attend events, or relax in the apartments
  • Take turns helping prepare breakfasts and dinners for the whole group; lunches on your own
  • In the evenings, enjoy optional activities organized by trip leaders (e.g. beaches, dancing, language exchanges) or do your own thing in the apartments

Barcelona at night

La Sagrada Familia: a short walk from our apartments in Barcelona

June 17: Return to the USA
  • Final group meeting in Barcelona
  • Fly from Barcelona back to the east coast airport accompanied by one of the trip leaders
  • Fly home independently from the east coast airport

Frequently Asked Questions

Please read our general FAQ in addition to these trip-specific FAQ.

Who’s leading this adventure?

The leaders of this trip are Blake Boles and Fred Sabater with the assistance of Cori Shooter. All three leaders have spent significant time in Spain, speak Spanish, and possess current wilderness medical certifications. Learn more about each leader.

What are the extra costs on this trip?

Beyond the program fee, participants are responsible for:

  • Roundtrip airfare from New York City to Spain—plus the Malaga to San Sebastian flight—with the Unschool Adventures group. These flights are arranged by our group travel specialist. (Estimated total: $1500.)
  • Independently arranged domestic airfare to/from New York City
  • Optional traveler’s insurance (estimate: $100-$150)
  • Personal spending money for lunches, snacks, and toiletries: (we recommend $5-$10 per day = $200-$400 total)
How should I prepare for long-distance hiking?

To be successful in the hiking section, you should be prepared to hike on uneven terrain for 10-15 miles a day while carrying a light backpack. While there are public transport options between our destinations in case of illness, minor injury, or severe weather, our intention is to only use those in necessary circumstances. Please plan on joining us for the entire hike! Here’s what you need to know:

  • Come with a pair of broken-in hiking shoes. These should have good grip on the bottom, but they don’t need to be full-on boots. For some people, running shoes are fine; for others, mid-level hiking shoes will be best. What’s most important is that you find a pair of shoes way in advance and do multiple practice hikes in them. If they’re comfortable, supportive, and don’t give you blisters, then you’re good to go!
  • Before departing for the trip, you should be able to hike two 15-mile days with elevation change, back-to-back, with a light daypack (10 pounds). If you can do that, then you can handle the hikes on this trip! (Trip leaders will provide advice for working up to this in the months before the trip.)
  • Most people can walk 10-15 miles on flat terrain, given enough time. But our trails have a lot of up and down! So your preparation should definitely include hills. It will be important that you strengthen your ankles and knees before joining the trip.
  • In the first two weeks of the trip (in Ronda), we will do some some practice hikes together as a group.
  • If you consider yourself a fast hiker, prepare to slow down! We will hike together as a group each day, going at the pace of the slowest hiker. So—fast hikers—cool your heels and enjoy the views :)
What kind of weather should I expect?

May and June is a beautiful time in Spain! Most days will be sunny and warm/hot. There may certainly be rain, but mostly it will be t-shirt-and-shorts weather.

Can you accommodate my special diet?

Yes! Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diets can be accommodated on this trip. As in North America, you might need to search a little harder for your meals (the Spanish do love their pan and jamon!), but you’ll always get fed. For more complicated dietary needs, please contact us before applying.

How are the host families in Ronda chosen?

The host families are provided by our Spanish school, Entrelenguas. Each family has a track record of working with foreign students and travelers. Trip leaders will determine which pairs of participants stay in each homestay; if you’d like to stay with a friend who’s coming on the trip, we will do our best to honor your request! Trip leaders will be staying very nearby in a rented apartment in Ronda in case participants have any needs. Criminal background checks are run on all families by Entrelenguas.

How will participants stay in touch with trip leaders? And with family/friends at home?

Whenever a group of Unschool Adventures participants explores independently, they take an Unschool Adventures cell phone with them. This phone (which has a Spanish SIM card) allows them to contact the trip leaders at any time. Read more about how we mitigate risks abroad, especially under the “FAQs for International Trips” heading.

Participants will have opportunities every day to be in touch with friends and family at home. Free wifi is ubiquitous in Spain. We recommend bringing a wifi-enabled device (like a smartphone or tablet) and using email, Skype, and/or Whatsapp to stay in touch.

What’s the application process like, and when are payments due?

After applying, we’ll set up a Skype interview with you. Read more here about preparing for an interview with us. Upon being offered a spot on the trip, you’ll have two weeks to submit the trip paperwork and a $1500 non-refundable security deposit to secure your place. The rest of the program fee is due 3 months prior to departure.

Why is this trip more expensive than previous international trips?

Because Europe is expensive! We’ve long avoided Europe as a destination due to its higher costs, but we finally decided that it was time to give Spain a chance. Due to higher average costs of housing, as well as the Spanish school, this trip is about $1000 more expensive than recent comparable Unschool Adventures international trips. We still consider our prices quite competitive with similar programs.

Am I a good fit for this trip?

Unschool Adventures trips are for self-directed young people who are ready for more freedom and personal responsibility than the average teen. We offer our participants lots of chances to explore independently, always within reasonable safety limits. For these reasons, we only accept applicants who demonstrate a high level of maturity and preparation. Read more about determining whether it’s the right moment for you to join an Unschool Adventures trip.

I’m outside of the age range. Can I still apply?

Our age ranges are “flexible” because we’re open to considering both younger-than-normal applicants (who may possess unusual maturity and life experience) and older-than-normal applicants (who may feel that this trip is a great fit for their moment in life). If this matches your situation, please go ahead and apply!

What if I have another question?

Wonderful! Please write U.A. director Blake Boles ( with any specific questions about the Spain trip. Write Blueberry, our digital office manager (, with any general questions.

I am so, so excited. Where do I apply?

Right here :)


Photo credits

Header: Blake Boles
Guggenheim: Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
U.A. participants in Spanish class: Blake Boles
Ronda: Mark Rentz / Trover
Pasaia Donibane: Blake Boles
San Sebastian: Blake Boles
Barcelona at night: _Hadock_
La Sagrada Familia: K_Dafalias

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