Travel As Education: A Mom’s Year on the Road with Daughters

Sometimes the education you get from travel is better than what you can get in a classroom. Inge Poell photos.
Sometimes the education you get from travel is better than what you can get in a classroom. Inge Poell photos.

World-schooling; educating your children while traveling

By Inge Poell

Kids meeting other kids all over the world--that's truly an education as much as traditional classroom learning, the author says.
Kids meeting other kids all over the world–that’s truly an education as much as traditional classroom learning, the author says.

Being a single mom of three beautiful daughters life in Europe hadn’t been easy. Life had gone by too fast. So I decided to leave everything behind to follow our long lost dreams. We bought a few one-way tickets and left for Costa Rica.

Today, over a year later, we are still traveling. We have been all over South and Central America. The one question that we have been asked the most is about education. How do I educate my children while traveling? 

Finding passion

My oldest daughter Silvana looks at me, a little spark in her beautifully bright and almost mystically jade colored eyes. She had just asked me when we are going surfing again. Her question touches me, for as long as I could remember she had never shown any real authentic passion.

She had always done well in school, and she is very much liked by everyone. She’s that kind of girl that every one looks up to, a beautiful young lady of just fourteen years old.

Yet she never seemed to have that drive, that spark that can make you go to the ends of the oceans just to accomplish something. Just to be somewhere. She had always been somewhat lukewarm in her ways.

As a mom that had worried me, for I believe there is little more important in life than finding your passion. She had liked gymnastics, skateboarding and surfing. But she always needed that push to go out there and do it. Now this journey of ours slowly but surely had transformed this educated little girl into a free spirited and passionate soul. 

Unschooling the mind 

Surfing in Costa Rica.
Surfing in Costa Rica.

For her, this journey has been the hardest. In Europe she had been into the (educational) system the longest. She had always been told what, when and how to learn. There had been little room for following her own interests and natural learning curve. I believe we had been quite open minded at home, but still I think she was greatly formed by what our society wanted her to become.  

Starting out on this journey we had dragged tons of schoolbooks along, for she needed to have something to hold on to. She wasn’t ready to dive in and be living life outside the system. She had been quite disciplined regarding reading and studying. I believe now this was not her beautiful heart speaking, but plain fear to be lost without everything she thought she needed. Everything she was taught to be needing.

Much like in nature and giving birth where it takes us months to come back to our authentic bodies, it takes a child months to a year to get back to their authentic selves after leaving the educational system. To deschool or unschool their minds.   Half a year into this great adventure I could sense something changing.

There was less need to follow a certain curriculum. She was still learning but now chooses what she feels is right for her. She mainly focuses on her secondary languages.

She is opening up to people and making valuable contacts again. She’s surfing and training, and genuinely enthusiastic about it. She’s engaging in Spanish and English conversation with the locals.

She’s not standing at the sidelines anymore. She’s slowly moving to the center of the court and feeling confident about it. She is becoming her own spirit, and the more I see her blossom the more radiant she turns out to be. So much beauty had been hidden behind the harsh expectations of our civilized world.

The facilitating parent 

As a parent I don’t have to teach my children anything. I am solely here to facilitate. Children are born with a natural born curiosity, a hunger for learning. As a parent I listen, I answer their questions to the best of my ability. I guide them in their search for knowledge. They don’t need to be told what to learn. They need to know where to find information, and how to process that information. While traveling through South and Central America we have experienced the Andean mountains.

We did not just read about them but also inhaled and touched their essence. We visited ancient ruins. We talked to indigenous people. We looked wildlife in the eye. We experienced life instead of reading about it. Real life history classes. Real life geography classes. Secondary languages. Art. Nature & science. Not once did I need a test to prove their learning. They had absorbed it all like precious sponges.

Bri Bri Waterfalls in Costa Rica. Where Inge began her long roadtrip with her daughters.
Bri Bri Waterfalls in Costa Rica. Where Inge began her long roadtrip with her daughters.

Aren’t you afraid your children miss out on chances in the ‘real world’?

In all honesty unschooling had never been a goal to me, it has been a learning process. Just like life itself is a learning process. The longer our journey continues however the more faith I have in myself (and the children) as a human being. I have faith in our capabilities to follow our hearts, they will lead us the way. For me life is all about finding out who you are, what talents you are gifted with. About finding your passion in life, finding out what makes you happy.

If my children grow up knowing their gifts and talents, they will succeed in life. They will succeed by feeling authentically happy. They will make a job out of what they love. They will make money if they would want to. Or maybe they’ll continue along this path feeling strong outside our system. They might thrive on their idealistic visions and be saving our vulnerable planet.

They might enter the corporate life. But whatever they may do in the future, it will be the result of critical thinking and choices owned by their own magical free spirits. Even if they would decide on wanting to re-enter the public school-system, or apply for University, they could. Some of the best Universities in the United States are actively searching for home- and unschoolers because they have proved to be such strong and motivated learners.

I believe learning flows naturally, and expands according to your courage. I don’t try to be fearless, but I do try to fear less and trust myself, the children and the world as our classroom.

Inge Poell
Inge Poell

Inge Poell is a single mom roaming the earth with her three daughters. “Together we travel. We world school. We put one foot in front of the other. We breathe. We live to be free.”  Visit her new blog: http://www.travelingbeyondborders.com/.

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