For many people, summer vacation consists of a trip to the beach, camping in the mountains, or maybe a drive across the country. For 18-year-old Hannah Miller and her family, summer is not much different from what they always do.
Originally from New Hampshire, over the past seven years Hannah has traveled to over 24 countries on five different continents with her parents and three younger brothers. They don’t hit the road every day, but are likely to spend a few months in one place before moving on. As Hannah says, “after about six months in any one place I get ‘cabin fever’ and long for the road again.”
Hannah writes on EdventureGirl.com, “It all started when my dad quit his job, we packed things into storage, sold the house, and all six of us took off on a year-long trip through Europe and Northern Africa… on bikes. I was eleven at the time. It was a fantastic year, spent in tents and on the road, having adventure after adventure.” Since then they have also travelled by van, bus, train, plane, and on foot.
The Miller family has been able to fund their nomadic lifestyle by building an online career while traveling. Hannah’s dad works as a freelance computer programmer and database developer. Her mom works as a freelance travel writer/editor/project leader. Hannah knows Spanish, is TESOL/TEFL-certified, and has taught creative writing to students worldwide via Skype. She also writes for Wandering Educators, and is a travel and music blogger for ContentBLVD.
In addition to writing, Hannah has a passion for music. She began taking violin lessons at age six, and switched to fiddle at around nine or ten, followed by the guitar and mandolin. She is good at playing by ear, and has fun experimenting with different instruments around the world. Hannah also enjoys baking, drawing, and reading fantasy novels.
On her blog, Hannah answers a common question, “What About School?” by explaining, “I’ve never actually been to school as most kids know it…. We’ve always been homeschoolers.” She tells how her mom is a teacher who didn’t want to place her own children in the public school. (Read her mom’s article on the subject here.) In another post, Hannah writes, “I find that the social environment provided in schools does not prepare teens for the “real world.” Where else in the world are you thrown into a room filled entirely with people of your same age and culture? In my opinion, travel has prepared me far better for the world I will be faced with when I’m on my own. It has taught me how to deal with other cultures and traditions. Most importantly, it has allowed me to make real friends with people outside my age group and culture.”
While worldschooling is often associated with unschooling (see Miro’s World Schooling Adventure), Hannah says, “we’ve honestly never been unschoolers in the strictest sense of the word. My parents believe that having a structured education is a good thing, to a certain degree. I’ve taken real, high school level classes, including pre-calculus, astronomy (not to be confused with astrology, though a few hippies have taught me a bit about that as well), geology, biology and anatomy, to name a few. And yes, I’ve taken these classes with me on the road.”
High school is also possible while traveling, thanks to today’s modern technology. “I can do most of my schoolwork on a computer. I’m extremely grateful for that, let me tell you,” says Hannah. “There are hundreds, if not thousands of fantastic online educational resources for teens. You can get real credit for real courses, sometimes for free or very cheaply. Coursera is fantastic for this! An upside to doing high school this way is that you can learn at your own pace, and do it from anywhere in the world on your own time!”
In a Witness Humanity interview that she did a few years ago, Hannah stated, “My mom has always been really good about making sure we have a proper education. She works the essentials like math, science, English, and history around our travels, and we actually get through it pretty fast! She’s always maintained that it’s important that we use real textbooks for those things, and do them in order, especially where math is concerned. We’re registered as homeschoolers in New Hampshire, and each year we get an evaluation done by a teacher, just so that we know how well we’re doing and where we’re at. Thus far, I’m about the same as any other kid in the schooling category.”
In a satirical article titled, “10 Ways World-Schooling Has Ruined My Childhood,” Hannah wrote, “there’s no better way to learn geography, history, art, or music than by experiencing them first-hand. And those don’t even cover the other things traveling kids learn, like how to interact with people whose language I didn’t speak or understand, or how to deal with being outside of your comfort zone. As a result of our travel (and a lot of work on my part and that of my mom, I might add), I actually finished my high school years early.”
At age 16, Hannah started taking online college courses at Oregon State University. After completing two years there she is currently in the process of transferring to Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, starting this fall. Right now she’s back in the States, but soon Hannah will be heading up to Canada where she and her family are getting set up in a cottage on Wolfe Island, which she once admitted is one of the few places that feels like home to her. (The other two are Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala, and the forests of New Hampshire.)
Nevertheless, Hannah intends to continue the nomadic lifestyle after she graduates. “By the end of my life I want to have visited every country in the world, and do it all through travel writing. In my opinion, there’s no better school than the big world around us, and no better way to learn about the planet I live on than to see it myself! My greatest fear: to reach the end of my days only to be filled with regret for the adventures I never had.”
Listen to Hannah’s talk with Dr. Jessie Voigts about worldschooling from a teen’s perspective:
Hannah’s Website: http://www.edventuregirl.com