Photo Courtesy: Raising Miro on the Road of Life
For the past five years, 15-year-old Miro Siegel and his mom Lainie Liberti have been immersing themselves in international travel as an alternative form of education called world schooling, a type of unschooling. Lainie and Miro basically live a nomadic lifestyle, volunteering and naturally learning along the way, as they explore different cultures and places. The two plan on continuing their travels as long as they are both inspired to do so. Miro and Lainie now consider themselves to be “global citizens.”
This wandering existence was a big change from their previous life in Los Angeles, surrounded by all the comforts of Southern California living. Lainie had her own ad agency, Jungle, which focused on brand strategy, marketing, and graphic design for eco-conscious companies and nonprofit organizations. With the economic downturn in 2008, Lainie decided to sell her business and do something completely different so that she could spend more time with her son, which was hard to do as a single working mom. Lainie and Miro sold or gave away most of their possessions, and set out to travel the world together.
Miro and his mom have been traveling throughout Central and South America at a slow pace, staying anywhere from a week to two years in a place, which enables them to get to know an area better. They learn as much as they can about the local history, culture, traditions, cooking, crafts, etc. by visiting with native residents and serving as volunteers. Lainie and Miro save money by living as locals rather than tourists. They earn about $1000/month from their websites through ad revenue, sponsorships, and donations. Lainie occasionally does a freelance project as well, to fund their travels.
When Miro and his mom first set off on their trip, they expected that it would only be for a year and then he would go back to school. They weren’t aware of a concept called unschooling at the time. But after Lainie noticed Miro talking about geography, sociology, history, economics, mythology, languages, literature, math and science within the context of their travels, it suddenly dawned on her: “I sat back one night and realized how brilliant the idea of having the world teach my son was! Engage in life and learning happens.” Since then, Lainie has become an advocate of interest-led life learning for all ages, and she has written about unschooling extensively at raisingmiro.com (including here and here).
In an effort to help other unschoolers, homeschoolers, and democratic learners share in an enriching travel adventure, Miro and Lainie are producing a series of teen retreats called Project World School. Based on the principles of empowered decision making, problem solving through exploration, and self-directed interest-based initiatives, Project World School is not your typical educational tour or study abroad program. Project World School takes advantage of the power of an immersive learning community to produce collaborative goals, knowledge acquisition, personal development, and changes in global perspectives.
In July, Miro and Lainie will launch their second Project World School retreat in Peru, utilizing the landscape and culture of Cusco and the Sacred Valley’s enigmatic land of the Incas as a means for interactive discovery in archaeology, history, ethnobotany, agriculture, sustainability, Andean mysticism, art, music, and much more. Participants in the 22-day temporary learning community will follow their interests both individually and as a group. Each day will build upon the last, with every exploration leading the group into uncharted directions.
The July 2014 Project World School event is designed specifically for teenagers and young adults to enjoy life-changing experiences. However, there is a family extension available which includes six days for families of all sizes which will take place concurrently during the last six days of the teen retreat. Together they will visit a selection of ancient ruins, markets, and museums while discovering the mysteries of Machu Picchu. Find out how you can join Miro and Lainie this summer in Peru by visiting projectworldschool.com.
Q&A with Miro
Homeschooling Teen magazine asked Miro a series of questions about his travel experiences, and he offers lots of interesting insights!
Miro: I have been to a total of 14 countries, and out of them Guatemala and Peru rest at the top. Guatemala mainly for its colorful and vibrant culture, and Peru for its outstanding archaeological sites.
HST: What other countries are on your must-see list of places to visit?
Miro: On my to go list is Greece, Turkey, Japan and possibly India.
HST: What is the most exciting or memorable experience that you’ve had on your travels?
Miro: I’ve done many things one can consider exciting, such as bathing in a mud volcano, or driving on railroad tracks along with trains, but in my opinion, the most exciting thing that has happened is my growing up on the road.
HST: What do you like best about traveling?
Miro: Definitely the freedom that comes with it. Being a roamer is great and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The world is chalk full of places to explore, and I think it’s foolish to stay in one place for the majority of your life; it seems like such a grand waste.
HST: Is there a negative side to being a world traveler?
Miro: The largest problem I can see is that there’s a severe lack of community whilst traveling. I have yet to meet another like minded person my age throughout the 5 years on the road.
HST: What are your biggest challenges to living the way you do?
Miro: There really aren’t any. The hardest thing is the many cultural barriers put up, if by language or race. You’re always seen as “different” or “alien” and that can be hard to deal with.
HST: How is your Spanish? From your experience, what’s the best way to learn a new language?
Miro: My Spanish is fairly fluent and I can have deep conversations with somewhat ease. I think the best way to learn a new language (or anything really) is by complete and utter immersion. Surrounding yourself with language makes it so you not only learn by want, but by necessity.
HST: You and your mom seem to have a very close relationship. Now that you’re a teenager, do you ever wish you had more private time or personal space?
Miro: At times, certainly. But my mother and I have an incredibly close relationship. When a problem emerges, we don’t fight, but rather talk it out until it’s resolved. So no, I’m happy with how things are.
HST: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Miro: In my spare time I read, write, or indulge in video games. We are currently living in a mountain town and I sometimes enjoy hiking up the mountains.
HST: How would you describe the concept of unschooling and what it means to you?
Miro: Unschooling simply means I have the liberty to do what I want. I am in charge of my own education, so I can study what I want, when I want and how I want, IF I want to at all. No curriculum means I can take my time deciding what I want to invest my time into.
HST: Do you have any favorite subjects that you like to study?
Miro: Literature is certainly at the top, with mythology and ethnobotany coming second.
HST: What have you learned about the world, life, or yourself from your adventures?
Miro: I have learned that the world is a safe place, and that everything will work out in one way or another. We have had less than 10$ in our bank accounts at multiple points, but everything has always corrected itself. Money goes farther when traveling, you just have to be smart about it.
Miro: I honestly don’t know. I haven’t planned that far ahead yet, nor do I plan to. Eventually I want to become a successful writer, but I don’t know how that’s going to happen.
HST: What would you recommend to other teens who might like to travel, where should they start?
Miro: Don’t be afraid, and pack light. Those are the two true keys to travel. Be open to new experiences, and certainly step outside of your comfort zone.
Miro and Lainie write and podcast their experiences of slow traveling, volunteering, unschooling, and being a global citizen at: http://www.raisingmiro.com
Visit Miro’s online store featuring fair trade artisan products from a local Andean three-generation family business: http://mirosstore.raisingmiro.com
Read Miro’s short stories: http://www.raisingmiro.com/category/miro-unedited
Join Miro and Lainie this summer in Peru: http://projectworldschool.com
Photo Courtesy: Raising Miro on the Road of Life