Podcast: The Learning Benefits of Travel & Taking Big Risks with Blake Boles

Brave Writer Podcast

This podcast interview did not go the way I expected – in the most delightful way imaginable. We wound up discussing the power of travel in a teen’s life! Super fun.

Blake Boles is the Founder and Director of Unschool Adventures, and he’s written several helpful books including his most recent title, “Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School?” He also hosts the Off-Trail Learning podcast and has delivered dozens of presentations for education conferences, alternative schools, and parent groups.

Studying astrophysics at UC Berkeley in 2013, he stumbled upon the works of John Taylor Gatto, Grace Llewellyn, and other alternative education pioneers. Deeply inspired by the philosophy of unschooling, Blake custom-designed his final two years of college to focus exclusively on education theory. After graduating, he joined the Not Back to School Camp community and began writing and speaking widely on the subject of self-directed learning. 

His biggest passion is sharing his enthusiasm and experience with young adults who are blazing their own trails through life.

Show Notes

The Bohemian Travel Lifestyle

Blake grew up with some great early travel experience, living with a family in Chile for a month at fourteen years old, traveling across Europe with friends at 19, organizing snowboarding trips in British Columbia during college, and taking a transformative trip to South America at 25. Those experiences seeded a love of travel within him, which eventually grew into his founding of Unschool Adventures.

He believes that the most formative and powerful travel experiences are the ones we handle alone or with a few friends, so he tries not to set everything up for the teens he works with. He gives them the space and time to explore, discover, and make mistakes. He makes sure they come home safe, but there will be struggles along the way – and that’s an important part of the experience.

Unschooling vs. the Traditional Learning Environment

When you’re first pushing back against a system that’s being forced upon you, it’s natural to be dogmatic. Over the years, however, Blake has managed to find a good balance between encouraging people to question the traditional school experience without forcing them to believe that homeschooling or unschooling are inherently better.

Traditional school does work for some kids at least some of the time. For some, it can be frustrating, boring, or unengaging. And for those kids, there are several different options, such as going to community college and engaging in academics at an earlier age, or for some it can mean unschooling – full time, self-directed learning, or alternative schools.

The question, “Why are you still sending your kids to school?” is not meant to be rhetorical, but a question to actively engage in. Question why you are sending your kid to school, know the alternatives, and run small experiments to find out what works best for your child.

Getting Comfortable with Risk

It’s one thing to prepare our kids to be comfortable with risk. But how do we, as parents, get more comfortable with exposing our kids to risk? We have to find ways to engage in risk that we are comfortable with, whether that’s letting our kids skateboard or play video games or something else that gives them a world of their own, with choices to make.

We have to push our threshold to the limit and let our teens explore as much as we are comfortable with. Sure, there are certain risks that aren’t worth taking. But coddling our teens and not allowing them to make mistakes will only hurt their learning in the long run.

Travel is a great tool for getting comfortable with risk while opening yourself up to productive forms of it – for both parents and teens. Being willing to step away from what’s convenient and comfortable to take on big challenges is the ultimate goal.


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