Traveling Is Not Just A Gap Year Experience with Blake Boles

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Blake was traditionally educated in the public school system of Bakersfield, CA. Other than being occasionally bored he felt he had a decent experience as a student within the traditional school system. He was a good student with good grades. He is a advocate and proponent of Self-Directed Learning and has written a book on the subject and founded a company that enables young adults and teenagers the opportunity to explore their own paths through travel both nationally and internationally.

He did not begin to explore the idea of education or being an educator until his 3rd year in college  at Berkeley. His ideas of Astrophysics weren’t as he pictured. He had envisioned astrophysics to be an adventure like those experienced in the movie “contact.” When he fully understood the reality of being at computers for hours on end he sought alternatives. After being given a copy of John Taylor Gatto’s Book “A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving The Crisis of American Schooling” he was inspired.

He changed his major and was chosen as one of seven students out of 20,000 to have his own self directed learning program and was able to design his own major. He felt the rich, intellectual environment of Berkeley sought to tackle traditional education “system issues” but didn’t explore the unschooling, homeschooling environments; they instead sought to look at the “stickiest” of topics including underprivileged students.

He has gone on to author several books of his own, including The Art of Self-Directed Learning, Better Than College and College Without High School. Blake also shares his current endeavor of helping young adults explore the world via his Unschool Adventure Program. Young travelers learn via conversational and experiential learning more than having formal instruction.

Blake is an advocate and proponent of learning through alternate means and with no formal education. He takes small groups, usually 10-12 teens and young adults ranging in age from 14 to 21, on national and international trips to expose them to experiences and environments rich for self-directed learning. There are no formal programs or strict, daily schedules for these trips.

Armed with brief guidelines and directions, mostly related to safety, students are permitted to take these travel adventures in whatever ways they choose, and learn as they go. Without being shepherded along, like in traditional school settings, students have opportunities for experiential learning and they simply create their own journeys. Lifelong friendships are cemented by the trip’s end.

While these trips permit autonomous learning, Blake and his team are always available for in a supportive role and facilitate, coach, mentor in the background, as necessary. He offered as an example for his upcoming Argentina trip his role will be to also facilitate group/apartment meetings to facilitate and guide young adults through the shared living environments. Many of the learners have interests in the arts; music, dance, writing and take individually guided paths to experience these within these unique international cities.

These trips are productive because of the selection process that ensures responsible and motivated young adults are chosen. The groups are generally self-selected and applicants are interviewed to ensure that learners understand why and what they are getting themselves into. In addition, they need to illustrate a desire to go and have had other away-from-home experiences because these long-term trips require responsibility with high-functioning learners to travel together across the globe.

  • Upcoming trips include a semester abroad in Argentina (18-21 year olds) in 2017 with no formal education requirements. The only requirements for the trip are to participate in Spanish Classes and apartment meetings.
  • Also planned is a Real World Retreat for 16-20 year olds in Vermont for 4 weeks to helps learners experience the skills and achieve the confidence necessary to move out of their parents’ houses and support themselves financially, build community, and continue living a meaningful, learning-centered life.

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