The most important lesson I have learned, and am still learning, from unschooling is LETTING GO. Letting go of the urge to control how things are going to play out.
Naturally, things are different once you have children. Actually, nothing ever goes the way you think it will anymore. Ever. Not that this is a bad thing. There are many enjoyable moments to be had. And things become more fun in many ways.
There is no way my daughter will let me stay in my comfortable corner with my control buttons pushed. NO. WAY.
Kids are not conditioned by society yet. They are often free from previous wierd societal misconceptions that things are a certain way and that you can’t act outside of these restrains. But you can, actually.
And so when things seem to be out of control and you feel like it is really not how it should be, maybe the healthiest thing to do is to go with the flow, to resist resisting, to experience the moment and open up to it with an open mind and heart.
This way the feelings that are restraining you from enjoying yourself will clear away and you will have a much more pleasant experience.
From travelling and unschooling at the same time I have learned that asking for help is not scary. Most people when asked for help will do what they can to acommodate your needs. Most people will smile and be friendly and understanding.
I have learned that people are friendly and understanding.
I have learned that it is okay to not be able to do everything by yourself.
I have learned that letting go of your inner control system is invigorating.
Of course. The practice of letting go is an ongoing theme for me. I have been practicing for a long time. Our unschooling lifestyle is helping me to learn to let go and cultivate a respectful relationship with my daughter rather than one based on control and power paradigms.
And so. What am actually talking about when I say letting go?
With letting go I mean trust that the day will fun and enjoyable, no matter what happens. Trust that you and your child are able to tackle whatever happens. Trust that the people who don’t understand you anyway will stay out of your way if you just do live your life the way you want to. Trust that you will feel empowered if you let your fears go.
Actually, this is as much a note to myself as to anyone who’s reading.
I suppose it was in some sense unavoidable for me to become a traveller at heart. Being born into a family of restless people I had to at least be somewhat affected. As it was, my lust for travel and adventure was planted in me even before I could walk. Perhaps even before I was born. My parents have always been keen travellers and did quite a lot of adventourous travelling before they had kids.
Especially my dad is restless at heart; he has an unsatiable need to wander. My mum is surely the more grounded of the two. Actually, she probably would not have travelled as much if it wasn’t for my dad. My dad always wanted to see the world from the sea side so when he had managed to persuade my mum to sail across the Atlantic with him as deckhands on a sailing boat he was naturally delighted. My mum less so. She likes sailing as long as the winds are calm and the waters glossy. Thus, she spent most of her deckhand time trying to cope with overwhelming nausea while my dad enjoyed himeslf immensely.
I was only a baby when I went on a sailing boat for the first time. The boat’s name was YoYo and my dad’s very first own sailing boat. He bought it before he even knew how to sail properly, but that was no hindrance to him. His philosophy was learning by doing and it seemed to work out fine for him.
Since then my dad bought an old ship carcass in Greenland while we were living there and worked on it for several hours every day until it was ready to sail. We then spent our summers sailing around the Greenlandic seas in The Northern Star as the ship was called. We also had a small speed boat that my sister and I practically grew up on, spending our summers sailing around the Greenlandic archipelago, fishing, and going camping on the islands. I remember those summers as truly magical.
I was a mere two months old when I sat feet on my first airplane. Going from Denmark to Greenland, where we were going to live for the next 4 years and where my sister was born.
My first actual memory from Greenland is one of trying to reach a keyhole that was exactly out of my reach with a key I had been given by my mum upon insisting on going home to bed while my parents were visiting a friend and talking boring adult talk. I was two years old. My mum had given me the key and let me go while secretly following me home at a safe distance. I remember desperately reaching for the keyhole while eventually peeing my pants and starting to cry.
My mum was surely very quick to come to my aid. Much quicker than my memory tells me; all I remember is reaching for that keyhole on a light Greenlandic summers evening and not being able to reach it. That’s my first memory of wandering into the world on my own. And the need has stuck with me.
The need to explore and to be in unknown places and situations. It is not because I love being uncertain about things and not knowing what things are going to be like. It is more of a feeling that I need more experience. That I still don’t know enough about life to be able to live it fully. But when I travel it is as much a journey inwards as a journey out into the unknown.
Travelling for me has changed over time. Travelling with A is a completely different experience from travelling on my own when I was younger. I think I have only really settled into travelling since I started travelling with A. It started with small trips when she was just a baby. We would take the train to Rostock in Germany to visit my friend, we would go sailing with the family, or taking small 1 to 2 week trips to other places in Europe.
My motivation for travelling with A is surely to give her the possibility of gaining experiences from the world that are invaluable for her. But it is as much a believe that these experiences we have together might help tighten our bonds and be a guide to us in how to live our lives in the future in the sense that we are inspired and enriched by the people we meet, the places we go, the cultures we are fortunate enough to have a small taste of etc. And last but not least, it is a need to wander. Is it selfish of me to take my daughter travelling for long periods at a time? You could say that there is an element of selfishness in it. However, since nomadic tendencies are a part of my person, it would be to deny a whole part of myself if I were to not travel, and that in turn would be to deny A that part of me. For sure, travelling is an act of balancing, but so is any other part of life. And if we are able to balance our lives, to get equally the amount of time we need for ourselves, to process our experiences and to just live and equally the amount of adventure that fits us, then I believe that travelling is truly worth it.
Like everything else in life you become more accustomed to travelling over time. You settle into a more relaxed travel pace. A and I have managed to slow down enough that it feels like we’re not on the move constantly and that has been a big help for us in appreciating things and places more. I have discovered that we need at least a week to feel at home in a new place, and much likely longer. Granted, A and I are going home soon. A has made it very clear that 10 months of travel is enough for now. We have agreed that next time we travel we will stay even longer in each place. Go to fewer places and stay longer in each new spot.
I suppose A will be inheriting at least part of my wanderlust as it would be almost impossible for her not to. On the other hand, she has been very good at raising her voice when she had enough of new experiences. And I think part of what this trip has taught us is to know when to slow down.
There will be other trips, perhaps shorter, perhaps longer, in the future. We will learn new things from these trips. But we will always be able to look back on our journeys so far and remember all the things we learned. About ourselves and about the world.
A and I spent some time in Parque Tayrona, a national park on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
And even though LOTS of other people had planned to do the same thing, we still had a lot of the park all to ourselves. And it is a beautiful place. One just needs to keep in mind that Tayrona is quickly becoming one of the most hyped places that Colombia has to offer, which definitely cannot help but take its toll on a place. We were lucky enough to see monkeys jumping around in the tree tops and we saw lots of birds too. And swam in amazingly refreshing water.
The park is full of camping options and we chose the first place we got to, which was also the cheapest and the biggest. We slept in hammocks.
During our days we walked around the park and looked for monkeys in the trees. We also spent a lot of time swimming and exploring caves.
Tayrona is full of beaches. Most of them are dangerous and have strong rip currents, but they are all sign posted. And they are all equally beautiful; strewn with boulders and lush with jungly vegetation.
beautiful beaches of Parque Tayrona
there are huge rocks strewn along the coast
We brought most of our food ourselves since the food you can buy there is very expensive. I was surprised to see that the park does not offer adequate communal cooking sites; there is a fireplace and some run-down pots and no wood for making a fire. So we ate oatmeal and banana crisps for three days.
One evening we were talking to some other travellers who were interested in knowing where A goes to school. When I told them she doesn’t go to school and never has gone they were amazed by how much she knew even though she’d never actually ‘learned’ it. Especially one person was intrigued by how A learns. He asked if we’d seen the movie ‘Captain Fantastic’? And even though there are lots of things about that movie that I felt quite disappointed about when I first saw it, I was still happy to hear that someone who doesn’t actually unschool or even homeschool could be inspired by a movie about homeschooling.
I am mostly weary of talking too much about unschooling with people who have no concept of alternative education. It is tedious trying to explain why we do what we do and how much learning actually takes place outside of a conventional schooling scene. But in this case I could feel that what I was trying to explain was actually sinking in. It is uplifting to have such encounters with people.
A was climbing the big rocks at our camp site during the day. She befriended a young boy who lived there and they spent some time climbing and talking. They had some difficulties understanding each other from time to time but they made it work with a little Spanish and a lot of sign language.
One day we went with a Canadian girl to see if we could find a place where we could jump straight from the rocks and into the water. A and I had noticed some people doing it the day before and we wanted to try it.
A wanted me or Sarah to go first so someone would be in the water when she went in. And then we jumped, and jumped, and jumped! We had a lot of fun.
After two nights of sleeping in hammocks in close proximity to lots of other people we decided to return to Santa Marta.
Visiting nature parks is always a good experience with A. She loves spending time outdoors and often walking outside together makes for interesting conversations. We both like the quiet of the nature and getting away from the crowds. Maybe I more so than A, but we both deduce from it something of greater value than might be visible to the eye.
It has to be said, though, that Parque Tayrona is probably the least charming out of all national parks we have visited thus far.
If you who are reading this post ever go to South America you can be sure that you will get a lot of attention. One good advice I can give you that is, if you have blond hair, you can hide it with a scarf. Or you can be sure that people will grab onto your hair. It happens very often that people touch your hair and you can get very tired of it. So you don’t want people to do it anymore. You can cover your hair with something so people can’t see it. And you will only recieve a lot of attention if you are light.
For example, three times people have held onto my arm when we were walking in the city and people often want to take a photo of me, even when I say I don’t want to. And if someone wants your child to do this you should consider that your child maybe doesn’t want to have their picture taken. It’s usually the parents that want the kids to take a photo with you.
The Amazonas has been on my list of places to visit for a very long time. It has always been a place of mystery and magic to me. When I was a child my dad would speak about the Amazon and the river, about crocodiles, snakes, about the people who live there, and the place became one of magic and wonder to me. It became a place of my dreams, and somewhere I wanted to go.
As it happens, when I first asked A where she wanted to go on this journey her immediate reply was: ‘The Amazonas’. I don’t know why but I suppose the Amazon has that air of mystery about it that makes you want to go and see for yourself. So, we did.
We took a plane from Bogota to Leticia in the south of Colombia. Leticia is in the Amazonas, right on the shores of the Amazon river. I was anticipating the weather to be very hot and humid but actually it was not nearly as hot as I had thought. We have experienced much hotter weather on our trip so far and we all quite liked the way the air felt in Leticia. It was unmistakenly a jungle destination; the sounds of the jungle were close to us at all times, the air was hot and humid, and there were (almost) no cars in the streets, only tuk-tuks. It was magical.
We stayed at a cosy little guesthouse where we slept in hammocks on the veranda and showered under the open sky. We have become accustomed to sleeping in hammocks by now but the first few times we did it I did not sleep very well. A has no trouble sleeping in a hammock though. There was an air of friendliness and tranquility about the place that easily made it one of my favourite places we’ve stayed. And we met some very nice people.
Leticia is a beautiful town. We went on a guided tour. One of the few tours we’ve been on on this trip. Our guide, Britman, was from Peru and had his own little river boat. He was very passionate about his job and told us everything he knew about the Amazonas, the river, the plants, the animals, and the tribal peoples who live in the area.
so many children were swimming in the river
A patting an anaconda
we visited what was supposed to be an animal rescue center on the tour; i have my doubts as to whether all the animals there were in fact rescued, but the monkeys at least were
we came upon an indigenous family who had caught a small crocodile
From Leticia we took a slow boat, also called a banana boat up the Amazon river to Iquitos in Peru. The trip took less than 48 hours even though we were told it could take up to 4 days.
There isn’t much to do onboard a banana boat. We put up our hammocks and lay swinging back and forth in the warm Amazonian breeze. We looked at the river, the Amazon forest, tiny villages. We were lucky enough to see a few river dolphins, but other than that there isn’t much wild life to see when you’re on a slow boat.
A of course quickly made friends with a little Peruvian girl and they spent most of their waking hours playing.
The meals were made and served in large portions by a talkative cook, who couldn’t for the life of her understand why we didn’t want to eat meat.
I took up reading Sherlock Holmes and found out that I really enjoy the story. I’ve never read it before but lying in a hammock all day seemed like a good occasion to read a long book.
not much to do
a small village along the river
a quiet evening on the Amazon river
We all enjoyed the simple life onboard the boat. But we were happy to reach Iquitos. Not least because it made it possible for us to use toilets that weren’t outright health damaging.
We spent almost a week in Iquitos and from there took the 5 day boat to Pucallpa. But that’s a different story.
It can be very difficult to miss places that you have to leave. For example when I needed to leave Mompiche, a place I had grown very attached to. First we planned to be there for three days but we ended up being there a month. We were going to Quito and that was very cold and rainy and I would have loved to stay in Mompiche for a little longer. And I was crying the first night because I really missed Mompiche.
It’s like when you fill up a glass of water and when it’s full you can’t put any more in and that’s how it is to travel. At some point you just get enough of that travel and you want to go home. It isn’t like that for everyone. Some people can fill the glass again and again and drink it.
When travelling, one of the greatest challenges for me is staying true to myself, my values, and my principles; sometimes travelling makes it hard to stay in tune with yourself because you are constantly exposed to new things; new people, new places, new sights, smells, tastes etc. etc.
Being on the move a lot makes it especially hard for me to pay enough attention to my own thoughts, feelings, and needs. And of course this affects my behaviour and my interactions with the people around me, especially with A. We are used to spending all our time together at home, but travelling adds another dimension to this and, naturally, some challenges. It can be challenging for me to stay rational and fair at all times, when I get stressed out or overwhelmed I tend to have less patience and I become irritated more easily, and it isn’t fair to A if I am not capable of taking the time to myself that I need.
I have sometimes found it difficult to take that time. We don’t always have the possibility of taking time to ourselves while travelling, or doing what we feel like when we feel like it. At least not the way we usually do it at home. That is why it is so important to find ways to take that time.
One of the ways I take a little time to wind down these days is to enjoy my coffee a little extra, simply dwell on the taste. Shut everything out. Just me and my coffee.
A too needs time to process everything and to stay tuned into her own needs. She has different ways than me of coping with being on the move and it can be difficult for her as well, but she is very good at adjusting to different situations. This is something we have both learned and are both learning as we travel.
As such, travelling for us is also an exercise in listening to ourselves, our bodies, our minds, and our needs.
What helps us when we feel disconnected is to settle down and stay in one place for a longer period of time. We need these breaks from all our experiences and choices and impressions so we can process what we go through, and take time for ourselves to do simply nothing.
It is easy to get caught up in a belief that we have to rush to see all the things that all the places we visit have to offer. At least I sometimes get caught up in that belief. Luckily, A is much better at taking it easy. She is good at listening to her own needs.
She reminds me of the need to take it easy, which is a big help for me from time to time. She has a way of settling in the moment, an incredible ability to be content in the present, which allows her to enjoy the moment to the fullest. No matter if we are swimming in the Caribbean, walking down a busy street in Bogota or Quito, visiting an ancient ruin in Peru, or simply lazing around in our accommodation. A is good at being in the present. And she is good at letting me know if she needs a day to relax.
parque tayrona is a good place to relax and meditate
it is easy to find a quiet spot
this mama knows what it means to take it easy
The other day A said she wanted to stay at home while Niels and I went into town. She spent the whole day with our host, Nini, and was so happy when we got back that she had been able to relax and unwind. She had been talking to my dad on skype, playing cards on the laptop, playing wii, simply enjoying herself. This time that she took for herself makes it possible for her to process some of all the things we have experienced on our travels.
When we take time to ourselves we don’t necessarily need to be alone. For example, as I am writing this we are three people in the room; one is reading, one is playing the ipad, and one is writing. Everyone is absorbed by their own thing, which is exactly what taking time for yourself is about. You don’t have to be alone to take time for yourself, you simply need to tune out of your surroundings and into yourself. This is an ability that A has mastered.
I am not the only one to notice A’s ability to be present in the now and to listen to her own needs. Numerous times people have complimented this ability in her and reminded me of how important this ability is. In a room full of people she is able to sit quietly in a corner, looking in a book, or watching some show on mute, or having a conversation with herself. And being able to do this is paramount, especially when on the move.
eating empanadas in medellin
at a pool in santa marta
A studying the objects at el museo del oro in Bogota
there’s always time for a pose
Our travels are continuing along with our learning and our exercises in staying true to ourselves and our own needs and values. We treasure the moments we have, the moments we get, and all the time that is given to us.
A and Niels are studying the wonders of the ocean ❤
We meet up with my brother, Niels, in Quito. We have been travelling for almost 5 months and we are really happy to see a familiar face. A is positively beaming with happiness. She has been looking forward to seeing her uncle for a long time!
My brother brought sunshine to Quito and we enjoy a couple of sunny days there, a welcomed change to the rainy days we have been experiencing since we arrived.
Actually, we have spent quite a long time in Ecuador. We travelled up the coast from Peru to Montañita, Puerto Lopez, Canoa, and then Mompiche, where we stayed for a month, which I will elaborate on later, and then we went to Quito.
In Quito we meet Jan from Germany. We spend some really good days with him, going to Otavalo and Mindo, which are both towns near to Quito. Jan is delightful company and A really enjoys spending time with him. We go around town pretending to have super powers and fighting against evil forces who want to control the earth. It is a lot of fun. We also meet up with Olga and Magdalena, two girls from Poland that we know from Mompiche, and we are really happy to see them again.
We have had some good adventures, met amazing people, and enjoyed life a lot in Ecuador. But we are ready to move on. To Colombia. I am SO excited to see this country. Virtually everyone we have met have told us that Colombia is AMAZING!
The border crossing from Ecuador to Colombia is the quickest and easiest we have made on our travels so far. The part that took the longest was getting stamped out of Ecuador and that was only because the line was the same one as people entering the country were in. On the Colombian side we just breeze through and then we get a taxi to Ipiales where we spend our first night.
The next morning we take an 8 hour bus ride to Popayan. The scenery on the ride is stunning. A counts 8 waterfalls. We ride on the mountain sides and look down steep hills into valleys with rivers. Everything is green and lush. It is a big change to the southern coasts we have left behind.
Popayan is known in Colombia as la ciudad blanca, the white city, and one of the most well-kept colonial cities in Colombia. The historical center is full of old, white buildings. It is warmer here and we enjoy walking along the streets in el centro historico. We eat street food; arroz con frijoles and arepas con queso. It is easy to find assumably vegetarian food but we have to make it absolutely clear that we don’t want ANY kind of meat. Unfortunately we are unlucky enough to be served alegedly vegetarian dishes with meat in them on several occasions; yuck! This is not unique for Colombia though; it happens all over South America all the time. It is more a question of cultural differences than anything else, I think. The aspect of not eating any animal products is simply unthinkable here. And surely fish or poultry is not meat? As well as minced meat or broth cooked on meat is not meat. But it is!!
We walk around town and climb a hill with a statue on it that gives a great view over Popayan.
top of the hill
view of Popayan
view from the bus
A and Niels studying an ant trail
Our first impressions of Colombia are great. People are incredibly friendly and welcoming. People in the street stop us to ask where we’re from or just to bid us hello and welcome. A lot of people ask us to pose with them in pictures; they are especially fond of A’s blond hair and blue eyes. A agrees to pose once in a while, but she also knows when she’s had enough and declines if she feels too overwhelmed.
walking the streets of Popayan
la ciudad blanca
We stay three nights in Popayan before moving on to Cali, Colombia’s most famous salsa town. And Cali is AMAZING – Niels and I love it from the moment we arrive. A is reluctant because she is hungry and tired. But once we have eaten some bandeja she feels better. And Cali captures her heart as well.
this giant tree sits in heart of Cali
there are many beautiful trees in Cali
the river runs through town
Cali has excellent street art
in Cali people love cats
cat’s don’t exist (in the bible)
Diego was kind enough to tell us about the ‘ways of Cali’
We are visiting our first national park on our travels. After having spent time in Montañita we take the bus one hour north to Puerto Lopez, which is known to be the eco-tour mecca of Ecuador.
From Puerto Lopez you can visit the Machalilla National Park, see the most beautiful beach in the country, Los Frailes, or go see ‘The Poor Man’s Galapagos’, Isla Los Platas. There are many other tours to be taken from Puerto Lopez but we settled for the Machalilla National Park. The entrance is free as is true for all Ecuadorian national parks, except for the Galapagos Islands.
Machalilla National Park is beautiful! And it is very easy to get there from Puerto Lopez. The whole trip costs us 4 USD in total. 2 to get from the center to the bus station with a moto taxi and 2 to get a bus to the entrance.
We decide to hike through the park on a trail that took us up in the hills along the coast and through thick bush landscape. We see interesting plants, lots of lizards, and a snake. But our favourite part is definitely the beaches. And I should think that they are what the park is known for. Especially the last beach is magical, Los Frailes.
While we walk, A is writing notes in her book. She talks excitedly about how she wants to be a scientist and an explorer. She draws lizards in the book and wants me to get a perfect picture of one so that she can see all its details.
A and her notebook
trying to smell a flower
this little pink thing sits in the middle of all the dry branches ❤
While we are walking A starts reciting a poem from one of her audio books. It goes a little like this:
‘In the garden of light I will walk. With beauty in front of me I will walk. With beauty behind me I will walk. With beauty above me I will walk. With beauty below me I will walk. On the path of beauty I will walk.’
She tells me that the place inspires her to recite poems because of its beauty and I fill up with happiness and pride because of my daughter’s wisdom and her love for the world ❤
I feel blessed that I am able to experience something like this with her.
This is actually my 50th post – what a nice thing 🙂
Crossing the border into Ecuador from Peru was quite easy. The border force officer even smiled at us – it is the first time in my life I have met a smiling border force officer. And he gave us a 90 days stay even though I only asked for 2 months.
However, our bus was searched no less than three times. Everyone was ordered out of the bus every time and there was a dog that was made to enter the bus and sniff around while our backpacks and suitcases were searched.
I am not sure if there is a particular reason for this. I wondered if it had something to do with the possibility of someone trying to bring coca leaves into the country from Peru, since we experienced no such thing the two times we crossed borders between Peru and Bolivia, where coca leaves are legal.
We were both very tired since we had spent the whole day waiting for our bus in Mancora, which was a nightbus. It came at 11 pm and we were at the border at around 2 am. A had almost fallen asleep when we reached the border and had to get out and through the pass control. But she always takes it so fantastically. She wakes up, gets her things and gets out of the bus. If something seems weird, like our bus being searched so many times she will ask me why they’re doing it and I’ll try to explain as well as I can. But A always makes it through things like these without complaining and I really admire that. We are definitely not travelling the most comfortable way possible, first of all I can’t afford that and second of all I choose to travel slowly overland for many different reasons, and she never complains about it. I don’t think A even thinks about our way of travelling as being ‘unusual’ for a single parent and a child, she simply thinks of it as another aspect of our lives. This is part of how we do things.
Our first stop here in Ecuador is Montañita. We had a quick stopover in Guayaquil but I had chosen to skip this city for now; I had read different things about the city that made me not want to stay there and besides, we wanted to swim, so we moved on up north. Montañita is very good if you like partying, and, needless to say, partying is not exactly what we’re after. But, there is also a very nice stretch of beach here. We walked up and down the beach yesterday and went for several dips. We almost had the beach to ourselves. It was quite cloudy and we were both wearing sun screen but we found out that the sun is very harsh here, so we need to be really careful. None of us sunbathe but we like to swim and that exposes us to the sun as well.
We have found a favourite juice stall with 1 dollar shakes and toasts and crepes and another stall with veggie burgers. But prices are different than in Peru here. I don’t know if it is just Montañita that’s pricey because it’s so touristy, but I suspect Ecuador is just a little more expensive than other countries in South America.
Today we met a friend from Huanchaco. A girl from Switzerland, Shania. She had made almost the same journey we did and is now staying in Montañita for a while. She is making her way up north to meet a friend in Colombia. It was really nice to see a familiar face and we enjoyed talking and exchanging experiences. Shania is looking for a job here, so she can save money on food and accommodation. That’s how we met her in Huanchaco; we came to the hostel she was working at for breakfast. We also met two Dutch girls at our favourite juice stall who had been to Colombia and were making their way down to Peru. They showed us some very beautiful pictures of places they had been to in Colombia. A was so delighted to have someone to talk to other than me that she couldn’t stop telling them how happy she was to meet them.
After breakfast we went for a long walk along the beach. It is quite beautiful here. And almost deserted. All we saw were pelicans, black vultures, and lots and lots of little sea snails.
A ran along the beach in front of me, following the lines in the sand, which the waves were making and dancing while she was singing a made up song.
She said to me that even though our Christmas this year would be so different from all our other Christmases it would still be a Christmas. ‘Just a different one – one that we will remember always’, she said. I smiled.
I hope she will look back on this Christmas and remember it as a fantastic adventure.