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Lainie and her 12 year old son Miro have been travelling for nearly two years and have no plans to stop. We met up with them in Colombia and loved hearing their stories of couchsurfing and volunteering through Latin America. They write and podcast about their adventures at Raising Miro.
1) How long have you been travelling and where have you been?
Miro and I set out in July of 2009. We started in Mexico and have since made our way down into South America where we currently find ourselves. We are approaching the completion of our second year of travel, soon to embark on our third. (Wow, even to write that, it seems strange.) We have traveled through 11 countries so far, including all of Central America and two countries in South America (including Colombia and Ecuador).
2) Did you plan to travel for so long? What made you stay on the road?
When we started on our trip, the idea was to travel for one year from Mexico to Argentina. Before we set out, that sounded like a doable plan, even seemed like a long time for us and a huge undertaking.
Before we set out, our perception of traveling (? yes, we spell it that way in the States) was very different. Before we set out, we were in a ‘defining’ mind-set and it seemed very important for us to have a plan. Before we set out, it seemed scary and unknown. Before we set out we defined our travels ‘doing’, instead of ‘being’.
But being on the road, our perception of life actually shifted and we have learned to live in the moment without the need for plans, that life and traveling were not scary at all, and it was ok to live at a slower pace guided by inspiration and doing the thing that bring us joy.
3) How do you fund your travels?
When we first set out on our travels, we had enough savings to last a year. And it did and when the end of our first year on the road approached, we knew we’d have to make adjustments. Having a pretty successful career before we left, I had many contacts remaining and put the word out that I was looking for a freelance gig.
I took a consulting project with a former client even through I had a little voice inside of me advising me against it. I figured it was because I was still feeling a major work burn out, but reasoned even though the project would be time consuming and stressful, it was worth it by providing another 6 months or so of traveling expenses, a trade off I was willing to make. However, once the project was completed, I did not receive payment and was given the typical run around from the check is in the mail to ‘there must be a problem with YOUR bank, because we wired the money’. My heart sunk as I knew I had just spun my wheels for nothing.
At that point, I decided I needed to trust that little voice in my head and figure out a new strategy. Miro and I knew that we wanted to continue traveling and decided to do so until he turned 18. We decided to ‘brand’ our story, share our experiences and inspire others to listen to their inspiration and inner guidance. We started RaisingMiro.com and committed to transitioning our journey as a means to support us. And that’s exactly what we have done. We live frugally,volunteer, couch surf and are fully supported through the proceeds generated from our blog from sponsorships, ad sales and donations. And we are beyond grateful for the opportunity to live the lives we’ve created.
….and oh, through negotiation I was finally able to collect ½ of what the client owed me on that project almost 1 year later. It was something, but the bigger gift in that whole experience was being forced to shift my focus completely and instead of continuing to work in a manner that no longer brought me joy, I created a new stream of income for us doing something that fulfills our lives. And the best part, it’s something my son and I have created together.
4) What are the benefits and challenges of travelling long term with your son?
I am going to answer this question in reverse order.
I am not sure traveling is the only source of challenges, I would layer adolescence, unschooling, language and cultural barriers to the mix. Our lifestyle is not a conventional one, so the idea of following some set of rules frees us up entirely for whatever experience life offers. This provides so many wonderful experiences, opportunities and adventures. But the biggest challenge my son faces, is that he does not have a regular set of friends his age to interact with. At times, Miro has expressed he wished he had a friend who he can talk with, play video games with and hang out with. But when I suggest to enroll him in a local school so he can interact with kids his own age, he adamantly refuses. Thankfully, he maintains friendships online with some of his friends from the States, but it is not the same.
The benefits to our lifestyle, are something that has yet to be revealed. However, I can speculate that through providing Miro with a global experience, his perception of humanity and his place in world will forever be altered.
5) You are ‘unschooling’ Miro – what does this mean and what do you think the advantages are over a traditional school-based education?
Well, that’s a loaded question. There are so many aspects to this question it’s difficult to provide a concise answer.
In essence, unschooling is child led education, meaning the child is fully responsible for his education and learns based on his (or her) choices and interests. I do, of course, think there are numerous advantages to unschooling over traditional school education. Some of the contributing factors are the current state of the school system in the United States, how we’ve applied the concept of unschooling or as we call it ‘worldschooling’ to our lives and finally Miro being led by his own unique set of interests, sometimes influenced by the world around him, other times led by his own inner guidance.
But in all honesty, we won’t know until we actually know. In other words, I cannot predict the future, only project what I think may be the benefits. And it’s impossible to speculate because we’ve chosen one way, not the other so by virtue of making a choice I have nothing in our experience to compare it to. I suppose we could check in with Miro in 10 years and ask him that same question, then again in 20 years and then again in 30 and so on. Yikes.. I wish I could be more clear, however, I am trusting my intuition that unschooling is the best choice for us.
I have actually written extensively about our experiences unschooling so far at our blog, at RaisingMiro.com and invite your audience to visit our site to read more if interested.
6) Many people say they can’t travel because they have children. What advice would you give them?
I would say all obstacles are in the mind. Your perception is the only thing in life you really have power over. If you choose to see having children as an obstacle to traveling, low and behold it is. If you choose to perceive having children as an opportunities to travel and to live life differently, well then it is. I could not think of a better gift to give your child then the world and being a citizen accountable to this beautiful planet we all share.
7) You focus on slow, immersive travel. How do you get to know local people and become part of a community?
We live like visiting locals but no matter how hard we try we will never be mistaken as a local. So we embrace our differences and live each day with respect and gratitude for the communities we live in.
One way we immerse our selves is through learning as much as we can about the history and culture and local rituals, sometimes in the form of cooking, or learning about the local crafts and other times through volunteering. Most of the time though, the best way we immerse ourselves and find invitations to participate within the community is through smiles.
8 ) What is the best food you’ve eaten on your travels?
I love all the different tastes and flavors, but I especially love the exotic fruits and vegetables available at the local markets. One of my guilty pleasures during our trip has been sampling all the fruits as fresh blended juices, or liquados. I would have to say my favorite fruit to date is nispero, which tastes like a cross between a pear and a date and when blended with milk to make a smoothie, tastes like liquid heaven.
9) What are some of your favourite off the beaten track destinations?
There are so many and our list continues to grow, so I thought I’d reply with a simple list.
- Playa Madera in Nicaragua for the surf, sand and waves.
- San Cipriano in Colombia for the beautiful soulful people, adventurous
transportation to get there and the beautiful surrounding jungles.
- Bullet Tree in Belize for the friendly community and awesome river tubing.
- Merida in Mexico, for the wonderful colorful dancers and rich history.
- Guatemala City in Guatemala, (surprised?) for the city itself,
architecture, culture, art, diversity & danger.
- Portobelo, Panama for the pirates, history and quaintness.
10) Where are you heading to next? Do you think you’ll ever settle down in one place?
We are currently in Ecuador, volunteering at a children’s foundation in the town of Banos. We’ve committed to being here for 2 months but we’ve been known to stay longer when inspired. So we don’t really know the exact duration of our stay in any place, but we do know after we leave Ecuador, we will travel south to Peru. As for how long we’ll be there, I can’t answer that either, unfortunately.
Which leads me to the second part of your question, ‘will we ever settle down in one place?’, um…. it’s possible but impossible for me to answer that. I am not sure how long one needs to be in a place to be considered settled down, but I can tell you this, I have no desire to return to the States, buy a piece of property and live a conventional lifestyle. We are not searching for anything, therefore there is nothing to find. That provides us the freedom to live solely from inspiration. We remain in one place, as long as we are inspired to do so.