Worldschooling: A Journey Beyond Education into Mental Health, Friendships, and Personal Growth
Worldschooling is such a huge theme. It is not just a question of education, it is a question of being. In this life. In an alternative way. With the home base on the planet, eternally changing location, yet staying with ourselves.
The last bits of light fading on the Mediterranean horizon, the sound of waves, and the first star. I sit to reflect. Upon our life. Upon the passed travel week. Upon the universe as such. And our place in it. On values, water, wind. Education, adventure, friendships. Meaningfulness, economy, trust. Litterature, life.
I choose to be happy, always. I wrote a blog post about that recently. In this context, it could be easy, as I am with my family at a friend’s place, with this amazing view of the ocean, well-rested after a slow day in the sun. The van is packed and tomorrow we drive to the bus, our base near Barcelona. Life is good.
In this blog post, I share reflections on mental health, friendships while traveling, and worldschooling.
Now, this is an issue. One of the most important persons in my life is right now struggling. With a heavy mental disease and a massive recent breakdown plus a life-threatening reaction to the medication. He is the most vulnerable person I know. Yet, I have the courage to write about mental health, personal responsibility, and about working for your happiness.
This week I have also been spending time with a friend, who had just spend time with an acquaintance, who was not exactly feeling good. My friend needed to share all the stories and all the frustration followed by the urge to help, and the helplessness she felt: Because you can not help someone, who does not for real want to be helped.
I do recognize, some people have a better, more solid ground to work from. Others have deeply frustrating challenges, and yet others are somewhere in between.
And I am a psychologist. I should know about these things.
Yet, the most important thing I have learned is this: Everyone benefits from personal responsibility and inner work. Everyone.
As the stars are coming out and the fishers on the cliffs turn on their red headlights, I wonder what mental health means? Do we have to be highly effective, superintelligent, productive, and focused to be healthy, or is it more a general life skill we talk about?
Know thy self
To be mentally healthy begins, where everything begins. With the connection to who we are, with daring to be who we are, and even more daring to become who we want to be. Mental health is about being balanced in our emotional and cognitive life, so much so, we can go do the things we want to do. And this all begins with knowing what that is: What do we want? And who are we to want it?
It all has the same root.
And by the way. The connection between cognition and emotion is the most interesting one: Most often, we feel, because we think. The thought ignites the emotion. This is why I recommend couples, who fight to go fight in another room. Say the bathroom. Or the basement. Go somewhere else, and you think something else, and your emotions will change, and therefore your fighting with your loved one will change. This is also the reason, we love to watch puppies on youtube to change our mood: Give it 4 minutes with cuties and you are all happy again.
Until you think the next ruining thought. Every thought we think will affect our mood, and it will make way for the next one. This is why we need to pay attention to what we think if we want to be mentally balanced, or just simply happy.
Meditation is key
The interesting thing is, many people believe, they have no control over their thoughts. Often they even think, their thoughts are their mind, their personality, their existence.
But it is not like that. We are all eternal beings. God’s Great Creations. A thinking mind is an amazing tool, we have, just like we have wonderful hands to work and create and caress with and we have feet to walk the Earth. When we meditate, we learn to separate ourselves from our thoughts, and therefore also from our emotions.
Many people have the same idea about emotions. Emotions are true, even our true selves. As I see it, they are – just like the mind – a tool, we got.
Emotions are reactions to cognitions or context. Most often the first. Emotions are reactions to thoughts. So, when we feel something negative, it is in most cases, because we think something which is basically wrong or at least presses some wrong buttons in our inner value and reality system. We have to analyze the whole thing to find the fault, but it sure is there. There is something wrong. Something is not balanced between the actual thought and our inner being, our true self.
The emotional life is the direct connection to the Truth if you will. But emotions are not the truth themselves. And sometimes the whole web of connected ideas, beliefs and cognitions need to be looked upon, before we know why we carry the emotion, we do not want to carry.
I never said it was easy.
The good thing is, it is within our own power to do something about it. Mental health can be worked with, it is not constant. We all have a history, and a psychological profile, a place to start. Yet, everything changes when we take responsibility, and start working with our inner world. A healthy mind is the result of consistent solid and healthy work. I share more reflections on how to stay happy and healthy in the blog post Hacks on Happiness.
Meditation is key because it teaches us to separate the experience of self from the experience of thoughts and emotions, and I highly recommend everyone to meditate as often as possible. It is a game-changer.
Another key is responsibility. We need to realize, the quality of our life is based upon our mental health, and that this same mental health is our own responsibility. We will never be happy or get anywhere near our goals in this life, we will not even know what our goals are if we do not realize we hold the responsibility for our own life ourselves.
This is how it is. It would be so much easier to blame someone else. Or our genes.
Friendships on the road
A question we get all the time is this: How do you have friends, how do you have a social life when you travel all the time?
It is an interesting one.
While traveling, we have made great friends, and we have become better friends. We are extremely social, and we are so well connected to who we are, so open-minded and ready for new people, we keep meeting amazing people. Right now I have escaped to a corner in a slow cafe to write, to come back to my inner life.
The thing is this. Friendships do not need to be nourished every day or every week. We have left the normal life, based in one place, and as such we have left the more normal way of having friends. We have to say no to important invitations of close friends, going back only for weddings and funerals (so far only funerals, sadly), book releases, and other big life events. We do not drop by for coffee on a regular basis with our friends, and we often miss out on great parties.
The thing is. It is because we are at other parties. With other friends. In other countries.
I feel our need for social life is always being supported, actually, we always have all we need. I know my old friends miss me as much as I miss them, but we are good. We do phone calls now and then, and I see clearly, that the time we have together when we are back in Denmark for the summers, is much more valuable. We have better conversations, we feel the love more clearly, we dive deep into the relation.
A good friend of mine moved to Spain eight years ago, and she is still my friend. Her children are some of the best friends of my children still.
So, what is friendship?
A true friendship can go on for years. In my life, all of my close friendships began with some sort of spark of energy. I look at the person, and I immediately know there is something here: some deep connection. And I don’t need years of communication or to know everything, I just know: Yes. Yes, let’s hang out. Let’s write a book. Let’s go dancing. There is something here. We need to connect.
It has been like that since forever. The only thing changing is, I get better at it and I get less surprised when it happens. Some of my friends I have had since childhood, some since high school, and some since last week. As we started traveling, I knew I would miss my friends, but I had no idea how many new amazing friends I would make.
Now that we travel full time, we are more clearly ourselves, as we … have evolved a lot as we broke free of the normal life, and broke free of the expectations connected to who we somehow are, just because we are white, Danish, educated, Captial people with many children. Now, we are out there, there are no expectations, and we have been freer to truly unfold who we are. We feel deeper connections faster with people, and we meet people more closely related to us on the spiritual level.
I think this is the reason, we feel our social life has just become richer. On the one hand, the time we have with our wonderful old friends in Denmark is so much more well spend, and on the other hand, we feel an explosion of deep personal connections everywhere we go. It is a win-win to travel.
And the children? What about the friends of the children?
The story goes the same. The only thing is, languages are more of a challenge to our children. So they do make friends when we travel, and we all have fun in the social field. But I am sure, the more they become fluent in Spanish and English (and whatever other languages, they will learn), their social life will also become better.
My children were unschooled when we lived in Copenhagen, so they are used to friendships being somewhat different from those of their friends. As an unschooler, you do not spend all day with your friends every day. You have close friends, and you hang out with them whenever you feel like it. So, traveling they are actually just doing more of the same: Living their life and going in their directions, with whatever they feel like in the actual context.
Embracing the full-time travel style
I am traveling full time. Last year my mother died. Later my stepfather died. And I sold my house. I have been traveling full-time with my 3 youngest children for just a bit more than a year and a half. My oldest lives in Copenhagen, and of course, this is big trouble. Or maybe it is the only true anchor we have left?
My point being. Now we really feel, we are actually out there. No plans of coming back anytime soon. Not for good. Sometimes we flirt with the idea of settling down somewhere. Sometimes (often) we want to buy a house. Sometimes it feels right.
Yet – it doesn’t. We are now truly embracing being full-time travelers.
A transition of this size does not come overnight, and it is totally okay, it has taken a lot of time. We needed the time, and we have had great fun on the way. We are now wiser, and we are now a deeply connected family, who just want to be together and travel the world.
This week we are in La Herradura, Andalusia, Spain, the world school hub, one of a kind. In this little pueblo, loads of people come from all over the world, traveling with children, and there is a great community here. We love it.
It is also challenging. We are in a social field all of the time, living in the green van, in public, communicating all day long with people. These days some of our new Danish friends are even here, and the socializing is on max.
Schooling on the road, what is unschooling anyway?
Now, another question, we get all the time is about the education of our children. They do not go to school, they never have. They are not in first grade, not in fifth grade, not in seventh grade. And one actually just finished a university degree. But that is another story.
So, the three children we travel with have never been to school, and we do not homeschool. We just don't do school. We unschool. This means, our children have their personal freedom to do whatever they want, within the frame of what we as a family feel is ethically okay, and what is possible in the actual context.
This is radically different from what most people know as a normal childhood. To us it is completely normal, we have been living without schools for many years.
So to get clear. We do not have a curriculum. We do not study anything we don't feel like studying. We do not force our children to study anything they don't want to study, we do not force them to study at all.
Yes, they can read cartoons all day, as long as they leave their laundry in the bin and help do the dishes.
Will they ever learn?
In my experience, yes. But it does take a lot of adjustment of my schooled mind and the schooled mind of everyone around us to accept that this life is not about learning academic skills from age 6-15, it is not about being the best in the test, it is not relevant to learn faster than your peers or to acquire skills younger than the neighbor.
Rather life from 6-15 is about growing, about finding your way into this life, about the maturing mind about acquiring an understanding of life, of relations, of yourself, of cultures and the big lines of science, literature, world history, maybe learn a language or two.
And this comes easy if we take school and forced education and forced development out of the equation. If we let the children be, they will flow and easily get to know themselves. Out of the schools, out in the world, we have loads of people to relate to, hours to connect and reflect, and thousands of minutes to wonder, study, reflect, find peace, grow, flow.
As a traveling worldschooling family, we live our life together, and we do not study systematically, yet we stumble upon the unknown all the time, we are enlightened by curiosity and we are powered by looking for answers.
Sometimes we study the geometry of the Al Hambra and sometimes we discuss the pop culture of the sixties and sometimes we rehearse a stupid walking style and sometimes we are looking for dolfins for hours.
Will this all equate to a normal basic education. No. It will not. It will be so extremely different, it is hard to describe.
One thing I do know is this. It will be amazing. And if there are any bits left behind, little things we need to learn, because we need to learn it before we can go somewhere or do something – could be university – we will just go learn. How hard can it be? And how busy are we?
May the sun shine on you.
Where are we now?
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