London and thoughts

It was a crazy travel week, but I finally got around to writing about leaving Mexico.

After spending a day packing our bags (to six kilos… Thomas Cook’s carry-on restrictions are tiny), a ten hour flight, and two hours of sleep, we arrived at London Gatwick Airport at 8:00 AM on Tuesday. The jet lag was brutal as it was 1:00 AM our time.

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By 9:00 we were en route to Victoria Station, in the center of the city.  We had a quick, healthy breakfast and some coffee at a chain cafe called EAT. Around ten we began our self guided eight mile tour of the city. I saw the Buckinham Place (and a double decker bus), ran though the Green Park (it was freezing), and took some pictures in telephone booths at the Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. You know, the touristy stuff. The London Eye had a line for hours so instead we took a free CPR class from some on-strike British med students. Unfortunately, Google maps led us to the wrong London Bridge, but we saw it from afar. The end of our walk was the Liverpool station, and at 2:30 we took the train to Rayan Airport where our next flight would take us to Zadar, Croatia for two weeks.

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Had we had more time we would have explored more, been a bit more relaxed, and gone to museums, but I think that in four hours we saw much of what tourists see on week long vacations. I hope to come back in the future ( maybe when the pound is a bit kinder to the dollar) to England to stay for longer and see more of the country.

Also, thoughts on the terror threat at the moment:

Right now, like many other European countries, the terror threat of the UK is at severe. Most travel websites would advise against traveling to London because the chance of a terror attack is ‘inevitable’. So should this stop you from travelling to the area? I don’t think so. In London people seemed to be just going about their daily lives. They are aware of the threat but they can’t and don’t let it control their lives. We went to all of the places that are considered targets of terrorism (tourist sites and large subway stations) and tried to be alert – but not afraid. Terrorism is a scary thought, and to be afraid and to have fear stop you from doing something is go give the terrorists what they want. It’s important to keep fears in perspective, few people are afraid to get in their cars yet over a million people die in car crashes every year. Many however are afraid of planes. If you do travel be alert, don’t get caught up or trapped in a large crowd or protest. The police force is everywhere so report anything that feels suspicious and most importantly trust your instincts and use common sense.

Thanks for reading 🙂 safe travels! Comments are really appreciated so feel free to leave one if you’d like 🙂 – Izzy

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Gringos in Cancun City

Breaking News: Six gringos ventured out of the hotel zone into “dangerous” Cancun city and survived! Nah, we didn’t make it into the news… but I think we should have as so few people who visit Cancun stay in the city. We were warned by countless people of the dangers of the city, and countless more people were perplexed by why we would ever dream to stay outside the hotel zone.

People seem to think of Cancun as swarming with drug activity and violence. In reality, teenagers walk alone after dark, kids play soccer and climb on play play structures after sunset; at midnight, families and friends are still happily eating tacos from roadside stops. None of them seem at all concerned about all “danger” that they have to live with everyday. You are so much more likely to get your wallet stolen on the hotel strip while under the influence, than you ever would just walking through Mexican neighborhoods.  A shop owner who we talked to agreed that there are areas where drug activity and crime is greater, no different than Denver, LA, New York or any big city. If you end up somewhere that feels unsafe, trust your instincts and leave.

Upon arrival, my family got of the bus at the station in central Cancun. We had to walk for hours and by the time we arrived to our Airbnb in south Cancun it was almost eleven o’clock. We did not feel unsafe at all walking in the dark, or unsafe fitting six people in a tiny taxi while chatting with our seventy year old driver who thought we were hilarious. We did not feel unsafe getting hamburguesas, tortas,  and tacos from a family business on the side of the road. We did not feel unsafe after getting on the wrong bus home from the beach, and arriving in a neighborhood miles away from where we needed to be. After getting off the bus lost, confused, and unsure of how we would get home, we were greeted by a happy group of locals who were talking, laughing,making and eating empanadas (which were amazing by the way and only a 50 cents). It felt like we were a part of the community.

The hotel zone is great for some people. Its easy, all inclusive, and very American. If you are coming to Mexico primarily for the beach and margaritas, it’s perfect for you. Have a blast! The beach is wonderful. On the other hand, if you came to Mexico to experience the beach and culture, don’t stay in the hotel zone. Rent an airbnb casa or couch surf! You will save a ton of money, learn some Spanish, and stay away from all of the crowds and tourist traps of the hotel strip. However you choose to travel, have fun and stay safe.

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Getting sandwiches while walking home from this family business

Unschool for High School

Unconventional learning while traveling

When my family started traveling my sisters (middle and elementary school) and I (high school) had to stop going to public schools. We tried to do online schooling with our district for a week or so; however, the time commitment and in-flexibility of this type of education proved to be almost as impossible to keep up with while traveling as regular school. Prior to leaving home we had already looked into a couple of methods of unconventional education and decided to switch to unschooling.

What is unschooling?

In short, unschooling can be described as the opposite of the public school system. There is no set curriculum, no deadlines, dates, or grades, and no teachers. The student is completely in control of his/her own education. In a public school, I would go to seven classes, five core classes and two electives, for fifty minutes each. Then, five hours of homework every night, tests, quizzes, finals, projects, required reading… you know the drill. Five days a week, for the entire year with exceptions of week long holidays and summer break. Now as an unschooler, I learn anything and everything I want. I can spend endless hours researching the origins of human civilization, or anatomy, or reading classics simply because I think they are interesting, and not because they are required for me to learn.

Transitioning:

For myself, the transition from conventional to unschooling was challenging. This transition is informally known as deschooling.  My sisters and I took a break from school completely after our last semester of regular school ended. I worried for a long time about how I would go to college, or get a job, or stay on the same level as my peers. I also worried about how I would be motivated to learn and what I would learn. I was unsure of how I would grow up to become the educated adult that society expects me to be without the constant guidance of the educational system.

It turn out that humans are actually a very naturally curious species. Without the restrictions of the school system, I have read, written, and been more excited about learning than I ever was while going to school.  Ironic, right?

Why unschooling is great

I don’t feel exhausted and mentally drained after spending countless hours in a classroom, and hours more at home doing as much work as possible to keep up with my 4.0 GPA and the hundreds of thousands of other 4.0s in this world all racing each other to the top of a ladder built not from excitement about learning, but from playing the system.

Instead, I feel empowered, independent, and smart. I feel grateful for an opportunity I was afraid of at first and took for granted, an opportunity to learn about the world in a way that the classroom cannot teach. As kids, we learn to play the piano, or paint, or cook, because it is what is interesting to us. Why is it that everything else we get to learn is closely controlled starting from five years old? For most of human history, learning was fluid and self motivated. This is how scholars such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Leo Tolstoy, Mozart, Einstein and Benjamin Franklin learned. I am excited to keep traveling and learning about the world, and I hope you feel inspired to do the same.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment if ya like 🙂 -Izzy

Some cool resources: 

Khanacademy.org — lessons that teach pretty much everything and lots of cool partner content

Alison.com  and Coursera.org — offer free college level courses  from prealgebra  to buisness to neuroscience

Ed.ted.com — Talks and lessons to getcha thinking

freerice.com — learn a bunch of subjects while helping end world hunger too

Goodreads.com — If you are looking for some interesting books

Overdrive downloadable library — hundreds of free ebooks and audio books to rent. All you have to do is put in your library card number.

Selfmadescholar.com — even more online classes that arn’t college level

Shmoop.com — a good resource for history, language arts, and test prep

Tulum, Mexico

 

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Beach at the Tulum Ruins

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” – Mother Teresa
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 The Ruins are on the a cliff just feet from the beach. Its an absolutely beautiful place, the water is clear and blue and the sand is so white. Getting to the archaeological site is easy on ADO bus or a taxi collective. Taxi collective from Playa Del Carmen costs only 40 pesos -3 US- (bus is 38) which is very cheap and much more affordable than a tour which costs 150 US dollars. When you get off the bus there are a ton of people who try to get you to buy extra tours which is a tourist trap so be careful. Other wise the entrance fee is 60 pesos -4.5 US- to get see the awesome ruins and beautiful beaches.

 

Thanks for reading 🙂 -Izzy