Sunday, January 27, 2013

Project Unschool Peru: A Natural Learning Retreat in the Sacred Valley

by Lainie Liberti, Escape from America magazine:

You may remember an interview that I did with Lainie and her son Miro a while back. This mother-son duo who are slow-traveling the world together continue to inspire me. 

When I heard that they ended up in Peru’s Sacred Valley for a while to explore their mutual dream of creating a natural learning retreat, I knew I wanted to share the opportunity with as many people as I could. 

If you, your family, or your teenage kids are looking to be inspired, to learn to love to learn again, read on:

So, give us a one or two sentence summary of your latest project.

Project Unschool Peru is a life-changing event designed to inspire teens and families who wish to experience the magic of Peru’s Sacred Valley during a 4-week “natural-learning” retreat.

Designed as a temporary learning-community, participants follow their own interests individually and as a group, focusing on archaeology, history, ethnobotany, sacred plants and medicines, agriculture, arts and music, sustainability, Andean mysticism and so much more.

Is this a retreat or an educational gathering?

The retreat centers around the magic of co-creation and embodies the spirit of a “learning community”. Therefore it is both a retreat AND an educational gathering. Never knowing exactly what will happen, “discovery” holds the key, resulting in knowledge gained and lessons learned.

Venturing to Peru’s Sacred Valley to experience the rich cultural beauty, history and mystery, one cannot help but to be deeply inspired and learn a little.

The Project Unschool Peru retreat is an invitation to go where the magic happens, and when a committed community is created, who knows what will transpire! Each participant has a special gift, a special perspective, and so much to explore.

Project Unschool Peru participants learn from the environment and teach/mentor one another. Participants give as much as they receive and experience the greatest gift: the gift of learning, co-creating, and experiencing the magic of life.

What was the inspiration for this retreat?

Project Unschool Peru was born from an inspired idea between myself (an unschooling mom) and my unschooled teen son, Miro. Over the last four years, my son and I have transitioned into a unique lifestyle, one in which we do not have a permanent home, nor are we tied to any set schedule or follow any formal learning curriculum.

We travel based on our inspiration and learn naturally along the way. Both my son and I have witnessed the world transformed into our classroom based on our individual interests and collective experiences.

Peru is a special place for both of us. Miro and I have both fallen in love with the country’s unique offerings. Together we have been inspired to share Peru’s unique history, archeological sites, models of sustainability, expressive arts, and the deep mysticism contained in the traditions, as our lives have become enriched and forever changed.

The inspiration for the retreat? To bring these experiences to an engaged group of interested learners, who support one another as we reflect on our own relationship to the surrounding culture. It’s a powerful invitation to look at our own humanity and learn about others. With inspiration, the idea to create a retreat in the form of a temporary natural learning community in Peru’s Andes was born. 

What is a temporary learning community?

A learning community is a group of people who share common emotions, values or beliefs, whom are actively engaged in learning together, from each other and through collective experiences.

The community is temporary in the sense that it will exist in a certain point in time, and relies on all of its participants to come together and to breathe life into it. Somewhat within the vein of other temporary communities such as Burning Man, when the magic happens in a singular point in time, but the effects remain for a lifetime.

Combining the concepts behind a learning community and the deliberateness of temporality will create an intentional experience. 

4 weeks is a lot to some people – can you explain why so long?

We have designed a 4 week retreat that requires the entire four weeks to experience. Beyond the natural flow of subjects introduced each week, building upon the previous weeks, there are other fundamental reasons.

Not only are the participants traveling to high altitudes which requires time to properly acclimatize, the necessity to have time to fully immerse into the culture and develop relationships within the learning community requires at least 4 weeks to be effective.

What might people expect to take away from this experience?

We can’t anticipate all the things participants will take away from Project Unschool Peru, however we’ve designed the retreat to so that all have a taste of: adventure, magic, shamans, sacred ceremonies, healing, consciousness, excitement, love, friendship, laughter, inspiration, the Andes, the unknown, plant spirits, ancient temples, ancient technologies, ancient wisdom, sustainable agriculture, places of power, history, humanity, culture, community, yoga, Machu Picchu, inspiration, being alive, and learning naturally in a supportive community environment.

What is the cost, and what does that include?

The retreat costs $3800 USD. The cost covers a flight from Lima to Cusco (and back), all accommodations and ground transportation for the four weeks of the retreat.

The cost also includes tea, snacks and 3 meals a day, Monday through Saturday; all tickets and admission costs to archeological sites throughout Cusco and the Sacred Valley; all talks, lectures, documentary screenings, improv theater class, yoga classes, craft, music, and cooking workshops.

Also included in the price are daily hikes, led by a professional guide, guided mediation and some surprise guests and events. The retreat price also includes a 5-day guided trek to Machu Picchu, all amenities. Lastly, the price includes fun, learning, community and individual transformations (for more details, be sure to visit the website,

What are your guidelines for accepting people into the program or not?

We are looking for people who are familiar with the principles of natural learning, and who are open-minded and wish to experience both learning as a community and enjoying the sights, sounds and flavors of Peru. First and foremost, participation is required. The retreat is designed for solo teens ages 13-19, couples or any formation or families.

Do you only accept kids who are currently homeschooled or unschooled?

No, we are open to all kinds of schooled, home-schooled, world-schooled or unschooled teens. However the retreat does take place during the traditional school year, June 2nd through the 30th, so there’s that consideration.

We apply the principles of “radical unschooling”, so if a participant is not familiar with those philosophies, we would ask that they become familiar with it before the retreat.

In essence, we encourage attendance by teens who are responsible for their own experience (which doesn’t necessarily depend on their style of educational background).

Although the retreat is designed with many activity choices, participants don’t have to choose to participate in activities that don’t interest them, which is part of the unschooling principles of empowerment. We encourage all the teen participants to make their own choice about the experience they wish to have.

Whether the teen is schooled traditionally or unschooled, we hope each person comes to the retreat with a driven desire to participate in as many activities that interest them. We also hope participants will discover many more areas of interest that they didn’t have a prior interest in, and we believe they will become ‘inspired’ to see the world through new eyes!

Is fluency in Spanish required?

No, Spanish is not required to participate in the retreat. All discussions, workshops and tours will be conducted in English. If a participant wishes to learn or practice their Spanish, however, this is the place to do it!

Tell us a little about the group of leaders you have gathered to work with …

We have assembled a talented group of facilitators for the Project Unschool Peru retreat. Each staff member is bringing their own unique blend of talents to the retreat, each focused in a specific field. We have a seasoned yoga instructor, a theater improv teacher, a teen leader, a professional hiking guide, an ethnobotanist and teen mentor.

Additionally, we have engaged the guidance of one of the leading voices within the Radical Unschooling movement, Dayna Martin, to advise us on all matters relating to natural-learning. We have also invited local Peruvian artisans, musicians, shamans and farmers to lead workshops within their selected interests.

Lastly, we’ve engaged a well-known researcher to share his knowledge on the ancient cultures of Peru, explore alternative technologies and encourage all of us to look at our collective human history a little differently. 

What are you most excited about in regards to this project?

We are so excited to share the magic of Peru, the cultures and traditions within the context of a powerful learning experience. Because Project Unschool Peru focuses on the magic of co-creation and embodies the spirit of a learning community, one cannot predict what will be discovered, uncovered or experienced.

The commitment to being open to all the retreat has to offer with the intention to experience the grandest version of ourselves is what I’m most excited about. To experience that, especially in a community setting is pure magic. My son and I have been planning this retreat for almost a year and seeing it come to fruition is our dream.

What have been the biggest challenges so far?

This is a fair question, however, there really isn’t an answer. My son and I have been dreaming about creating Project Unschool Peru from the first time we visited Peru’s Sacred Valley. We recognized the opportunity and decided to move to Cusco to start planning the retreat in June of 2012.

We gave ourselves a year from inception to launch and in that time, we’ve met exactly the right people, found the perfect places, made the most perfect relationships and engaged the most incredible companies to help us out. We have had no challenges or obstacles and we are financing the project ourselves. The cost of the retreat covers the expenses and this is being produced as a labor of love for us.

How do interested people contact you, and what are the steps they have to take to apply?

We have a retreat web site here: We have all the information for the application process, payments, retreat details, background and contributors. Please visit the site for more information and details about participation and registration. We guarantee this will be a once in a lifetime experience and would love very much if you joined us. The retreat takes place June 2 - June 30th, 2013

Lainie Liberti is a recovering branding expert whose 18-year career once focused on creating campaigns for green/eco businesses, non-profits and conscious business. In 2008, California’s economy took a turn and Lainie decided to “be the change” instead of a victim. 

She and her then 9-year-old son, Miro, began the process of redesigning their lives, with the dream of spending stress-free quality time together. And in mid-2009, Lainie and Miro did just that and hit the road for a permanent adventure.

Three and half years, 13 countries and many personal changes later, Lainie and Miro are continuing to slow travel around the globe, living an inspired possession-free lifestyle, and committed to learning naturally in the world.

Lainie and Miro are both following their interests as they live in various places on the planet, as the world has been transformed into their classroom. Often you will hear Lainie say “we are blessed to be accidental unschoolers” and has become an advocate for “life learning” at any age. 

Lainie and Miro describe their greatest accomplishment as the ability to participate in the world without fear. You can read more about unschooling, life-learning, travel and inspiration on their blog: Raising Miro on the Road of Life.

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