My name is Carlos and since 1996 I have taught in public classrooms from K-12th grade, trained teachers, staff, and parents, and run programs that focus on leadership, Spanish, and environmental sustainability in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. I grew up speaking Spanish and learned English in school in Chicago. I spent most of my summers with my family in Venezuela and learned that true language acquisition happens when a learner is placed in an authentic environment and has meaningful cultural interactions. These experiences led me to be a teacher of ESL and Spanish, but it wasn’t soon until I realized that there was something wrong with the educational system. And since education is a microcosm of society, I feel the same about the latter.
I began this blog in 2010 (see below) when I resigned from teaching to take two years off for a personal sabbatical to learn about sustainable, or as I now say, regenerative living. To accomplish this, I worked on organic farms/properties, apprenticed in natural building, built stuff, and worked on a few earthen building projects, one being the straw bale Forest Ranger Station in King City, CA. I feel like I learned a lifetime of information about how to live in harmony with the earth during those two years and I had so much to write about. In 2012 I returned to Phoenix and began building a cob house for someone. During this time I ran workshops and documented each stage of the process. I realized somehow I needed to combine teaching with regenerative living. I also returned teaching hoping to integrate what I had learned. I found myself again disappointed with the educational system.The writing stopped and I again resigned in 2014. I knew I had to find more inspiration so I spent the summer working in Costa Rica with high school students on a leadership program. Upon my return, I took a position as a Principal of a charter school and decided I wanted to build a tiny house on a trailer. I was ready to make the shift and change my lifestyle. I wanted to have no debt, work fewer hours, impact the environment less, and spend more time being creative. I decided to first purchase a diesel truck and run it on vegetable oil. After researching for quite a while, I started building a biodiesel processor and a year later was making high quality fuel. I am rather proud to say that my truck runs on a federally registered insecticide-canola oil. However, the truck restoration took longer than I anticipated and in June of 2016, I made another radical change. I left the Principal position to take a teaching job at Costa Verde International School in Mexico starting in August of 2016. As much as I enjoyed that position more than any other since 1996, the opportunity to move to a little town on the Pacific, work in a ‘Green’ school, teach eco-science, help start a high school, live in an Eco-Village, well, it was just too perfect to pass up. So, in a week, I’m headed to Sayulita to see what life is like and I have a feeling, I will have more to write about.
Below is the first blog entry as I embarked on my journey back in 2010.
I am leaving my job behind in order to learn more about sustainable living. It has become painfully obvious that public-ity education has little to do with education. Now, I love the outdoors and consider myself a strong canoeist, but paddling against the constant stream of political roadblocks, mindless micromanagement, and inefficiency is physically and mentally draining. Most people know that public education is a sinking ship but instead of fixing the obvious hole in the hull, everyone is focused on patching the sail so it looks good. It took fourteen years for me to decide I could no longer work on the educational Titanic and that I had to align my life to my beliefs. What am I doing? I jumped ship and set a new course. I am going to learn about sustainable agriculture, Permaculture, building, and energy in order to rely less on ‘the system’ that is quickly decimating our natural resources. I want to live what I believe to be true; humans are meant to live intimately with the earth. Although mainstream America would definitely consider this path ‘the one less traveled’, I will learn from the many experts who are already out there living off the land. They are reaping the benefits of growing their own food, building homes from garbage, harnessing wind and solar energy, and living healthier overall. From small community garden programs, to large, organic, integrated farms with CSA’s, people are relying less on profit-driven factory farms which pollute not only the earth, but those they feed, through the use of pesticides, hormones, and steroids. How will I learn? The main source of my hands-on education will initially come from experience WWOOFing. I will begin my journey in New Mexico and at the end of the growing season, head to South America, where I will examine the possibilities of WWOOFing in Venezuela and Brazil. I may also look into apprenticeship programs in the area of sustainable building. Why am I doing it? I have traveled internationally since I was 6 months old. I remember my mom pulling us out of school a month before it ended and telling the concerned secretary, “Don’t worry, I’ll never let school get in the way of their education.” I have learned to love being in nature as much as I love traveling. Through both I have become educated and after 12 years of teaching I knew students should have similar experiences; I felt they needed nature-based experiences that would eventually lead them to international travel. These ideas led me to co-found Travel to Learn, an educational travel company. I decided to implement a multidisciplinary approach to the programs to cover personal growth, relationship building, cultural awareness/understanding, environmental education, nutrition education, language immersion, and volunteer work – the things not found in public education. All of these disciplines would be learned through ‘doing’ and not through teaching separate subjects and would eventually lead students to create positive change in their local and global communities. These are the foundations of Travel to Learn and with my cousin having lived in Central America working for The Peace Corps, we finally ended up choosing Nicaragua as our destination. I have no idea where this journey will lead me. All I do know is that I will never have all the answers, but as long as I have questions, Anywhere I Go, I’ll Travel to Learn. Thanks everyone for your support.