Staging Journeys’ overarching goal in travel is to lead deep-learning, cultural experiences with parents and their children. Learn about upcoming trips here.  

Fast Friends, Rancho Viejo, November 2018

After leading a worldschooling tour in Mexico City and then a theater project in San Miguel de Allende, Melissa and I had the opportunity to spend a week in rural Rancho Viejo, Mexico. This mountain town of 150-people is nestled in a biosphere that is both beautiful and isolated.

A friend and Peace Corps volunteer, Daniel Farmer, who was doing environmental education in this village helped us arrange homestays with local families and a theater project at the local school.

Rancho Viejo, journal time on beds

I remember laying in my bed on the first night, wondering what I was doing in this place, wondering how our time there would go, wondering how my kids would handle the sudden cultural differences. Soon enough, I learned the answers to what it looked like to worldschool in rural Mexico.

5 Things Learned in Rancho Viejo

1. Games are Universal

We brought along some soccer balls, markers, and Uno cards to share, as well as theater games to play. These were huge hits and served to break the shyness between the local children and our children. Learning to play Escondito (hide and seek) and Tijeras (Rock, Paper, Scissors) in two languages with two similar sets of rules was a lot of fun! For the kids, it was easy to make friends when you just have to ask, “Quieres jugar?” Do you want to play? The children at the school and at our homestays were immediately welcoming towards our traveling children.


2. Shared Tasks Grow Community

Similar to playing games, offering to help carry dishes, wash clothes, or assist with meal prep might help adults find common ground. One of my favorite activities was to walk with our host, Leydi, admiring all the trees and vegetables that she tends and the wild plants that she cultivates.

Demonstrating How to Press Tortillas

3. Awareness of Consumerism

The way the people in Rancho live is a striking contrast to life in the US. In some ways, their lives are simpler; they cook whatever they have in the kitchen since there is no market to grab a few ingredients. In other ways, their lives are seemingly less simple; it can take a full day or more to do a load of laundry. Certainly, when every item has to be transported into town and every bit of trash has to be taken care of in some way there is a different awareness of what is used and consumed. Recycling has a much different meaning, and reducing and reusing becomes much more important.

Branches as costume pieces
Repurposed Swing

4. Finding the Familiar

Sometimes when we travel, we value familiarity. For my kids, this means that I pack their own pillowcases. Being able to slip that familiar smell over a pillow helps them at bedtime. Familiarity was especially helpful to our family while in Rancho, where we were further removed from the modern conveniences we are used to. Besides comforting my kids, familiarity served to connect us to our new friends as we shared familiar songs and movie characters, treats we love, or a simple game that we can play together. Realizing that we all enjoy a cool swim can bond us to others and to ourselves.

5. Ways We Measure Wealth

As I approached this experience, I was concerned that my children would leave Rancho feeling sorry for the people we met. In my mind, I was preparing for ways to combat these thoughts, but of course – ever the teachers – my children surprised me. After we left Rancho, it was the #1 place that they recall most fondly. My twelve year old thinks of the kids we stayed with often. He reflected, “they’re so fortunate. When they want fruit, they go pick it. They can walk to school without worrying about traffic. They can swim in the river every day. They can go fishing by themselves…”  I am so glad that they found these lifestyle differences valuable rather than observing the culture in Rancho in terms of worldly wealth. If you ask my kids where they want to revisit, without a doubt, they will suggest Rancho Viejo.

We went to Rancho Viejo to make theater with kids. We accomplished that goal, but much more importantly…

We found ways to honor the sameness of people, to learn from different perspectives and cultural norms, to honor the peoplehood in all of us!  As tends to happen, we arrived as strangers, we were treated as friends, we left as an extension of family.

This is why we worldschool.

Watch the connections in action; the small moments that make a big impact.

Are you ready to worldschool with us? Learn about current opportunities here. We are ready to learn and explore with your family!