Long-term travel changes lives. The following programs are especially well-suited for self-directed learners.

Gap Years and Gap Semesters

(Here’s an overview of gap years. Gap year programs are typically 9-months, following the academic calendar. Gap semesters are typically 3-4 months, as either a fall or spring semester.)

High Desert Center (Western Colorado): “Gap year programs for young adults who are looking for adventure, useful skills, community and a sense of purpose.” Heavy focus on self-directed learning and group living. [Bias alert: this is run by my good friend Dev Carey, who has employed me in the past.]

Praxis (location-flexible): “Spend a year working at an amazing company and get a rigorous education and professional development program.” Listen to my interview with founder Isaac Morehouse.

LEAPyear (India / Latin America + Northern California): full gap year program with an emphasis on self-knowledge. “Ten weeks of group travel in India or Latin America, a three-month individual internship of your own choosing, two months of intensive inner-directed retreats focused on navigating successfully into adulthood, experiential college curriculum of Life Skills Learning fully accredited through Naropa University, formal and informal Rites of Passage, and full access to federal financial aid through FAFSA.”

Kroka Expeditions Semester (Vermont & Ecuador): Extended wilderness expeditions with self-suffiency and Waldorf influences. Listen to my interview with co-founder Misha Golfman. Two former Kroka teachers have also started a separate program, the Simple Life Internship.

The American Gap Association maintains a list of accredited and unaccredited gap year and gap semester programs.

Travel Programs

Unschool Adventures: Life-changing trips for self-directed young people ages 14-21. Previous 6-week international trips have gone to New Zealand, Nepal, Argentina, and more. Domestic programs have included the Writing Retreat (4 weeks), Adventure Semester (10 weeks), and more. Programs typically do not repeat. Now offering a gap semester in Argentina for ages 18-21. [Bias alert: this is my company.]

Project World School: “Inspiring temporary learning communities around the world for teens & young adults.” Programs are roughly 4 weeks long and follow a radical unschooling philosophy.

Andeo International Homestays: International homestay placements for teenagers during the summer and (uniquely) the school-year. (They also do placements for ages 18+.)

En Famille: 6-month international language immersion exchanges for ages 8-16. Homeschoolers welcome.

The Traveling School for Girls: Semester abroad program based out of Bozeman, Montana. “The Traveling School empowers teenage girls academically, physically, and culturally through an experiential high school semester overseas.” Suggested by a former participant who writes, “In my semester I went to Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama. We learned about the history of where we were, we talked to locals about their experiences and opinions, and we built our own community of 15 girls. So much changed for me after my semester at The Traveling School. I took control of my education. I asked better questions. I created experiences for myself that I would have never thought of if I hadn’t of gone. There are a lot more semester school programs too: http://semesterschools.net/

Interview with Japhy Dhungana

Japhy Dhungana, program director at Where There Be Dragons, talks with host Blake Boles about international semester programs and what young people gain from them, his own path from growing up in Nepal to becoming a climbing bum in Yosemite to biking across the Americas, and how to gain a global perspective even if you’re not able to travel.

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