#45 Karen Ricks | Embracing Unschooling: Karen's Transformative Journey from the US to Japan and Beyond

E45 - Karen Ricks

🗓️ Recorded November 6th, 2023. 📍Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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About this Episode  

Meet Karen Ricks, a brave woman who relocated from the US to Japan, reshaping her life and changing her perspective on education. Her journey is an invitation to a new world where societal expectations about education and productivity are dismissed, and personal goals are set free from the need for external validation. From living in snowy Japan to exploring the warmth of Bulgaria and Italy, Karen's nomadic lifestyle and her experiences provide an enlightening perspective on life, education, and personal growth.

Karen's thoughts on the de-schooling process challenge the status quo, urging us to reconsider our views about traditional education. The concept of un-schooling takes center stage as Karen talks about her own experiences, demonstrating how letting go of society's preconceived notions about education can lead to unexpected personal and academic growth. She also shares the struggle of balancing a nomadic family life, the joy of culinary adventures, and the art of maintaining connections with local communities.

Engaging with Karen as she reflects on her experiences of moving and adapting to different climates and cultures reveals the importance of seizing opportunities and overcoming fear. She shares the thrill of culinary adventures and the ways they've reshaped her relationship with food. The conversation closes on a high note, with Karen sharing her views on gratitude, taking risks, and creating meaningful connections with people and communities. Her tale isn't just about a nomadic lifestyle and an un-schooling approach to education; it's a testament to personal growth and the pursuit of happiness in its purest form.


And we also just have to share this awesome image of Karen.  


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With love


Jesper Conrad 


00:00 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Okay, welcome, Karen. Good to meet you. I've seen a lot of your posts on the social media platforms and I've been like let's talk with Karen. So I'm not sure where to start, but I checked out your homepage and there was a lot of writing in Japanese, so let's start there. How did you end up in Japan, Karen?

00:25 - Karen Ricks (Host)
You know that's a great question and one that I am so often asked, and usually, if my husband were seated here next to me as you two were seated next to each other I'd be like ask him, because it really was initially all his idea.

My husband and I were born and raised in the US. We got married and traveled a bit around the world as young newlyweds and then settled into our quote unquote normal lives in the States and thought that that was what we were going to do. You know, live in the US and occasionally travel when we felt like it. And God put on his heart this desire to teach in Japan. I kind of laughed it off at first.

My husband has trained in martial arts and has a passion for teaching and so many things. But I still thought it was just kind of this weird out of the blue sort of idea at first, and so I kind of resisted, actually for several years. But when I finally came around, we left that quote unquote normal existence in the US and we moved to Japan. This was back in 2007 and it was just going to be for a year, you know, maybe two if we really liked it, and we ended up staying for 10 and that was I know that.

02:10 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I know that you think you haven't planned, and then maybe you didn't or things changed along the way. So you were planning to go to Japan and stay for one or two years and you're going for 10. So now it makes more sense that they pick up the language.

02:31 - Karen Ricks (Host)
Yes, it was something that we began to explore just so that we could carry on the briefest of conversations, basic questions, directions, those kinds of things. But I had no idea how deeply we would dive into the language, the history, the culture, how much a part of our hearts and our family's story it would become. Our son was born in Japan. I founded an international Montessori school while we were there and really began to explore even more deeply than I had before on a personal level as a professional educator, just what it meant for learning to. Really I don't even talk about the box anymore because we have smashed and burned the box and we are dancing around the flames but it was really the most earnest launching pad for our current world schooling and adventures.

03:51 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I think the box is still. I mean, we left that many years ago as well but I think we have to remember that it's a bit patronizing to say that people are living inside a box, but then again, somehow they are, and the people listening in on this podcast. They want to get out. If they're not already out, they want to get out. They're poking holes. They're like it's called a box opener, the little shop knife that you're trying to make Box cutter. Box cutter yeah.

Yes, so those listening, are finding that box very often or they just left it. It's just right behind there. Maybe it can come alive and come eat you again. I hear you when you say you smashed the box. We very often say we don't get up in the morning, not schooling. I mean it's not like and we don't get up in the morning, we're all schooling.

04:46 - Karen Ricks (Host)
We just get up in the morning and go on with our lives but still, we have to remember that, but so much of our existence really has been centered for so long around having to live and educate and work in a certain way, and so when I talk about the box, it really isn't just about education Although, again, as a trained educator, my world was this box that is school and the way that it's traditionally presented now but it's really about questioning everything, asking all of the questions of is this really the way that things have to be and why is it this way? And stepping outside of the lives that we thought we were going to live in the United States and moving into a linguistic and cultural context that was unfamiliar to us, was really the beginning of expanding our mindset as adults, as people, even before we became parents and business owners in a unfamiliar to us country. All of those things started with really questioning who we are and how we see ourselves in the context of the world around us, and that started with changing our context.

06:16 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Can you remember I mean, it's been a while Can you remember what you imagined it would be and how that was contrasted by what it became? You know that change. You have these ideas. Oh, I'm moving to Japan and you have this idea about what it will be like, and then you arrive and you're confused for a while. And maybe it is like that for a while and then, in my experience, it changes. But now you said it was in 2007. So maybe, but can you remember some of the?

06:51 - Karen Ricks (Host)
Oh, absolutely I remember some very specific examples strikingly clearly, in part because they still define the ways in which I challenge my own expectations even today. Before Japan and I left the US to go to Japan, we did not speak Japanese, we didn't read or write Japanese, we didn't know anybody who lived and or worked in Japan or had any kind of experience similar to what we were about to step into, and so we set off trying to learn what we could before embarking on this journey, and part of that included studying the Japanese language, and so we listened to some. I don't know if you're familiar with Japanese, but we did some. I don't know if you're familiar with the PIMS Learn Language method, but we learned some basic phrases so that we could do things like introduce ourselves, ask directions, order drinks. Those were kind of some of the basics, but we wanted to explore more about literacy in Japanese, because I thought it would be helpful if I could read a little bit of Japanese at least before going to Japan. I reached out to a colleague, a fellow educator, who knew someone that she was willing to recommend to me for Japanese language lessons.

Now, for those who aren't familiar with the Japanese language, it actually has three different syllabary, similar to alphabets, but only two of which are phonetic, like an alphabet where the sound is represented by a specific character. So the first two syllabary are phonetic, and that's what's generally taught to young children in an educational setting, like when they begin elementary school. But the third of the Chinese characters called kanji are pictographs. They are literally Chinese characters that make different sounds depending on the context in the language, and so in order to become literate in Japanese, it's important for readers, learners, speakers, communicators to learn all three, and that is literally thousands of characters.

That was really daunting prospect for somebody who didn't know anything to start. So I asked this Japanese language teacher where do I begin? And I was presented with this chart of 46 to 48 unfamiliar characters and told memorize this. And I went ah, I don't know how to do that, I can't do that, that's not going to happen, I'm not going to be able to do that. And that was my initial expectation. And I suddenly understood why everybody said oh, japanese is so hard to learn. And then, within the first couple of months, I found a Japanese language class in my neighborhood and I was introduced to a Japanese teacher who wanted to share with me the same practices that she taught everyone else in these community classes. And again I was presented with the same chart and the idea was here you go memorize this and so.

I asked this teacher because, again, I was completely of the belief that there was no way I could learn like this. But I asked. I said how do Japanese children usually learn all of these characters? And in my next class she brought me this notebook. And the notebook isn't ruled with lots of horizontal lines like the notebooks that I had as a child in school, but with perpendicular columns running top to bottom, because Japanese language is read from top to bottom and from right to left instead of the other way around. And I was given this notebook with these unfamiliar designs and she said simply start with this character. This is the sound that it makes. Copy it out and fill out the whole page and then the next day do the next one, and the next day do the next one, and suddenly I was reading and writing Japanese.

Within a month I could read some basic Japanese children's texts. It was completely breaking down my assumptions of the way my learning had to look, because it was different from the way I had learned in the past. But it was put into a completely different context and, rather than assuming that I had to do things a certain way because that was the way all the other adults did it, I put myself in the, you know, really kind of vulnerable position of just being a brand new learner. Like any other person would naturally learn the language and in this context, that was how it happened, and that reminds me that we are all very, very Sure.

12:39 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
sure, it's just is this because you said within the first month. So I just need to know is this the first month after you moved to Japan, or are you still in the US preparing at this point?

12:49 - Karen Ricks (Host)
Oh, this was while I was in Japan that I started learning this way.

12:52 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
And then you got the notebook with the horizontal. Okay, Great go on.

12:58 - Karen Ricks (Host)
So because I was literally living in a completely different context, I was able to put myself in the position to learn differently because I was living differently, and only then could I recognize that I really did have this deep-seated desire to learn, but it was only my preconceptions about what learning had to look like that was preventing me from learning in a way that was going to work for me, and as a teacher, I have always tried to approach my students wherever they are, to find what it is that's interesting or fascinating that piques their curiosity, and help to build a bridge from wherever they are to wherever it is they want to go.

Whatever it is, they want to learn. I feel like it's unfortunate that the whole world doesn't work that way. Traditional school doesn't often work that way, and so making this drastic life change that my husband and I made helped us to again put ourselves in the position of being the learner, of being at the mercy of a completely new to us environment, and rediscovering what life could look like in a different context, and that included literally everything about the course of our days, from shopping and buying basic foods to entertainment, to work, to everything.

14:49 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I am by what you talked about now and earlier, is inspired to ask you about gratitude, because it seems like if you take a top down, look at the live view and your husband have lived the last since 2007,. That's like 15 years. You had a dream, or your husband had a dream. You followed along let's go to Japan, let's see how it is, and then ended up staying there for 10 years and then the last five years, a new dream has emerged and you have started world schooling and it's also succeeding with that.

Where are you with gratitude and how do you practice that in your everyday life? Because I personally sometimes forget. I think I forget the life that we are living now is the life I dreamed about 10 years ago, and even sometimes to have a kind of shitty day or wake up in a bad mood, I would really love to work more with gratitude, because the life we are living right now we're in Mexico and it's winter in Denmark Part of me is like I should be running around dancing all the time, or that's what I thought at least 10 years ago when this was a dream.

So how do you work with that aspect?

16:17 - Karen Ricks (Host)
Well, another one of my many multifaceted personalities is as a yogi, and so I do have a daily gratitude practice, which is really an extension of my life, my belief as a Christian, and I am, just like you, in a place that's much warmer than places I've lived in the past, and so just the fact that I was out swimming under the bright, warm sunshine in the lake down the block from me less than a week ago, when some of my friends and family are in snow-covered places around the world right now, is a regular reminder of me to be grateful for all of the blessings, all of the privileges that this lifestyle has bestowed upon us, because, as you said, even on some of the worst, most frustrating, aggravating days, we're living a life that I could only know, that I could not have even dreamed or imagined years or decades ago, and I also have the unique privilege of working with students, with clients from all over the world, who express that desire for some aspect of the life that I'm living right now.

So I am reminded on a regular basis just how different this life that we lead is from again what many people can't even imagine is possible, and that's part of the reason that I'm excited to share these stories, why I'm so honored that you invited me to speak with you guys, to share with your audience?

Because it's only when we hear from others, when we see things that we didn't imagine possible, that we really spark the kinds of desires that our dreams can become bigger and more bold than we might have believed possible before.

And I feel like that's especially important for me as a black woman who, growing up in a minoritized community, without the benefit of the wealth or the privileges that I experience now, I never saw anyone who looked like me living the kind of life that I'm living now, and I feel like it's really, really incumbent upon me to be the kind of representation that modern media doesn't often show. In travel, I rarely see people who look like me, especially traveling to many of the places that I have, and it's not just me, but me as a middle-aged woman, as a parent, as a member of a multiracial, multilingual, multicultural family. There's just so much about our family story that is not frequently told, and so I get excited to share these amazing opportunities that we've presented with because, like I said, it's not something I could have ever even imagined before we set out on our world-schooling adventures, can.

19:54 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)

19:55 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yes, please.

19:56 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
So maybe we need a little more context for the audience. What's your? I mean, you're not in Japan anymore.

20:06 - Karen Ricks (Host)
You say you're a middle-aged educator.

20:08 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
You have at least one child. Yes, what's going on? Where are you? What kind of lifestyle is it that you are so grateful for? What kind of education is your child having or not having? Where are you right now? Where are you going? What's the plan? I think we just jumped right into it, but we have no real no, you're absolutely right, it's not happened after 2017. It's been a while since you left Japan.

20:42 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
It's been a long.

20:44 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Maybe just a brief context.

20:45 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Let's back up and get the presentation in order. Yes, All right, go back.

20:51 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I can do it in whatever chaotic order, but maybe not as a time, all right. So when we're just asking about the time instead of five on top of each other.

21:05 - Karen Ricks (Host)
Sure Question would you like to ask first when would you like me to give?

21:08 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
So maybe you let us know when do you live right now and do you live somewhere?

21:15 - Karen Ricks (Host)
Okay. So right now, my family and I are in Macedonia, which is a republic in the former Yugoslav area in Eastern Europe.

21:28 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
We are just north I'm just trying to translate it to Danish. We call it Macedonia. Okay, it's just because it's another word in my language, so we have to make sure.

21:38 - Karen Ricks (Host)
It's okay. I don't know now. Okay, it's all right. Part of what I'm also getting very comfortable doing is giving a brief geography lesson.

21:46 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I don't know where it is. I just don't know the word in your language.

21:50 - Karen Ricks (Host)
Yes, that's okay. Before we were here, I'm not sure I could have identified it on a map the first time I've. So we are in Eastern Europe, just north of Greece, and we've been here for I don't know a little over a month now. We were living in Albania, which is just to the west of us before, along the Adriatic, and from here we're not quite sure yet where we will go or when.

Ever since 2020, we have not been making really long-term plans, but since we left Japan back in January of 2017, we have been fully nomadic, so we don't have a specific home base. We pick up and go kind of where and when the wind blows, according to our curiosity, our interests, sometimes opportunities or special invitations by friends or family members, and it's a really exciting way to live, but, again, not something I could have imagined before we set out on this journey.

23:22 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
So we got that down. That's like us, fully nomadic, no home base, six years, six years.

23:31 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Not going where the wind blows, not going where the sun shines.

23:34 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
The sun shines, though, more than where the wind blows.

23:36 - Karen Ricks (Host)
Where the sun shines is a great way to put it too.

23:39 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
yes, Our children are actually beginning to talk about cold and snow at this point, but I think we will cure it in January, where we're going to be a semi-cold place, and they will remember all cold no.

23:56 - Karen Ricks (Host)
See, I think I'm actually in the opposite position that you are, because when we were living in Japan, we were in Nagano Prefecture, which hosted the Winter Olympics back in 1998. So we were surrounded by ski resorts and snowy mountains and all kinds of winter sports which, despite hating the cold, I really love winter sports. So my son grew up going skiing every winter and we were ice skating all the time and shoveling snow in the winter, sometimes to have to dig out our vehicle. I do not miss that at all.

In fact, the first two years of our full-time travels we ditched the winter clothes and we chased summer around the globe, even going to the southern hemisphere spend Christmas in Australia and moving into the new year in New Zealand, where it was sunny and warm and beaches and swimming and sunshine, and for me that was fantastic. But we have only seen the lightest flurries of snow since leaving Japan and my son is starting to think about skiing again, so we might be in search of someplace colder for a little while. I don't think I could ever live long-term in a really cold or snowy place, but since we're not really living long-term anywhere now, like I said, never say never At the place that you are located now.

25:33 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
you're not too far away from some mountains where you could go like dip a toe into the cold and retrieve back into the heat.

25:40 - Karen Ricks (Host)
You have to go up to mountains in.

25:41 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Bulgaria or the mountains in Italy, and then we did like one day of snow this year we were in Italy we did one day driving to the top of a mountain, being very cold. Obviously, we didn't have the clothing for it, so we were just extremely cold.

25:58 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
The EBS of cards. Yeah.

26:00 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Like all of our socks and sandals on top of that and all of our hoodies. It was fun, we did some. Is it called a sledge? Yeah?

26:09 - Karen Ricks (Host)
yeah, so we rented something.

26:12 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
We were all wet and cold and then we drove down again to the heat, but it was fun. One day in five years.

26:19 - Jesper Conrad (Host)

26:20 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah, it can be done. So that was the one question, the where do you live? Lifestyle is the nomadic version. And what about the education thing? I have a double question here. Sure, we can handle that. You said several times you're a trained educator and I have a suspicion your child is not in school, so something happened, I think. Can you share that? Oh, a whole lot has happened. Yes.

26:51 - Karen Ricks (Host)
But I have been. I feel like I've been a teacher all of my life. Honestly, I grew up in a family of educators. My mother was a teacher and many of her siblings. My very first entrepreneurial venture actually the very first thing I ever did to earn money was teaching. I taught piano lessons to some of my peers to be able to raise money, actually the bulk of which went to my very first ski trip, ironically enough.

27:25 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Traveling. Yeah, okay, yeah, exactly.

27:28 - Karen Ricks (Host)
Traveling, visit the winter sports and then returning to the warm weather in Southern California where I grew up. But yes, I was actually teaching elementary school, fully established at a private school in the US, with plans to help that school expand into an infant and toddler program when.

I left Japan, so I actually stayed behind my husband a little bit to help train what was supposed to be temporary replacement of the school where I was teaching, with full plans to return to my position and continue, like I said, with that school's expansion.

I never expected to found an international Montessori school in Japan.

I certainly didn't expect to do that when my son was still an infant, and that was exactly what happened. We opened the doors to our school when our son was just four months old and that is the only school he has ever attended, so self-directed education has always been his reality. But when we made the decision as a family to leave Japan and embark on our world schooling adventures, we took some time to go through a process that's known as de-schooling and for anybody who is considering homeschooling or anything outside of what's known as a traditional school setting now, I highly highly recommend this process and it's basically an opportunity to set aside anything and everything that might be considered educational and really focus on reconnecting in relationships with people, with communities, with activities, with life in general. It's an opportunity to explore what life might look like outside of the traditional constraints of a school, like environment and during that period, which I would say for our family was really official for at least a year after we left Japan, when my son was six years old, we really naturally evolved into what has become our sort of radical unschooling, world schooling lifestyle, and what that means for us is that there is no specific schedule that has to take place, there is no particular curriculum that has to be followed.

It's really a truly fully embracing the educational aspect of life, the way we live it, and so the way that I like to describe world schooling, the way our family practices, is that we learn from every person we meet in every place that we go and from every activity in which we engage. The world is literally our classroom and we just embrace whatever is exciting or whatever peaks our curiosity or whatever grabs our interest in the places that we're living with, the people that we're engaged with, whatever kind of place we are in our journey at this particular point in time, and it's incredibly freeing to live outside the bounds of really what is kind of an arbitrary structure of learning that doesn't necessarily fit with, you know, each individual person and their personal process.

31:47 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I don't know what to say because we agree. This is what we do.

31:52 - Jesper Conrad (Host)

31:52 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Comment sort of and we're all through it 10 plus years down the road of unschooling. Maybe that's exaggerating a little bit what he's 18 now. No, no, we have 10 years of unschooling.

32:07 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Responsibility of home, but the unschooling evolves along the path, like it normally does.

32:14 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah, but we took him out when he was six and he was approaching 18. It must be 10 years of unschooling. Well, I didn't actually put a flag in my calendar the day you know, what I would like to dive more into is the de-schooling thing. You say you highly recommend going through this process, and when you started talking about it it sounded like almost like a course you take, or and I don't think that's what you really mean. I mean for me.

32:42 - Karen Ricks (Host)
It's funny that you mentioned that, because I have been asked if I would help to conduct like a sort of de-schooling course for parents, and part of the reason that I have been resistant to that is because that assumes that there is a particular curriculum to follow or a certain timeline in which that should take place, and that's just not the case. In fact, I always it was a structure. Did I get it right. That would make things a lot easier, wouldn't it?

I counsel parents all the time that the de-schooling process is really so much more important for us as adults, who have so much more time really mired in the ideas of what an education should look like, because the guidelines that I typically share that are often floating around the internet recommend at least one month for every year of traditional school that a child has attended. So I always invite parents to apply that same standard to themselves and think about how many years of traditional schooling not only that they have been through, but that they have also followed their children through or had the expectation that their children would follow that path as well. And when you think about it that way, many of us as adults would have at least two or three years of de-schooling required in order to get to a place where you can begin to envision what a life would look like without school. And it's only once again you've removed yourself from the context of living with that expectation that you can begin to see life in a completely different perspective.

34:50 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yes, I know I still have troubles with looking at my own productivity sometimes because I was plus 20 years in an office before we started full-time traveling and for me, I can still have this spending a day with my family walking on the beads, doing something together, whatever we do. But yes, you weren't productive kind of bell ringing, even though we as a society praise people like Tim Ferriss with his four hours work weekbook and all these kind of things. So at one point we like praise the people who is out there only working four hours a week. But when it comes to ourself now we are in a very fortunate situation where I don't need to work a lot I still have troubles with it. Yes, yes.

35:55 - Karen Ricks (Host)
And that's why, this process of separating ourselves from the context in which we've been living with this specific set of expectations is so vitally important Because until you're removed from it, you don't have the ability to see how and why a life without it can have any value. And if you never see the value, then you're constantly going to be fighting it. To get back to that set of expectations that you know, that you have grown to appreciate and that you're striving to obtain some goal, some sort of social acceptance, some sort of external approval for following this other path.

36:51 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, I like that's really there, because there's there's a big difference between setting and having personal goals and then looking for the external appreciation of of it. Of course, I function better with goals. I like to have something to strive and work towards and I'm maybe it's something I still need to delay of myself. Or I was considering a new word called the office thing Instead of the schooling, because I've never been to school really. I've been to the normal mandatory years, but after that I just started working 10 years.

37:38 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I have 20 years to ignore the teachers.

37:40 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, I have 20 years of the office thing I need to do.

37:44 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah right, I think that, if I circle back to the D schooling process, that what I usually recommend is take a few years. I think one year is probably never going to be enough for anyone who has become a parent. I think that's the point where you're old enough to have lived through a school system, lived in a schooling society, and you have this expectation that children go to school. One year is like a gap year, it's like a vacation, just a long one. It's not like really getting down under the surface of things. I think I'm going to say a few years where you try to stick to the rule of letting go of the idea of school. So every time it comes up, it's it has to be removed and also letting go. And this is the trap that we fall into when we who are have spent quite a lot of time outside the box, try to communicate, because we communicate back.

And you said before, you learn from every people, everyone you meet everywhere you go. But really and I'm sure you agree with this you don't need people to learn from them. You don't go places to learn so that you can write in your little book oh, now we learned about you know. I mean it's not just a mess of don't learn English. I mean we, you go because it's fun, you go because it makes you excited, it goes because you go because you feel alive, because you can spend some time together, because it makes intuitive sense, and so the result focus concept that the school system is installing in us is part also of the of the consumerism, of the money based understanding of our society that we're trapped in as well. So you say you like to set goals and then you can work towards them and they're. Of course, there's a difference between do I need to show off that I completed or do I just needed it myself?

but even needing it yourself as part of this result based, and so they ask you in the green doctrine that we're all living in, and really a real protest is to waste time, to do things for fun, to do things that have no specific result, unless you go to the more philosophical, psychological, emotional level where you say, oh, I want to be happy, I want to be happy to close my children, I want to be present in the moment, I want to feel joy. I want to be overwhelmed or surprised or have a cultural shock. I don't know where I am, what I am and what I'm doing. I mean those things that are more the essence of what is now, what my goal, what's important to me. I can't take any boxes. I can't say I mean, I can have a focus. Did I have a conversation with each of my four children today, or did I not? I didn't expect that. But I can't say, oh, now, it's good, I'm done.

I've had my joy.

41:03 - Karen Ricks (Host)
I mean, you can't do that, but really, even taking the idea that we want to have a list of things that we check off to say I did. What I'm supposed to do today is a one context in which we think that's the important, acceptable, appropriate way to live our lives. What about a life with no checklist? And what might that look like?

I now I constantly reminding my clients that my lived experiences often stand out only because it's so dramatically contrasts their own lived experience, and it's that contrast that causes the kinds of questions that make them reconsider things that they had always expected to be normal Right.

But part of the reason that this de schooling, I think, is so important is because it often takes a lot of very challenging questions or situations to present themselves in order for us to truly question what our belief system is, why we believe the things that we know, and to take a moment to consider what things might look like if we set aside a particular belief and tried something different way. And my family and I have had the benefit of doing that outside of our own linguistic and cultural context, mostly because we're living in countries, we're living in communities with different community languages. From our first or preferred language of communication. We are interacting with people who have completely different lived experiences from our own, and so we are constantly butting up against those contrasts, and that's a part of what we have the benefit of appreciating on a daily basis.

But I feel like it's even more challenging for those who are still living within the cultural context from which they're trying to break free, because the external is still that what you're doing is different, it's scary, it's wrong, it's dangerous, it's harmful, and that is a really hard sort of messaging to have to confront, especially from people who love and care about you and are maybe projecting their fears rather than their hopes.

44:05 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
So my question now, because you guide others on the way and so do we. What's puzzling me right now is when you go from the traditional lifestyle, including the idea of school, and you want to exit what I in my experience, people often get the idea intellectually, so they, they want to do it. They're like this makes sense. Actually, Maybe they've even read a few of the books. But then then what do I do? That's the next question how do I on, how do I proceed with my d schooling that I know I need to do, and how do I organize the everyday life around my family life now that my kids are not in school? What do I do? And circles back to the checklist, because the answer is you do school, you don't do it. Pretend it's weekend. You know it's such a frustrating answer to get when you're having your first baby steps into this lifestyle there is too much.

It's so strange. It's a real cultural shock and it's happening in your own living room. Yes, fall back into the habits of the society around you and the habits of how you wanted to live your life, maybe a year ago, before you heard about. On schooling, it's really hard and my question is would we backstab the process If we did come up with a list? This is what you do. Here's how to do it.

45:39 - Karen Ricks (Host)
I will say this because I do work with clients who come to me for exactly that. It's not a group course, it's one on one coaching. Because when people initially come with this question, like you said, of okay, I know all of the things I'm trying to avoid or not do, but what do I do, the answer is always well, that depends.

46:06 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
It's frustrating yes, that is.

46:09 - Karen Ricks (Host)
The reason is because we're all different human beings. We have a different set of lived experiences, of expectations, of whatever social conditioning and societal norms we need to break free of in order to experience whatever this new life is that we have a desire to construct. It is so very personal, not just to each individual family but to each individual member of that family. That is a really, really important journey to embark upon at the individual level, and so it's not going to look the same from one person to the next, from one day to the next, from one location to the next.

My family and I check in with each other on a regular basis, and that happens in part because we're relocating and some of the very basic aspects of our day to day life can change drastically from living in one place to living in another place.

So, for example, we're here now in Macedonia, we're living very close to a lake, and the middle of my day on a regular basis now has been drop everything and go for a swim, go for a floating meditation, and I don't often have that kind of just regular stopping point or this chunk of time literally in the middle of the day, but that's what this location calls for, and so everything, and not just my personal schedule, but our family schedule has changed to adapt around that and unless you are, you know, praying Christian or a meditating yogi or a person living near a body of water who has this desperate desire for this private time to commute on the water, that particular aspect of my day might make absolutely no sense whatsoever and that only works, again, for me in the context of this particular place.

But you know, a month from now, when my family and I are living in a different location, that could look completely different and we're open to adjusting and making those changes Again, because that's something that we have grown into at this part in our journey. But if I had told myself, even, say, five years ago, that I was going to be at a point where I was going to need to stop everything that I was doing in my day and take two, three hours and just walk away from my family and go spend time with myself, I would have told you that was completely ridiculous, but there was no way I would do that and that person's journey is going to look different and we have to acknowledge just how individual that journey and that process can look, because we're individuals.

49:34 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
So what we could do. I think I'm just thinking about these. It's usually mothers that we talk to who are embarking on the unschooling journey and now the kids are not in school anymore and maybe they're having one of the black days where it all feels like chaos and and you have this fear that you did it all wrong. And how do we guide that? I'm totally with you with what you're saying, but I'm also thinking, you know, preaching for the choir, kind of. So how do we? One thing that I often say and also do still and now.

It's been a lot of years. I've been a mother for 24 years. I've been a homeschooling mother for 12, I think and so you actually have to acknowledge that your family will change all the time and the more kids you have, the more, the faster it goes, because the relation between everyone there are lots of relations in a family of six people the context might not change. You are a world schooler, I'm a world schooler. I'm going to live in a new place in 10 days from now. But even if you live in the same place, seasons change. Maybe there's a new sports facility, maybe you get a new neighbor, whatever, and people grow and they change, and what you do know about life is that it will change. And I think, stopping to think about what are the most important themes in our lives right now? Is it health? Is it extended family? Is it that we're obsessing over a Pokemon or a new language or whatever? What takes sense of stage? It doesn't have to be the same all the time, but let's say here and now. For the next let's say, one or two months what are the most urgent and important things that we're focusing on and how do we make sure that everybody are thriving and getting what they need? And if you're a big family, it's a lot of people. You have to sit down and think okay, this person, what do they need to be happy and thrive and grow and get to the points where they want to be?

And very often when I've done it, I've looked at a list like, okay, I need like 485 hours a day and 10 times my budget, and five personal assistants, obviously. But then you just have to start some of it and try to braid it into what you want to do every day. You might be able to do half of it every week and really look at it and that's a thing to do. That's actually a thing to do for a person embarking on this journey. You can sit down and you can make an analysis. What are the most important themes right now? How do we make sure everyone are happy? Don't obsess over it, but maybe get it out of the head. Look at it and say, okay, if I complete 10% of what's on this list or facilitate you're not personally completing it, but facilitate it then maybe you did help to sail the ship through the waters at this point and make sure you go back to that, because it will change the needs For me this to-.

53:04 - Karen Ricks (Host)
You bring out so many good points, the most important of which I think is figuring out where your priorities lie and then taking a look at your schedule and seeing are you spending your time, your money, your energy toward those priorities or is your effort directed elsewhere? Because when you are really putting forth the energy to engage in whatever it is that you prioritize most, I think you can sleep well each night, satisfied that you are doing your best with whatever resources you happen to have available at the time. I joke often that I need at least three of me one person who can actually live the life that I wanna live. Someone else who can take all the time the photos to document it on social media or blogs or whatever else, because that is about three full-time jobs. And then someone else who will be able to get the sleep, because sometimes it doesn't seem like there are enough hours in the day.

It's tough, it really is. But when you take a look, as you said, not just as what your individual priorities are, but checking in with all of the members of the family about where their priorities are, and then you have the opportunity to connect with one another in ways that satisfy those priorities, that deepen those relationships, that strengthen the bonds that you have with one another. That is so crucial on this journey because our family unit and we're a smaller family than you are, it's just the three of us me and my husband and our adolescent son.

We are our own little bubble moving through the world, but the more time we spend with one another and sometimes it's a lot of time on top of one another the more we have the opportunity to really explore who we are as individuals, as a family, and how we want to prioritize our efforts to learn and grow and just to exist in this world so we can be the best version of ourselves and create the things that we want to share with the world.

55:55 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Amen With amen on that, and which leaves me with wanting to talk about our kitchen classroom and also about singing, because that is some of the parts that we share with the world. Yes, so can we start with the singing? I know you started very early, eiret.

56:20 - Karen Ricks (Host)
All my life practically.

56:22 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, I was considering. It is gospel for the people out there. Are you singing everything, I suppose, but also a lot of gospel, correct? That's true, yes, Do you my question and it's an anti-possession and I might be wrong but do you Anticipation? Anticipation, yes? Do you use gospel as a way to immerse yourself in new areas you move into? Do you find a local gospel church and sing with them? How do you connect with the place you move to when you?

57:04 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
That's a different question. Yeah, it is. You change your question.

57:06 - Karen Ricks (Host)
I have absolutely.

57:09 - Jesper Conrad (Host)

57:12 - Karen Ricks (Host)
Yes, I have used gospel music specifically but my Christianity, my connection to the church globally to sort of find an end in a particular community that already exists within the larger communities into which we have moved. I have participated in services, I've been invited into teaching in Sunday schools, into music ministry, in a variety of different locations and countries and languages around the world, and it is not only a way that I have gotten to get to know local languages and cultural customs and beliefs, but also getting to know people in the communities in which we've lived on a deeper and more profound level, and it's been an amazing way to connect to people, to learn from others, to really expand our sort of family by choice as we continue to move around the world.

58:24 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, and the reason I ask is because right now we are implied that we come in Mexico. We just needed to sit still for a month. Now we are 14 days into it and I'm kind of like tired of being a tourist, so boring. It's nice to be, of course, again focusing on the gratitude. I'm very happy I can go to the beach every day. I'm very happy we have a wonderful Airbnb where we can work on the projects that we care about and want to do. But I can see that in the future of our travels I'm looking for that anger of saying okay, if we're going to live in a place for some months, how do we get into the local community?

59:13 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
And that's just what happened with those balloons?

59:18 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I don't know.

59:19 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I don't know it was very festive that was very.

59:22 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
It's something soon does. I do not why there's some reaction thing I cannot. This is a yes to it. So I thought there wasn't. It may be soon. Thought I needed balloons.

59:35 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I have been more professional to ignore it, but I I think there was a celebration of your desire to connect deeper in your community.

59:43 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
We're going to be listening.

59:44 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
There was just suddenly balloons on our screen and it was really weird. Oh listening is good enough. We don't look particularly pretty today.

59:53 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
That's fine. No, yeah, I'm going on. But when I look at the future of our traveling life, I can see that we are moving towards longer states, like more slow traveling than we have done the last year, and I can also see that I'm looking for this. What will the anger be? How to immerse ourselves more in the culture, even though it could also feel like cheating, you know, to go in and say, hey, can I be part of your social group for only three months. Then I'm up again. Then I'm looking for that anger, and I was just with your With thinking that maybe the singing had been or could be that for you.

01:00:41 - Karen Ricks (Host)
It has definitely been that for me, but I always encourage people to explore whatever is most meaningful to them, because it's just one aspect of the story, one aspect of ways that I have been able to make inroads into communities that already exist in the places that we visit, whether it's short-term or longer-term, and where people are really welcoming and embrace us as we travel, for whatever length of time that might be. I actually met up with a fellow yoga teacher here in Macedonia and I will be going to participate in some classes after we wrap up here today and that's been really a neat way to meet other practitioners in the area and to learn from different styles in a different place, in a different community that existed far longer than I have been here and will continue to remain after we've left. My son got really, really excited about doing some tumbling and acrobatics. At one point when we were in a different country, we went to see a show of circus performers and within a couple of weeks he was enrolled in tumbling classes with teachers who were acrobats in the national circus and he made some great friends in that process, and we both did have the opportunity to continue to engage with others of his both same age peers some older, some younger in the local language as well as in a bit of English too, when necessary, and just really have fun doing something that he loved. You can see from my title and our business in our kitchen classroom.

I love to cook and I have done something as simple as just making some extra cookies when I'm baking and sharing them with my neighbors, and that has gotten me invited to parties or encourage someone to introduce me to someone else. They know who cooks and because of introductions like that, I have ended up learning from moms and grandmas and local cooks in their home kitchens, all the way up through professional chefs in their restaurant kitchens, doing hosting big events and doing cooking classes and workshops in, again, a variety of languages and cultures and contexts all over the world. What, everett, is that people love doing or are just curious about learning. There are usually communities out there where people are doing that, and it doesn't even have to necessarily be in person.

A lot of my initial yoga studies were really they kind of felt solitary, in part because I didn't know about some of the practices as we were branching out in new places, and so I have made connections with different online communities as well, and the amazing thing about this technology that we literally have our fingertips today is that some of those virtual connections have blossomed into in-person friendships when I land in a place where I've connected with someone online first and I have literally had clients who have traveled from around the world to come meet me in some of the most beautiful locations around the globe because they were excited about studying, about cooking, about practicing together in the same place. So I always encourage people to find community and activities that they love and appreciate, because it's one of the other amazing ways that we connect with people, that we learn from people and that we grow as human beings.

01:05:01 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I don't think we've had. I mean, we don't really have trouble connect. I don't know why you. It felt like.

01:05:07 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I've seen me. I.

01:05:08 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Right, here we don't.

01:05:09 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Right here I do not have met any locals and hang out, but you didn't want to either.

01:05:14 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
You came here to work.

01:05:16 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I came to work and to focus.

01:05:18 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Exactly relevant. But what I see is that where I agree is it's always what you're passionate about that brings the connection, whether it be online or in real life, and when we move around, we meet people all the time. I was actually freaking out a little bit in May when we met a lot of Americans in France because before that most of our social group was at least confined to Europe mainland, not Europe, so you don't have to move that far, just to your friends and I was like, oh shoot, Now we have all these people at the other side of the water.

01:06:00 - Karen Ricks (Host)
We have to fly all the time, you mean you get to have the opportunity to visit your friends in more places around the world.

01:06:08 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
This might be the big family thing. It's harder to move my large group. I feel that the more kids we've had, the more it's just more people who needs the bathroom and the sandwich and a bed and you try to move but then there's something. It's heavier. It's not impossible with traveling the world, but it's just a little more complicated and obviously it's not three plane tickets. It's a bit more than three plane tickets every time. So there's a math problem there that we have to also solve. Every time we fly, every time we move.

So but I think that we've met people everywhere and we meet them because we're on the schoolers. We meet them because we're vegan. We meet them because we're strangers and we're like maybe this new kid on the blog. We're a little bit interesting in the beginning but some reason, very often we shoot in places where we share an interest. It could be the board game thing has been a thing many times. Many cities have a board game cafe or even you just meet people in the shop because you're buying a new board game. It is what you're passionate about and what's at the moment on that list I mentioned before. What takes sense. A stage will be the things that that gives you community, and at the moment, at Plyodel Carmen in Mexico, we have not built it. To be fair, our American friends just flew back to New York.

We have been alone for two days, and for two days we had no community and we feel lonely and also we are in a very touristy place, which is very rare for us. So we're trying to navigate, being part of the group we don't usually feel part of. So that's another story.

01:08:02 - Karen Ricks (Host)
I think it's important to highlight the fact that this is something that, in my experience, is definitely an easier component of this nomadic world schooling lifestyle that we lead.

For people like us who are extroverted, who don't have a problem meeting people striking up a conversation, you know, in the local shop or walking down the street or whatever the case may be.

But it's also true that it is still something that we prioritize and that we are still stepping outside of our comfort zones, oftentimes in order to achieve and I know that for me personally, as an extrovert, people have told me I make it look easy. It's not always easy, but in my experience it is always worth it, and so I encourage people who may think that they're more introverted, maybe not so comfortable approaching strangers, to strike up a conversation, that it doesn't necessarily have to happen in that way either. My husband is definitely the more introverted in our family and he loves weightlifting, and so one of the things that he does when we settle into a place is find a local gym where he can lift, and he has made all kinds of connections just by regularly showing up in a place and doing what he loves to do, so it doesn't have to be something so drastic, but it still is. Like you mentioned, cecilia, about finding what you're passionate about and pursuing that, because that that in and of itself stands out.

01:09:52 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah, and even circle back to your why just keep circling back to your why? Because, now we're talking about this, we're world schoolers. We don't see it really as a problem to find community. We usually say the adventure is about the people, and our reality is we very rarely pick a destination because of the destination. We pick it because we have a friend or we have a potential friend, someone we want to meet, and we go there, and so we travel for the people more than for the places.

That's what I'm saying even so I think it's important to sit back and think, okay, why did I go here? And I don't think this is a big family thing. It could be a big family thing, but sometimes we need to just reconnect with each other and it's actually nice to not be around people. It's actually nice just to be at the moment with five, because one of our kids is an adult and and moved out, so, but in a month we'll be seven, because she added a person to the family and and that's a lot of people. So sometimes we don't need that community.

Sometimes, if you I'm what I'm saying is, it's not on the to-do list from our world school to go find friends everywhere you go, and it's not a failure to go and just spend time with your immediate family. Maybe that's the that's the point of it. It's not a bad day if you spend all day at home talking to your kids, cooking meals and cleaning up after them. It's a very meaningful day and and yeah, so maybe you don't find any new friends and maybe that's good and fine. You have to actually think about is this a priority or not? And right now for us, day two of having friends hanging around.

01:11:53 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Karen, you talked earlier about seeing opportunities. You framed it another way, but that's where I want to go a little, because right now I'm in the middle of moving a lot of Cecilia's old blockpost from an old website that was broken into a new website, and I'm seeing stories she wrote before. We lived the life we did today, when we only dreamt about it, and so I've been back in this frame of mind rereading the articles and and I remember dreaming about it and I also remember the fear of would I ever be able to to help my family go there. When you talk about opportunities, do you do something special to see them or grab them, or how do you work with that as a family?

01:12:52 - Karen Ricks (Host)
I absolutely do a lot of work, not just in taking advantage of them, but in changing my mindset to be able to see them. For those who aren't as familiar with my story, we, as I mentioned, we're living in Japan and we had established a brick and mortar school and we lived there for 10 years and that was a really challenging thing to leave. But the reason that we did was because of an opportunity that presented itself, and that opportunity came in the way of a friend sharing something with me that she had seen online. She said, basically, this looks really cool, wouldn't it be neat if you could do this? And when I first saw that, I thought, oh yeah, wouldn't it be nice if someday? And I just kind of let that thought peter off into oh yes, wishful thinking, and it was because of some work that I had been doing that I stopped myself there and I said wait a second, don't let that thought just kind of slip away, never to think about it again.

But let's actually take time to consider it. Not, wouldn't it be nice if someday? But what if that opportunity dropped into my lab here and now and I had the chance to go and do this thing? What would my life look like, and it turns out that that was a huge pivot point, because that opportunity ended up being cooking school in Italy and that was why we sold it all and left Japan and moved to Italy and that was what began our nomadic world schooling adventures.

It was this once in a lifetime kind of thing that, instead of saying oh yeah, wouldn't it be nice if someday I actually stopped to say why not me, why not now? And I took the just what I felt was random chance to write a note to the head of that cooking school and say hey, I heard you've got openings coming up in your cohort that starts in a few months. I would love to be a part of that, if you would consider me, and literally less than six months from that opportunity crossing my path, my family was living in Italy and I was going to cooking school. And again, I never dreamed that that was even a possible one.

01:15:40 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
You're scared, scared as hell honestly, no, I was excited.

01:15:48 - Karen Ricks (Host)
But again, that was a process as well, because I was scared leaving the context of living in the US and shifting to moving and living in Japan.

But because I had taken that action, I knew that I had the ability to learn a new language, to live in a culture that was not my own, to grow into something more than I had imagined I could be. And that is the example that my husband and I decided we really wanted to live and model for our child. You know, so often as parents we tell our children you know, you can be anything, you can do anything, but we don't necessarily live in a way that really demonstrates that that's possible. And so, as we talked about it first just me and my husband, and then we invited our son into the conversation as well we talked about what might it look like if we left Japan and moved to Italy. Well, we had learned Japanese. That was completely out of our contextual experience, but my husband and I had both studied some Spanish, and him even some Portuguese, growing up in the US, so learning Italian, that was not nearly as daunting a task as walking the already done.

It was, in fact, we were already going in, at least being able to read and understand a little bit of the language. So it was easier than the step from the US to Japan. But it was also a lot more daunting because we weren't just two now, we were three and we weren't just leaving the kind of life that we were living, but we were leaving the business that we had built up, the community with which we had surrounded ourselves, which we had become an integral part of. That was part of the life that we had deliberately created, and there was a part of us that felt like we were abandoning all that for this unknown. But what I knew in my heart and I know that this is what my husband was feeling when we launched that first step to Japan was that if we did not take advantage of that opportunity right then and there, it would be something that we would look back on with regret. Yeah, and we knew that the pain of change into some possible future that was exciting was definitely preferable to the pain of regret of looking back and wondering what if?

And every time now that we pick up and move to a new location, it gets easier and easier, because we have demonstrated to ourselves that we have the capacity to do far more than we imagined before this, and we've done it many times. But it is a process of gradual growth and self-knowledge that we have been on this journey of for many, many years now. It doesn't come easily. I'm not gonna lie and say that it's easy, but it is absolutely worth it. I have no question in my mind and I am forever thankful. I tell my husband on a regular basis that I'm thankful that he pushed me out of my comfort zone to make that first leap to Japan, because everything else that has come as a result has been because of the growth that started with that process yeah, that's beautiful.

01:19:46 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
It's very much like I remember when we left our comfortable life in Copenhagen. We had talked about going nomadic for quite some years and actually the tipping point was when we realized we might regret doing it. But we will for sure regret not doing it exactly and we will regret that more. We will think about it for the rest of our lives. Why didn't we pick up our family and go? And we knew that the window was closing?

at the time we actually left, one child was moving out, so if we wanted to do it with our children and not be stuck with four children living in the same city, maybe even grandchildren. We wanted to be part of their lives. We had to pick up our boots and just go, and so we knew if we're not leaving now, within the next one or two years, we will regret it for the rest of our lives that we didn't do it you know you can come back, maybe not to the exact same apartment because you let go of the lease or you sold it or, but it's fairly it's now.

I've been living outside my own country for almost six years what? Five and a half years? And it's not I mean, it's not hard to go back. I know that it's easy because I speak the language, I know the systems, my friends and family, all it's easy to come back, but it's hard to go to a new place. It's not impossible, but that's harder. So yeah, so I'm just. I just connect with the thing you said about how it becomes something you might regret for the rest of your life and you know it. And when you get to that point, then it's worth it to take that leap of faith and maybe it wasn't amazing and you go back and you continue with the comfortable life you had before. But what? What's the worst that can happen? You learn something.

01:21:57 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Karen, what would you advise too many people that?

01:22:02 - Karen Ricks (Host)
I've spoken with. Have this oh. I'm sorry I was just gonna say that too many people I've spoken with have this regret that we talked about this desire to do something from their past that they can't recapture. And it's not even just about going back, but about really believing in yourself, about taking the risk, knowing that the rewards are infinitely worth it.

01:22:41 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah, we have a great friend who says when you take a risk, you are rewarded. He said that in another podcast he's with Martin Cook. Maybe you can put in the notes which number I can't remember I think he's. He made me stop to think when he said it. He said it as if it was you know gravity when you drop something off that way.

And I think he's right that when we risk it and do something we are a little bit afraid of and walk into the unknown, the rewards that are in there, that behind that door we dare open. Very often they are surprising and they are more rich than we had imagined and I'm very grateful for them. And this holds for the traveling, for the moving location. It also holds for taking the risk of unspooling. You don't really know what it is before you do it. And there will be the dark days of complete blackness and fear where you're just fumbling around and having panic attacks, thinking you ruined your children's lives. It will happen, but I think it's a great opportunity to be able to do that.

But when you go down the road of the years, the things we have learned, the adventures we've been on, the connections we have, the amazing, amazing, overwhelmingly surprising, interesting children that come out of it. It's just I can't even describe it. But I'm grateful, I am, that our unspooling journey started with our second child refusing to go to school in a very polite and kind and peaceful manner. That's his personality. He just said you know, school might be for everyone else I don't know, maybe the other kids. It's not compatible with me, it's not for me, I don't want it. And that's how it started for us and I'm so grateful. Still, he's almost 18 years old now and he pushed us into this and it has been amazing and it has this logic that Martin described. We risked it and we were rewarded a thousandfold.

01:25:10 - Karen Ricks (Host)
I love that you talk about how your child was the impetus for that too, because in so many ways, parenting to me is a reflection of this journey, as well as parents. There's never a perfect time to welcome a child into your family. You're never ready with all of the answers, you never have exactly the right amount of money saved, you never have exactly the right mindset and know all of the things. You just start, and you always start before you're ready, because this is a learning on the job kind of a role.

01:25:50 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yes, run along five times, and that's what we do as world school leaders.

01:25:54 - Karen Ricks (Host)
Yes, and just as you said, there are those moments where you doubt yourself, where you're afraid, or you just have rough days, but we have to acknowledge that that happens no matter what lifestyle you're living, no matter where you live, whether you remain in that context in which you were raised and always expecting, or you step outside of it. That always happens. That's just a part of the human experience, and so, acknowledging that, taking this risk, making this leap even before you think you're ready, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're all. The days are going to be full of rainbows and sunshine.

01:26:42 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Life just doesn't work.

01:26:44 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
No, no, no. Yeah, I have one more question about gratitude, because it's trajectory. I'm on in my own life, looking at it these days and understanding more. For example, recently, cecilia and I talked about me being, on many levels, very ambitious and setting very high goals, and I can look back at my life in different ways. I don't think I have reached any of those goals ever.

01:27:17 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
There you got me.

01:27:18 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, that one, that goal I got 15 years. I worked hard for it, but for example, I Second prize no, no, no, no, no. You were actually at goal that I succeeded and lost, and then I didn't think it would ever be possible again to achieve it again. And I was so lucky to achieve it and I'm very grateful every day for that. Actually, my yes, yes. Yes.

01:27:52 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
You can cut this entire thing out.

01:27:54 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
No, no, no, it's fine. But I talk with Cecilia lately about that. I sometimes, when I set goals, I like not just aim for the skies. They're very high. For example, I wanted to write children books and in my mind I'm like, oh, I will be the world's best children books author and some of the books sold 300 copies. But I actually ended up creating 18 small reading books for the beginner readers. So I accomplished a lot, but sometimes I forget to be grateful. I would like to be more grateful for what I have achieved, even though there is sometimes a big difference between the extremely stupid high goals I have and what I reach, because I always reach more than if I wouldn't have tried it.

How is that.

01:28:51 - Karen Ricks (Host)
I'll answer your assumption, though. Does that mean that your previous goals were stupid, or just that you had a different perspective back when you were setting those goals?

01:29:01 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, yeah, I might have and maybe I'm just and it can be the way we have brought up that we are praising the stars of the media world and everything. So you think that when you have something to work towards, you by mistake choose, you know, oh, they don't want to write on the level of the woman who wrote Harry Potter and stuff like that, and I'm not so. But it's an interesting thing to work with the difference between the goals we set and what we achieve, and then looking back and actually remembering to be very grateful for the work we have done and how we have got there, and I'm looking a little at the time we. It is kind of time to round up, but I would like you to tell more about our kitchen classroom and what people can learn if they go to your kitchen classroom.

01:30:06 - Karen Ricks (Host)
Well, honestly, because you framed it around gratitude, our kitchen classroom is really sort of an extension of the way that I can express daily gratitude for the privileges of the life that we lead right now. As a child growing up in the United States, I often experienced food insecurity, and so there were times when I didn't know if there was going to be a full meal, you know, in the coming days or weeks, or that I opened the cupboards and what I thought might be there was simply not. But I still have always had this amazing appreciation for the ability to Well, what I saw in my mother was basically creating something out of nothing. Turning what little we had into a nourishing meal to me was absolute magic, and I am eternally thankful for the resources that my family and I have today and that they are greater than those in my childhood.

But what I do is I share the knowledge of the techniques and culinary traditions that I learn from the people that I have met along the way, from cooking school in Italy to hanging out with my Macedonian neighbors the other day and just cooking traditional home style meals, and we play with our food something that I was never allowed to do as a child and we embrace all of the amazing, incredible multisensory learning experiences that happen when we do something that we all enjoy prioritizing as a family, which is spending quality time together, nurturing our relationships and giving the best of ourselves to one another.

So I incorporate, like I said, language, history, culture, cooking techniques all of those things that I've learned in these journeys in the cooking lessons that I teach through our kitchen classroom, and I get really excited about sharing not only some of the very country or regionally specific recipes and experiences, but also playing with a wide variety of culinary fusion that brings about a little bit of this and a little bit of that and it combines for us to be able to just really savor the experience of what we have at our fingertips, what we appreciate most about where we've been and what we're most excited about doing as we move forward.

01:33:16 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Exciting and can you to enroll in your classes? Can I buy just one class, or is it like a process or how does it work?

01:33:29 - Karen Ricks (Host)
Well, I offer a variety of different experiences, from one-time cooking classes to group lessons and workshops to in-person culinary and cultural tours in a variety of different cities around the globe. So if anyone has questions, I invite them to reach out to me, and I'm happy to answer those questions and delve a little deeper into what it is they're most interested or excited about, so that we can create a customized menu and a culinary experience that will be absolutely unforgettable.

01:34:10 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Amazing. So we put a link to your website Absolutely, and then people can go find you.

01:34:19 - Karen Ricks (Host)
Thank you so much.

01:34:22 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
The final, final question must be about walking around local markets finding produce. I remember the first time I tasted tomato and I will save like that, because in Denmark we have had lots of tomatoes during my childhood but like a real tomato on a market in Italy that has just. It is so alive. When you get it it's mind-blowing, really true.

01:34:52 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I mean your dad used to greenhouse. Yeah, but it's not. He doesn't like tomatoes.

01:34:57 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
No, I didn't like tomatoes when I grew up, and I think it's because we also got the supermarket tomatoes.

01:35:06 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
What's the question? The?

01:35:07 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
question is what are some of the most amazing produce you have found out there? Where?

01:35:15 - Karen Ricks (Host)
Oh, I'm going to go. Well, I have to echo your experience of shopping in Italian markets. The cooking school I went to in Italy was down on the southern island of Sicily and we joked that it wasn't farmed to table but armed to table, because there were times when we could literally reach outside the window to grab some of the fresh things that were growing in the gardens to bring to our tables. But I have a picture on the blog I remember in vivid detail, of my son climbing up this really old wooden ladder into an orange tree and picking an orange, peeling it, and he was eating it and he had juices running down his face. And it was the first time, even after a lifetime of drinking Earl Grey tea, that I experienced what the word bergamot really meant.

I had no idea before then about how bergamot oranges produced that signature flavor that is responsible for what we know as Earl Grey tea. But to have picked that fresh from a tree and have those juices flowing down my face, down my face, it was just a completely mind blowing. And that's just one experience I can probably pick from every single country we visited and markets that I have visited or people that I've met that have taught me things in places literally every single country that we have lived in that are just as mind blowing, that have changed the way that I cook or that I look at food or that I shop, because some of which I still I don't know I have had the opportunity to fully integrate into my thought processes. I'm still meditating on and figuring out how that's going to continue to impact my work in the future. It's fantastic.

It's magical.

01:37:36 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
We want to thank you a lot for your time and invite people to check out our kitchen classroom. We'll put the link in the show notes and so if you're listening out there once a month that passion for fresh, real produce and for cooking and experiencing with food, you should definitely check out your work. Thanks a lot for your time.

01:37:58 - Karen Ricks (Host)
Thank you for that. Thank you so much for really, the invitation. It's been a pleasure.


#44 - Randall Hardy | Breaking Barriers: How to Have a Respectful Approach to Parenting
#46 Kelly Halldorson | The Unschool Bus that inspired our travels


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