Adventure by Chicken Bus by Janet LoSole

chicken busJanet LoSole’s Adventure by Chicken Bus is a memoir/travelogue following the author, her husband Lloyd, and their two young daughters, Jocelyn and Natalie, on an 18-month long homeschooling field trip backpacking through Central America and, for a short while, living in Costa Rica.

From the start, Janet and Lloyd were adamant about participating in community-based travel, supporting the local economy instead of corporations that gentrify the area. From the epilogue, community-based travel focuses on:

1. Benefiting the local community and its natural environment.
2. Respecting the culture of the host community.
3. Relying on local, family-owned businesses for food, shelter, and transportation.

Travel memoirs like this can easily devolve into poverty tourism. The writer must remain aware of this at all times, and I think LoSole does a really good job here. Sometimes the family’s privilege showed through and there were little moments of unintentional cringe. But you know, if your privilege never shows, are you really being honest? More often than not, the LoSoles paused to recognize their privilege, consider its implications, and most importantly, keep it in check and do better. The family put their money (and labor) directly into the local economy, learned Spanish, made real and meaningful connections with people, and took time to really appreciate the culture and history of each town they visited, no matter its size or economic status.

Janet and Lloyd also learned to be more open-minded about traveling to places they had initially dismissed, realizing those early decisions were based on fear-based stereotypes: “The more travelers we ran into, the more we realized that we had judged the other countries from outdated, media-hyped stories.” Not that there weren’t valid concerns along the way—there definitely were—but information from locals and other travelers told a vastly different, and more accurate, story.

On the homeschooling side of things, the LoSoles are unschoolers like we are! I cannot express how much I loved their level-headed, judgment-free, “less than radical” unschooling style. So many unschoolers get dictatorial and preachy about what “real” unschooling looks like. This book had none of that, and it was a breath of fresh air. Natural learning, parents strewing opportunities but not forcing, a willingness to be flexible when things aren’t working out, trusting the child’s lead (even if it included school). That’s what unschooling is all about!

LoSole includes links so that readers, if so inclined, can support the various grassroots efforts they encountered via time or money, whether for wildlife conservation, a soup kitchen that serves Indigenous populations, or local libraries. Adventure by Chicken Bus was a fun memoir that gave me wanderlust and had me looking up all the places they visited!