As years go by, there’s one question that never changes, Why do you travel? I love to plan trips as much as I hate to pack for them but that is not something that ever stopped me… In any case, that question still amazes me every time it comes up. I sometimes find it hard to answer. Mostly when the next question is Why do you want your kids to travel. Or better, why are you making them miss school. Well, my reasons are endless and these are some of them.
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The Importance of Travel for Children
I believe we should start by asking ourselves about the importance of travel for us, as adults. Why is it that we travel, other than for pleasure, holidays or relax? I believe that it must be for more than one reason and that some of them are not as obvious
I think that we travel because we are eager to discover. We want to know more, and to know better. We wish to experience different things, and probably we also want to learn.
I’ve always thought that travel is part of a learning process. First and foremost, we learn about something different from what we were looking for. We learn to face challenges, overcome fears, and, most importantly, about ourselves. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all these experiences were also part of your kid’s life?
Why I Want My Kids to Travel
The mind of a child is constantly evolving, kids are always learning. How many times have we heard that kids learn languages effortlessly exactly for that reason? If travel is an important learning process, then a kid exposed to travel will benefit from the same things as we adults do when traveling.
When kids get in touch with different cultures and lifestyles tolerance becomes something natural. I’ve seen it with my kids, and I’ve drawn these conclusions, the reasons why I want them to keep on seeing the world.
11 Reasons to Make Your Kids See the World
In no particular order, these are – for me – the most powerful reasons to make my kids travel!
When Children Travel they Overcome Shyness
Some years ago, and while still living in the north of Italy, I took a day trip to Rome. It was a quick, crazy, one-day city break, planned at the very last minute. We took a very early flight and off we went.
We arrived early and did some exhausting sightseeing. Everything went fine during the morning, but as expected, at 3.00 pm we were exhausted, sleepy, and the heat of the Roman summer was not helping. We needed a rest.
However, my son, tired but still full of energy, was dying to see La Bocca Della Verità, or The Mouth of Truth, an impressive mask made of marble located in the portico of a church.
He didn’t stop going on with his questions about the mask and after minutes of non-stop questioning, I simply answered that since I was not from Rome, I had no clue where we could find the mask.
To my amazement, he turned, fixed a man, and walked towards him. He asked him two questions. Are you Roman? Could you please tell us the way to La Bocca Della Verità?
He was the shyest kid in his class… so who would have ever guessed that in a different context he would just go and ask? This was the first of a long series of “Go and ask” with a positive outcome. And he manages to do it even with language barriers.
Both my kids engage in endless conversations on trains, markets, the beach, they make friends, and they interact with monks, vendors, and of course, with other kids.
As the mother of a very shy boy who is not shy when he travels, this is one of the most important reasons to make my kids travel.
Travel Makes Children Overcome Their Fears
Travel involves facing the unknown. Even when every year you return to the same destination, summer after summer, there’s always room for the unexpected.
When you travel to new places this room widens. When a destination is also remote, fear can be recurrent, at least until they arrive and relax a little. It happens to adults too (I used to repeatedly dream about snakes before traveling to Asia for the first time!), for kids that feeling is enhanced.
Some kids might be afraid of flying or getting lost in an airport. But there is more, they can even be scared of sleeping on a different bed, staying in an unknown room. Even a new city can be scary.
New sounds, food that they never tasted before… Put everything together and the feeling can be overwhelming. But they have no other option, they must face and make peace with fears, and in most cases see that those fears were not real after all.
Travel Makes Kids Smarter
I love to plan my trips at the dining table, sometimes with Internet research, travel guides, and maps. We all discuss and even argue about what we will do in order to make the most of our time in the place we will visit.
As much as I love this, several times I’ve been a non-disclosing parent… I haven’t always told them everything about what they are going to see, do, or discover. I love to let the trip be the guide.
However, I’ve often found them discussing and deducing facts on their own, resulting in a more effective learning process.
I hear them asking for a price in another currency, making the price conversion, or I overhear them trying to deduce what a street sign might mean in another language.
They are even able to guide me through a city while reading the map, because I know there’s no way I get lost when they read the map.
When Kids Travel They are More Independent
As they are still young, their independence is limited, but not less important. It’s been a while since they are responsible for their luggage, and they need to know in advance what they will need so they can choose what to carry.
They know they have to carry their own backpack because I have my own stuff. So if they don’t want to get tired, they know that they must be wise as far as weight is too. For that same reason, travel has taught them to decide on entertainment:
- Is a book better than my Kindle?
- Is the Kindle better than a tablet?
- Do I need pens?
- If I carry my savings, what will I buy with that money?
- If I want my souvenir to fit, should I leave something behind?
They learn to make choices, their first choices. And they get ready for more important ones still to come.
When Kids Travel They Learns from Differences
Everything is different when you travel, kids learn to adapt to a different environment. But they also learn that different doesn’t equal bad. Or scary.
It just means something other than what they know.
Neither worst nor better. Just different. A different kind of house serves the same purpose, a different religion too.
Differences get us closer to what is different. And when you get close to it, you see it better… And fears go away.
When you understand differences, you tolerate them, live with them, accept them, and recognize them as natural. You can stand for them even if they don’t belong to you. Isn’t this world lacking a bit of that?
… And About Other Religions
My kids were not educated under any religion. I went through conversion as an adult but I personally don’t want to impose any belief on them, or on anyone else, for that matter.
I just like to give them the tools to approach religion candidly. They can ask questions and even pray in whatever kind of temple they are visiting, and they can choose not to. As long as they are respectful of rules and traditions, they are free to live religion as a very personal experience.
I’ve seen them praying to Buddha in Thailand as well as in thoughtful introspection inside a Synagogue. I’ve seen them marvel at the call of the prayer in Morocco and visit Cathedrals in wonder. These visits have ignited endless questions about God, traditions, and wars as well. About – again – differences.
They are still young to make a choice and, in any case, I am in no hurry. But when the time comes, if it ever comes, it’s going to be their own and they will have all the instruments they need. I believe that is how it should be.
Travel is Way Better than Formal Education
I’ve always supported homeschooling. We’ve done it for a while, before and after moving to Greece, and it was incredibly valuable. And to tell you the truth, I’ve usually been less supportive of formal education (mind you, I worked as a teacher for ages!).
Learning is a difficult process, it implies stress and effort during an age when things aren’t always easy.
When my kids stopped with their formal education, they never lost interest in learning. Experiences were more real and intense, making them hard to forget.
However, when we moved to a country where that language was so complex and different from their own, we all agreed that going back to school was not a bad idea. In a very short time, they were speaking the local language fluently (Greek).
Travel Enhances Communication at Home
When kids come back from school, they sit in front of their homework and look exhausted. When asking them how was their day, or what they did… well, does the answer “Nothing” ring the bell?
When kids travel that “nothing” changes: There is always time to discuss and talk about something that we have seen or something we are about to see. Some new taste, or how this compares to that. There is always interest and expectation about what’s about to come.
I have also noticed a more open attitude to subjects that are not their favorite. They concentrate better and focus more because there is more to see, more to listen to, and more to learn.
When Kids Travel They Learn to Share
It’s not strange for children to be offered things when they are traveling. A piece of fruit, a little souvenir from a place, even advice from some random passer-by.
This puts them on the other side. They met people who are happy to offer what they have to strangers.
And when people have very little, a smile can do as well. This has made them aware that there are people who have less, others that have more. And they’ve also seen (and learned) that it’s easy to be on any of the two sides
Their bond as brothers has become stronger as well, as they find themselves sharing a lot more than they do at home.
Other Lessons: Tolerance, Patience, Respect…
Have you ever been to an airport waiting for a delayed flight to depart? This is a great lesson you can teach a child about patience, tolerance, and respect.
Waiting in lines to board, to go through security, to enter a museum, to check in a hotel. It is a mess at the beginning if you let it be.
It can break your parent’s nerves. But suddenly it becomes part of the routine. It’s not an ordeal that I make my kids go through, as I’ve been told. It’s just another lesson.
The Game of Traveling: Kids Remain Kids
Children grow up fast. Too fast, these days. The joy, the excitement, the thrill of preparing for an adventure is one of a kind and keeps them closer to that wonder so typical of childhood. The adventure in itself is a huge amount of experiences and memories.
When traveling, children learn without noticing. They understand the world without making themselves useless questions, but meaningful ones. Kids become passionate, alert, open-minded, and have their own opinion. Even better, they understand it’s ok to change one’s mind.
And they learn to live in awe. Nothing is taken for granted. Not even a dish of food, not even a place to sleep.
The latest phone device or the ultimate computer game gets a new perspective, there are more important things to wish for: playing with the sand, bathing an elephant, climbing a mountain, swimming with whales.
A boring rainy afternoon in a hotel room does not mean dull cartoons anymore, it’s family games and planning the next adventure. A trip to the market can be a quest.
Treasures are real treasures. You found them on your own.
So, when they ask me, why do I make my kids travel? The answer is so simple. If adults love to travel, why wouldn’t children love it too?
Which are your reasons to travel with your kids?
Let me know in the comments below!
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We love to pack light! Especially the kids, they both have their carry-on backpacks. Since he became a teen, my eldest son has started traveling with a 44-liter backpack that was affordable and has proved super sturdy so far. My little one is a fan of tactical backpacks (no comments here!), so for him, I got a 40-liter assault backpack in beige and he loves it!
This Belongs to a Board! Why Should Your Kids Travel the World
About the author of this blog:
Gabi has been living in Crete for the last five years. Here, she juggles being a solo mom, hosting culinary tours in the summer, translating, and writing for The Tiny Book and her other blogs.
She’s written for Greek Reporter, published three travel guides about Greece, and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person would be able to handle.