During the last years, I’ve often been asked Why do you travel? Even if I pack more often than I like to, the question still amazes me. 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, these are some of them.
- The importance of travel for children
- Why I want my kids to travel
- 11 Reasons to make my kids see the World
- 1. When children travel they overcome shyness
- 2. Travel makes children overcome their fears
- 3. Travel makes kids smarter
- 4. When kids travel they are more independent
- 5. When a kid travels he learns from differences
- 6. … and about other religions
- 7. Is travel better than formal education?
- 8. Travel enhances communication at home
- 9. When a kid travels he learns to share
- 10. Other lessons: tolerance, patience, and respect
- 11. The game of traveling: Kids remain kids
The importance of travel for children
I believe we should start by asking ourselves about the importance of travel for us, as persons. Why is it that we travel, other than pleasure, holidays or relax? Isn’t there a deeper reason? I believe there is. We travel because we are eager to discover, to know more, and to know better. We want to experience something different, probably we also want to learn.
Travel is part of a learning process, first about that something different we were looking for. We want to face challenges, overcome fears, and but then, and most importantly, about ourselves. Discovery is also internal as we usually learn things about us that maybe we didn’t know. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this happened also to children?
Why I want my kids to travel
The mind of a child is constantly evolving and learning. How many times have we heard that kids learn languages effortlessly exactly for that reason? A kid exposed to travel will benefit from exactly the same things as we adults do when traveling. Only exponentially.
They will get in touch with different cultures and lifestyles, thus 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 my kids see the World
1. 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 city break as my mom was finally visiting. We took a very early flight and off we went, my 60-something mom, my five-year-old, and me.
We arrived early and did some exhausting sightseeing. Everything went fine during the morning, but as expected, at 3.00 pm we were all exhausted, sleepy, and the heat of the Roman summer was not helping.
We needed a rest. Yet, 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. Tired of hearing him ask me where it was, completely out of patience, I just said to him: I have no idea where is, I’m no Roman, go ask someone else!
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. They interact with monks, vendors, or 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.
2. Travel makes children overcome their fears
Travel involves facing the unknown. Even when you are returning to the same village you visit 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 arrival. It happens to adults (I used to dream about snakes before traveling to Thailand), for kids the feeling is enhanced.
Some kids might be afraid of flying or getting lost in an airport. But there is more. A different bed, room or city. New sounds, weird food. Everything together can be overwhelming. But they have no other option, they must face and make peace with fears, and in most cases see they were not real after all.
3. Travel makes kids smarter
I love to plan my trips on the dining table with guides and maps. We all discuss and even argue about what to do trying to make the most of our time. As much as I love this, I am a non-disclosing parent… I don’t tell them all about what they are going to see. I 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 in less than a minute. 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.
4. 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, they know in advance what they will need so they can choose. They know they have to carry the backpack so they must be wise as far as weight too.
For the 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.
5. When a kid travels he 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 ourselves closer to what is different. And when you get close to it, you see it better. Fears go away.
When you understand differences, you tolerate them, live with them, accept them, and recognized them as natural. You can defend them even if they do not belong to you. Isn’t this world lacking that?
Now they know they cannot expect milk every single breakfast, sometimes there will be noodles. And that’s different, but it’s also ok.
6. … and about other religions
My kids were not educated under any religion. I went through conversion as an adult but my secular mind does not allow me to impose a belief on anyone.
I just give them the tools to approach every religion in a candid way. They can ask questions and even pray in whatever kind of temple they are visiting. As long as they are respectful of rules and traditions, they are free to live religion as a very personal experience.
I saw them praying to Buddha in Thailand and in thoughtful introspection inside a Synagogue. I’ve seen them marvel to the call of the prayer in Morocco and visit Cathedrals in wonder.
These visits have ignited endless questions about God, about 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, it’s going to be their own. I believe it should be.
7. Is travel 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. During the times the 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).
8. 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 did they do, does the answer “Nothing” ring the bell?
When kids travel that “nothing” changes: There is always time to discuss and talk about something seen or something we are about to see. Some new taste, 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 at school. The concentrate better and focus more because there is more to see, more to listen to and more to learn.
9. When a kid travels he learns 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.
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. And when fighting happens, not having my bro on my side is boring… so they fix it fast.
10. Other lessons: tolerance, patience, and respect
Have you ever been to an airport waiting for a delayed flight to depart? This is the best 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 I make my kids go through, as I’ve been told. It’s just another lesson.
11. 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. 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 get 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 own reasons to travel with your kids?
Let me know in the comments below!