I took on a love of travel with my first ever trip out of the country with a friend when I was 18. Being in a different country was exhilarating and seeing life through the eyes of others opened my eyes to how different life looked for some. Some of the best friends I have made were acquired through travel (including my gorgeous hubby).
So why is travelling such a great experience for kids? Here are 10 reasons taking your kids on a trip will teach them so much.
1. That everyone doesn’t live the same way
As an 18-year-old, it was fascinating for me to see that people in other countries lived so differently from the life I had seen as normal. We lived in a double story brick home in the suburbs with a friend's next door and other friends in the neighbourhood kids. We played on the street and taught each other how to roller-skate and play tennis. I did not understand that others lived differently.
As my travel list grew, so did my experiences and my view of the world. It horrified me to learn that some people lived in extreme poverty with homes made of lean to sheets of corrugated iron, no running water and no clean clothes. I also saw how some super rich passed their time.
Learning about how others live gives us a greater respect for what we have. It shows us what’s possible, and it teaches us where we can make a difference.
2. That people eat foods other than sandwich fingers and cereal.
Your kids may love their comfort foods of chicken nuggets and mum’s homemade salad but it is a real eye opener to see that other cultures eat differently than the way we do. The first time we took our kids to Singapore, it took them a while to get used to the different foods and the way they cook. It was a fun and interesting experience as we tried new foods and learned new flavours.
3. That life isn’t one big resort
When all of your holidays comprise a week at a resort, it doesn’t show your kids the true beauty of the world. Travelling is different that holidaying because it involves immersion in the location of your trip. Sure, you may stay in nice accommodation but get out there and explore your surroundings. Meet locals, try the cuisine, and get down the beaten track.
4. That you can live with everything you need in one suitcase
We are a generation who has more than we need... way, way more! We indulge and our homes are full and sometimes overflowing with all the stuff that we accumulate over the years. Travelling gives you a huge dose of reality when you realise that you can live with a lot less than you realise.
When I started travelling on my own, I was a little extreme with the amount of luggage I took with me. Over 30 countries later and now travelling with three children, I have learnt how to travel extremely efficiently. Now I take one large suitcase which holds all my stuff and necessities for the three kids (plus carry-on, because let’s face it, I’m not a miracle worker).
5. That you won’t die by not using your iPad for over a week
Yes, this one is touch and go and your children may think they will die by having their iPad not in their reach for a period. Chances are, though, they will survive. Removing yourself from technology for a period is great for your kids. As a society focused on entertainment, it’s often hard to let that go. You may find that after a few days of detox, your kids may take in more of their surroundings and become more interested in the world around them.
6. That other cultures can excite
The first time I was in Africa, I met a young man around the same age as me from a very poverty-stricken area. As he spoke English, we got to chat for a little while. One thing that fascinated me the most was that he had never seen a camera in real life. He kept looking at mine and asked if he could hold it. I passed it over to him and just watched as he turned it over in his hands looking at all the details, examining it as if a child with a new toy.
During my travels, I have met so many wonderful, friendly people and gained a greater understanding of humanity and the beautiful people who inhabit this world. Let your kids know that different can be fun and that these strangers are just people we haven’t met yet.
7. That patience is sometimes a necessary extra
Nothing teaches patience like an extended layover in an airport or a two-hour line for a Disneyland ride. Although travelling can amaze, it can also test the best of your patience. Patience can be difficult for a child (it can also be difficult for an adult). When I was a child, I didn’t have much patience at all but life and age has given me some good life lessons.
Use waiting time as a chance to educate your kids in the art of waiting; turn it into a game, use the time to connect with them, tell them stories of when you were younger or make up stories together.
8. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.
Travelling doesn’t always go to plan which is a great teaching tool for kids. When they are used to seeing a life that is well organised and planned, sometimes a good dose of spontaneity is great for the soul. Spontaneity teaches quick thinking, better decision-making skills and problem solving. We were on a trip in North America two years ago and were soon to be boarding a flight to Puerto Rico for a cruise through the Caribbean. Hurricanes had hit many of the islands through the Caribbean and damaged much of Puerto Rico. With our flight approaching to take us there, we had to decide quickly. Being that we had three children with us and Puerto Rico had no running water and food was scarce we decided not to take the flight and had to make other arrangements for our time. Although it was disappointing to miss our intended itinerary, the change of plans let us see things we wouldn’t have otherwise.
9. How to be innovative
Do you know how to handle things when your plans don’t work? We once turned up an airport for a flight that we couldn’t board. Our travel agent had stuffed up and forgotten to book several of our flights and we ended up stranded in an airport with three young kids (one being 6 months old). These situations (although unpleasant) can do a lot for teaching you (and your children) how to be creative.
Using this time to weigh up your options and stay calm teaches your kids we can have some control with what happens to us and that we always have options.
We used this time to rethink our trip and what we could do and ended up spending an impromptu 4 days in Miami which lead to a fantastic visit to The Everglades, some great sight-seeing tours and a relaxing time just to chill out at the beach.
10. How to make friends wherever you are
Travelling opens up your world. Since leaving Australia for the first time, I have made friends all over the world. I have friends in the UK, Canada, Africa, America, Europe and Asia. I have found the world to be an amazing place of wonderful people who have expanded my view on life and taught me that the world is a wonderful place.
Your kids are open to learning and devouring the information and life experiences in front of them. Use this time to show them more of what’s out there.