Adventuring with a family sees hundreds of defining moments. That is precisely why we can and should travel with our kids.
Why we can and should travel with our kids
Recapture the transcendent moments
In their 2010 Ted Talk, ‘The 4 Myths of Parenthood’ Babble.com founders, Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman, talk about how in parenthood we “trade average happiness” for “transcendent moments.” Typically, our emotional highs and lows tend to flat-line as we grow older, but having kids changes that. Parents “submit to losing control” and in that, find great meaning in life.
One way to capture those “transcendent moments” every day (and often multiple times every day) is to travel with kids. You really do experience the super duper highs and the horrendous lows.
I remember my mystical Dead Sea experience in 2014 shattered by the piercing screams of a three-year-old who got ultra-salty water in her eyes.
And I won’t ever forget the terrible overnight bus ride in Turkey where both of our daughters took turns shrieking throughout the entire trip. It was so bad that to this day we have never taken another night bus. Ever.
Of course, I remember all too well the day we travelled along the Croatian coast, drinking in the breathtaking views around every twist and turn, and my daughter throwing up on me three times in a row because of motion sickness.
These moments of utter despair stretch us beyond what we think we are capable of, way out to the far-flung reaches of our comfort zones. And there, in those places of tension – repeated and incessant – we grow. We change.
Slower, deeper travel
When we travel, we do not move quickly, this family of ours. We have to take pit stops and sometimes the fastest we go is at 2-year-old speed, wobbly legs and all. For someone who has always loved to hit up all the sites and experience all the things, it can feel like an eternity with kids.
Slow travel with kids goes deeper. We experience the warmth and hospitality of different cultures who welcome our children with open arms. We engage with families from different cultures because they have kids too. Moving more slowly, we are able to absorb rich and deep experiences because we aren’t rushing around trying to see everything.
Create lifelong memories
On our Epic Trip in 2014, we experienced amazing things together. Like riding a camel with my nine-month-old daughter through the dramatic desert canvas of Wadi Rum in Jordan. We floated in the Dead Sea and then soaked up Istanbul’s emotive and chaotic pizzazz. With my three-year-old on my back, we explored Buzlduzha, the old communist headquarters in off-the-beaten-track Bulgaria. My eldest daughter turned three in Mostar, Bosnia surrounded by pockmarked and battle-scarred buildings while my youngest turned one in the courtyard of a little Macedonian hostel. To this day, our kids talk about our ‘Epic Trip’. It is immortalized in our stories, songs, and pictures.
Cultural literacy grows empathy
It’s good for us to be “foreign” once in a while. There are some things we can only learn when we’re far away from home and guests in a different culture and country. To not be in control? To see how normal and inviting and welcoming other people are? To meet real people in their cities and countries?
That builds connection.
Shauna Niequist says it perfectly in “Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes“:
“We travel because I want my kids to learn, as I learned, that there are a million ways to live, a million ways to eat, a million ways to dress and speak and view the world. I want them to know that “our way” isn’t the right way, but just one way, that children all over the world, no matter how different they seem, are just like the children in our neighborhood—they love to play, to discover, to learn. I want my kids to learn firsthand and up close that different isn’t bad, but instead that different is exciting and wonderful and worth taking the time to understand. I want them to see themselves as bit players in a huge, sweeping, beautiful play, not as the main characters in the drama of our living room.”
But perhaps the greatest reason for travelling with kids is that life is too short not to. It’s fragile and doesn’t hesitate to throw curve balls. When presented with any new opportunity, even if it’s a bit wild, I would like to be the kind of person who jumps at the chance and says “YES”.
Since our epic trip, another daughter has joined our family and I want all of them to grow into strong, resilient and adventurous young women. The best chance of success in that department is if they see my husband and I modelling those things in everyday life.
Travel – however close or far away – is a great place to start.