You and your spouse really want to travel the world, but will your 4-year-old benefit from the trip? This is one of the many concerns parents have as they plan a holiday or long sabbatical.
Is traveling with young kids worth the cost and effort? Will they remember how fun, interesting, and unique a certain place or experience is?
|Perspective can be gained at ANY age!|
I understand most people believe that there is only one way for children to learn (school), that their peers and a familiar environment are essential to stability, or that they may be too young to appreciate different perspectives.
These concerns are valid in that most of us were raised to place value in school, friends, and a stable home. And what do we remember from our early vacations or early life in general for that matter? Probably not much.
However, travel with kids IS worth it. It's an enriching experience for the entire family, not just the adults.
We, as home schoolers prior to traveling, had already adopted the philosophy that children are always learning, most significantly through experiences -- not text books. After traveling outside the U.S. for the last 7 years, we've put this philosophy to test and know it to be true.
What's important is not what the kids are giving up by taking time off of school, it's what they gain by traveling. The option of school will always be available, but travel teaches something that school never can. Travel transforms the mind, cultivates an open and accepting attitude towards the world, teaches adaptation, and helps see the Universe for all of it's possibilities! And those are just some of the lessons from travel.
In a way it's even more beneficial to travel with kids when they're young. If kids absorb knowledge like sponges and experiences are vital to shaping them, doesn't it more make sense to travel while they're younger?
Teenagers are usually deeply entrenched in their activity schedules and peer groups, and they're likely already following a set of rigid beliefs and may benefit less from travel than younger children. Of course the argument can be made that teens will benefit the most from travel because they'll "remember" more of the experience. It's just that they may miss more things about home than the younger ones will.
Leaving friends and familiarity is the toughest thing about extended travel, but more so for us adults than the kids. Sure, the kids will have moments where they miss their pets, friends, a certain feature of our house or neighborhood, or even something as small as an old toy. But these are quickly displaced when a new attraction is placed before them.
Interestingly, young kids typically have a much easier time adapting to new environments than their parents. They don't have all the cultural rules and norms ingrained in them yet. Therefore they can jump right in and enjoy exploring everything in the new environment. While parents, on the other hand, feel so anxious about change that they are reading an article like this! (It helps that you can find a McDonald's anywhere on the globe, I promise).
It is worth noting that our attitude as parents is one of the most important characteristics in our children's environment no matter where the location is. So if travel is making you anxious and crazy, your children will likely feel and associate that with a certain location.
Simply put, no matter how young they may be, children absorb the environment around them. Exposure to new environments can broaden their world view which comes with countless intangible benefits. This expansion of awareness can only take place by experiencing it first hand. Even if it could be learned eventually by reading enough books, which is a more enjoyable way to attain this awareness?
In that sense, travel is an eternal gift that you can give your children. They will benefit greatly on multiple levels, and these benefits will last a lifetime even if their memories of specific events may be fuzzy.
But your children will remember a lot more about your travels than you may think. Through conversation, photos and our blog, we remind each other often of our experiences at different locations. However, we may remember each location in our own unique way. We remember in what ever way it is that we need it most at the time and that in itself enhances travel for each of us collectively.
When we asked our kids what they liked best about Asia, the oldest son answered "food", our middle son said "riding motorbikes", and our youngest said plainly "they have elephants." These are normal kid responses, but each answer was summoned by rich and exhilarating experiences that touched them in some way and fundamentally changed their perspective on the world.
People often ask when is the "right" time to travel is. My response is, "right NOW"! We have seen first hand how valuable it is at any stage of life!
To hear more about what other traveling families think follow the links below and enjoy!
Nancy from Family on Bikes
Catherine Forest from Catherine et les fées
Alisa from Living Outside of the Box
Melissa from Break Out of Bushwick
Bethaney from Flashpacker Family
Jenn from Edventure Project
Kris Herwig from Simon Says
Heather Costaras from Living Differently
Kalli from Portable Professionals
Kirsty from Barts go Adventuring
Anne from The Journey is the Reward
Sharon from Where's Sharon
Annie from Practical Adventurology
Lainie from Raising Miro on the Road of Life (and Aimee from Suitcases and Strollers): http://www.raisingmiro.com/2013/05/28/doubt-that-travel-has-value/
Nichola from We Travel Countries
Corey Anne from Adventure Bee
Tracey from Expat Experiment
Natalie from Magnificent