My Experience Growing up and Traveling with Young Kids

 A quick intro to this article. This is a guest post from Cassidy who is now 20 years old and has been featured in a couple of our articles such as: climbing Half Dome and our recent Banff trip. She has become a new member of the family over the past couple of years. Apologies for the photo quality.

In this article, she talks about her experience growing up traveling on a boat with her parents and young siblings and hopes that her family's success story will help others take the leap!

Here is Her Experience Growing up and Traveling with Young Kids on a Sailboat

  A common debate when considering traveling with young kids; how young is too young? My parents didn’t dwell on this question for too long before deciding to move all of us aboard our homebuilt catamaran with my (then) six-month-old brother. There were eight of us total; I was the eldest child by 7 years, the next was 6 years old, then 5, 3, 1, and the baby. Add my parents and we made eight high-sea explorers, ready to sail south from California.

The youngest – Val – had barely mastered crawling, let alone walking or swimming. He needed his afternoon naps, was still nursing, still wore diapers (a fun product to stock and dispose of properly on a boat and in foreign countries). He was adventurous, quick to take up an opportunity to explore, and he was all too fond of fishing lures. Val took up a lot of our energy, but what six-month-old doesn’t? This is the time in a child’s development where they have gained the freedom of mobility and the curiosities of the world are at their fingertips. What better time is there to introduce more of that world to them?

As for my other siblings, the four of them quickly mastered swimming with ice cream bribes. While Val chased after hermit crabs on the beach, the others would practice diving with snorkel gear along the shore. Competing with each other – who can hold their breath the longest, who can find the biggest shell, who can catch a fish (an unsuccessful endeavor). On occasion, my stepdad would bring out the SCUBA gear and they got even more comfortable in and under the water. 

During our time hiking through Costa Rican jungles, I would create wild stories about pirates and talking monkeys. The kids would run around in character and add to the story as they discovered a “magical beetle” climbing a tree or a "secret path leading to buried treasure". Just because they’ve been mobile for years doesn’t make them any less excited than little Val about the world around them. I ask again, what better a time to expand their access to that world?

Our long-term plans involved pinballing through the South Pacific Islands. Sailing to some of the planet’s most remote locations did sound lonely at the time. Being a teenager, I was concerned about how I would make friends or even meet people of any caliber. My siblings as well. Just because the crew all get along, doesn’t mean outside interactions aren’t beneficial. But even in Central America, we interacted with the locals much more than I initially expected. While my parents and I attempted charades to get our minimal Spanish across to the adults of the village, my siblings would seamlessly connect with the local children.

They found other ways to communicate despite a lack of shared language. They would be up a tree with four other children within five minutes of landing. My sisters traded toys for woven trinkets and eventually learned how to weave themselves. The boys would go out on treasure hunts or build driftwood rafts. Sometimes, their roles would be reversed and you would find boys with woven baskets and girls with rafts. Either way, the day usually ended with everyone jumping off of the bow of the boat and having a blast! 

We later found that within the small boating community there was an even smaller community of family cruisers that we would cross paths with as often as possible. Even though we always found ways to interact with locals wherever we were, it was still nice to have some people we could easily communicate with. We met a lot of like-minded people in the community that led to lifelong friendships despite the long distances. Including my best friend of now 6 years.

By the time we had reached Panama, Val gained his sea legs and was comically tipsy on solid ground. He had become vocal and very friendly to anyone who would listen. He was no longer in diapers, no longer nursing, no longer NEEDED naps, yet he didn’t break his desire for fishing lures. He and his older brother were obsessed with fishing and had learned how to troll while underway. They would ask questions about the kinds of fish they caught and, as a family, we would do the research. Within a few weeks, everyone knew where the fish came from, what they ate, if they were any good to eat, and all about their lifecycles. Their curiosities became a great way for everyone to learn more about a big part of our lives on the boat.

I was young during our travels, but the age gap allowed me to experience my siblings’ childhood through a more mature lens. I have seen each of them develop into confident and compassionate young adults. They are well-rounded and talented thanks to their life experiences. Experiences that they would not have had if my parents continued to dwell on whether or not a six-month-old was too young to travel with. But the line isn’t drawn at six months. If you are contemplating an adventure with your family, make it happen. I am not saying it will always be easy (when is anything easy with young kids?), but they will thank you for the life experiences you gave them. I couldn't imagine my life today without those experiences.

I hope you enjoyed this little piece about my time growing up on a boat traveling with young kids! It is my first time writing about my life in this way and I hope it helps more people take the great leap as my parents did. Please feel free to leave a comment below about your experience!

Written by Cassidy

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  1. Thank you for this. I really want to travel but have been too scared because of my son. I worry about an education (among other things). But I do have a few questions on: Are tests not required? How do you show proof that your kids are getting educated? Or do you have to at all?

  2. Hi Julie,
    I'm so glad you enjoyed the article! I totally understand the hesitation. It can be a really big step, but I assure you seeing the world is an incredible experience that everyone should have. We have never provided proof of education. We found that while traveling in other countries we were never asked about it. However, I know some countries are more strict about homeschooling, but that normally only applies to people who live there full time. It is certainly not something to worry about. And the experience of being shown the world more than any classroom could ever offer.

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