Travel is such a glorious and wondrous discovery of other places. Travel with kids is not that! OMG are you tested when you travel with kids! So, why do it? Why travel with kids? Exposing your children to you failing and dealing with mistakes is said to help them grow. Travel for growth. Travel can provide situations where we can all grow.
I remember a friend of my husbands was asking him how our summer holiday and he replied with well the 2-year-old has decided to get 4 teeth all at once this week. The result being very little sleep and a grumpy and often sick baby. The friend replied with ‘a holiday with young children is not really a holiday is it?’
Another friend had sworn black and blue she would never take her kids overseas. She couldn’t justify the expense and they wouldn’t remember it anyway. Her sister relocated to London and her husband was made redundant. They took the chance to take an extended vacation with their 4 boys. She explained to me the delight on their little faces whilst the wandered through Paris and Barcelona as they absorbed different sights, sounds and tastes was nothing short of magic. Lifting her head up from 6 years of being either pregnant or breastfeeding she suddenly realised life was meant for adventure and she was going to find a way to take them to other parts of the world whenever they could.
I have a son who struggles with flexible thinking. I had read that to encourage flexible thinking we needed to change the rules and push boundaries. Now, this was a routine baby and he demanded it to be very exact. Changing his routine was not something he was very good with. Exposing him to different countries and how people live has made him more flexible. He is still not great at it (I need a continuing excuse for my husband to allow me to continue to travel) but we continue to use many methods to help, including travel.
What are the things you can learn travelling as a family? What does travel give us that we can’t get anywhere else? Firstly, you will see the worst of people when they are under pressure. How you then deal with that situation is what makes you, you. Pushing your boundaries and being in uncomfortable situations helps us to grow. Being forced to deal with not having a hotel room is bad enough when you are travelling solo but when you have little people, it is worse. You need to think on your feet and you need to look out for their safety. Doing the things travel throws at you as a family makes for great stories but also many situations you can all grow from.
Lessons to be learned while traveling as a family
That patience is a virtue
Waiting in airports and for transfers is a large part of travel. I remember waiting for our transfer to Universal Studios and the kids were super excited about getting to the park. We were waiting at the main entrance to the hotel. You would think that was the right place. Meanwhile the transfer was searching for us at another entrance. Whilst we waited the kids learnt all about the massive tree in the front of the hotel. Why would you learn about a tree in hotel grounds unless you have been hanging out for a while and the bell staff are politely making conversation with you.
I mentioned I have a child who was very structured and needed his routine to be just so. Taking him places where the sun doesn’t set until 11.00pm and rises at 4.00am has been a true joy. No, what was I thinking? Black our curtains for me! Getting a child to understand that dinner at home is at 5.00pm but on a plane, there may be some variances to that.
How to deal with bad situations
You arrive in Alaska and all you have is the jumper on your back that is Sydney weight. Your luggage has been missing for 3 days now and the airline has not found it yet. Whilst the airline has given you funds to go and get some warm clothes you still must get to a store and work out sizing whilst dealing with very cold children. You might have a travel agent who has forgotten to book a transfer for a leg of your holiday. There are no transfers available to book. Children are not often involved in this problem solving but they absorb how you react to each situation.
Developing curious minds
Why do they do that Mum? What is that for Mum? As much as those questions infuriate me when I am on holidays and they are repeated 500 thousand times, I do love that my boys are interested in what things are for and how they work. Trying to raise little people that ask questions is a huge part of my believing I am doing a good job in raising my boys.
Appreciate how fortunate you are
Taking my son for a walk around Kota Kinabalu he observed the washing hanging in the alleyways near to our hotel. He said to me ‘looks like it did in Alladin’s time’ referring to the street rat scene from the Disney movie where all the washing is hanging across the alleyways. I told him they don’t have their own private space like we do outside for drying clothes and they rely on this lines over alleyways for drying the families washing.
Realise what little you need in life
We stayed at a Malaysian family’s house during our jungle trek and he was amazed by how poor they were. To start with our room was so hot you felt like you were in an oven. The father of the family put in a fan for us and a makeshift mosquito net. The result was a booby trap of electrical cords and an electrical fire just waiting to happen in this tin shed makeshift house. We were so grateful for a pillow at our next stop not to mention a hot shower and a fresh running toilet not covered in filth. It’s the little things you learn to appreciate the big things from.
Embracing the experience
I remember getting off the train in Paris and was in the taxi queue to go to my hotel. I was standing behind some American ladies and they were excitedly making comments between themselves.
“Oh My Gawd. Don’t you just leeeerv Paris’
“I leeeeerv Paris. It’s so devine. Smell that lovely air. Oh I just died!’
Yes, stereotypes they were and they did make me giggle. After waiting for 20 minutes in a slow-moving queue. The conversation changed to:
“Oh My Gawd. This would never happen at home.’
“You’d think they would get this together wouldn’t you? Oh this is ridiculous’
I meanwhile despite my frustration and desperate need to lose my bags and go and explore, was enjoying the people watching and having a chuckle at the change in their behaviour. We would get a taxi and the line would move. What’s the point in getting uptight about a few minutes?
To try new things
My eldest son is a very fussy eater and we have a repertoire of about 15 different food items. I thought by taking him to Malaysia for ten days in the jungle was a sure cure for that. Nope. Like a Mexican stand-off he had rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 10 days straight. Yes, what could have been a perfect cure was not in the slightest anyway helpful.
Hopefully, I am subconsciously setting him up for the years ahead. After years of constant exposure, surely he will start to try one day, huh? New things don’t always need to relate to food. We visited a temple in Bali and the boys had to wear sarongs. We then watched as the Balinese bathed in the water to be blessed. Whilst we didn’t participate, the visit to a holy area and watching as others participated in the ceremony was all part of day out that we all loved.
Developing a passion and love for history
Growing up as an Australian I was taught Australian history. It was so boring to me as a child. On my first trip overseas I went to the White House. Here was a building that was easily identified from pictures and television shows and I was hooked. American history seemed to be full of so eventful and full of drama and conflicting stories. We went to Thomas Jefferson’s house, the architect who designed the White House. I was fascinated that at a time when Australian’s were living in bark huts and making inroads to inland Australia, the Americans were designing such splendid buildings.
Walking along the Champs Elysees where for hundreds of years so much has happened along this grandiose avenue. Nothing in Australia could match it. It is spectacular. The history that can be taught just walking along this one avenue is vast.
My children did get the bug in Canberra at the National War Museum (I skip the heavy parts) and the old Parliament House and the new Parliament House. I know one of my sons will be in awe once we get him to London and there is Big Ben and Tower Bridge. The physical sight of seeing a building has sparked their interest.
Meeting people from different backgrounds and cultures
Asking for food or services in another language is a great lesson for children to learn. It builds confidence and they develop an appreciation as to how hard it is for people to communicate when English is not their first language. The conversation that develops is lovely. Our driver in Bali was like our long-lost uncle by the end of our trip. For several days, he had driven us here and there and helped the kids into and out of the van. They adored listening to him about his family and learning about Balinese names. He was kind, gentle and very cheeky.
When you had children did you think about what type of people you wanted to raise? I know I wanted to raise boys who were confident and strong. Boys that would-be men that could stand a storm and still be standing. Wishing for charm and a sense of humour was all part of my vision. Travel gives me the opportunity to turn them from boys to men without pushing them to grow up overnight. Ever so subtle are my efforts they won’t even know.
Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. With all the above points in one purchase, how can that not be great value for money? Invest in yourself and your children. How can we develop greatness if we don’t make an investment?