Why Take Your Kids When You Travel

This seems pretty basic (why to take kids when you travel) but as we all know, there are some things that we think of as self-evident that are really not so straightforward.

It may surprise readers of BootsnAll travel blogs to be reminded that lots of folks do not travel.  What some of us think of as an activity akin to breathing — you simply have to do it — isn’t viewed that way by many others.  Some people prefer to spend their money on something other than airplane tickets and hotels. Some really dislike being out of their home, their nest, their comfort zone.  Some think that travel is only for “adventurous” types.  This is the hardest thing for me to remember; not everyone wants to do the things that I do.  This seems simple, but it is key to one’s true understanding of others.

Now, as for taking the kids, assuming that you DO like to travel….I must confess, having them along is sometimes a raging pain in the neck.  Children have demands and requirements that are not much of an issue when I travel alone or with a like-minded adult.  For the enjoyment to outweigh the aggravation, you must thrill to the demands of teaching. You must enjoy the delights of discovery.  You must be willing to make up your own lesson plans and be able to appreciate having the entire planet as a classroom. Finally, you have to enjoy being a teacher even when your student doesn’t grasp the lesson immediately, or even that day/month/year.

Patience has never been one of my virtues, but through my travels with two very different children, I have learned that things sink in when you would least expect, and that’s why you must persist, sometimes even in the face of intractable opposition.  Notre Dame morphs from “some dumb cathedral” to “way cool” a year or so later, when a photograph of the basilica in a middle school textbook is not just some building in Paris, but a real place where they speak another language, eat different food and build spectacular monuments to the heavens, complete with flying buttresses.  And you’ve seen it with your own eyes.   

Kids learn that there is no substitute for actually being there.  There’s nothing more magical than being able to say, “Wow, I’ve stood on that spot and met those people and eaten their food and learned about their history.”  The entire world becomes your children’s neighborhood. With enough travel and exploration, they are “at home in the world.”  For me as a parent, that is the finest reward.

It also means that your children learn to think and see and examine and judge for themselves; always a good way to develop thinking citizens. 

I feel so fortunate for the travel opportunities that have come my way, but there is one thing I’ve noted in every community where I’ve lived:  people do not know their own town.  As a former Navy person, I’ve moved into communities the same way every time; knowing that I need to explore and see what the area offers, because I’m only there for a few years at most.  I buy a guidebook and act as though I am a tourist, because I am.  Lists are made, the family is schlepped from one event or attraction to another, because “this is what one does here.”  Many times I’ll hear the comment, “Oh, I’ve lived here forever and never been there/done that.”  Make sure that you and your family get out there and explore your own backyard.  The most interesting happenings are not necessarily in another time zone.