This is a question I have been asking myself a lot lately and not because I am questioning our decision to take them on adventures, although I will be the first to admit that when flights are delayed and the girls are losing it I have, for a split second, asked myself what are we doing, but these thoughts always pass even quicker than they came. Especially when we are off making memories!
So why is it I have been asking this question, well it it appears that Matt & I seem to be the minority in this decision, don’t get me wrong we do meet fellow parents who share the same philosophy as us when it comes to exploring the world with children, but we meet many many more who don’t share this view. Often giving reasons like “its too hard”, “too stressful”, “what’s the point because they won’t remember it” so “we will wait until the kids have left home” and often we are greeted with negative opinions on us doing so; which does make me stop and think about it. So here it is, my top ten reasons for traveling with children…
1. CREATING MEMORIES For starters the memories we create on our adventures. Of course while Matt & I can remember landmarks, World Heritage sites and other significant places we understand our girls probably wont remember these things from their earlier traveling days, but I know at some point in the future they will remember. Until that time comes they have different memories, but memories nonetheless; Eden can still tell you about the time in Portugal at a marine show where the dolphin head butted her a ball, which she got to take home, or how she got to chew her first piece of gum to add to the Seattle gum wall, and she most definitely remembers how the ginger drink Matt bought while in Macau in a effort to get cool was so disgusting it made her ears hurt! Our family is creating lifetime memories, TOGETHER.
2. QUALITY FAMILY TIME When we are off on trips we usually unplug, maybe not entirely but staying updated with things like Facebook definitely is not a priority. We don’t watch television, the girls have no or very few toys for entertainment and only sometimes will we have WIFI often only in the evening. Which is perfect because the girls get creative with whatever resources they can, it’s amazing what their imaginations can come up with when they have so little and more importantly we get creative with them. When we are traveling we are having far too much fun spending time with each other, exploring, hanging out, trying new foods and yes, sometimes tantrums and we do all this without the distractions of technology or everyday life allowing us to have quality time together.
3. QUANTITATIVE FAMILY TIME Not only is our family time quality time but also quantity. It’s not very often where we get a whole day of uninterrupted family time, and its even less often when we get to spend days on end together as a family…at the end of a trip we are all looking forward to some alone time, but those days on end of quality family time having new experiences in new places together is absolutely priceless in my opinion.
4. LIFE LESSONS Naturally not all of our time on the road is full of sunshine and rainbows…and this is ok too, after all thats life, isn’t it? While I wish life only consisted of these things, it just isn’t so. This is exactly what I tell the girls when these bad days occur, I remind them of all the fun things we have done on our adventures and that these not so great moments are just part of it, after all you have to take the good with the bad. When we do reminisce about past adventures, we ALWAYS find the humor in the frustrating moments, even if we couldn’t see it at the time.
5. TRAVEL HELPS TO CREATE WELL ROUNDED CHILDREN I love being able to expose our children to new experiences, different tastes, but most importantly different cultures; my hope is that this exposure will help them to grow up a little more well-rounded and less judgmental. To approach life with an open mind and be accepting of the various people who inhabit this beautiful earth. To also understand that there are many ways of living and to appreciate what you have. This is becoming more important as both girls get older.
6. TRAVEL IS A GREAT EDUCATIONAL TOOL As a parent I feel like it is one of my many roles to teach our children, I find traveling is such a great tool to do this. We talk about everything from history, art and science to various languages. Matt & I were really taken back when Eden, age 27 months, said ‘bonjour’ to someone in Paris after only being there a couple of days! I also feel like the life skills gained from travel are invaluable, at age 4 Eden knew all about how to check in for a flight, prepare for going through security to getting her passport stamped & Clio is definitely on her way to learning this process also.
7. SHOW THEM TO LOVE LIFE I want our children to love life, to live the fullest life they can and I am a firm believer in leading by example. Everyday is an adventure for us, not just when we are traveling, but I feel like when we are traveling it is highlighted the most that Matt & I are living; we aren’t waiting for our lives to begin, we aren’t putting things on hold for some day which may never come or for a time when traveling will be cheaper and ‘easier’. We are living in the now; although I will say being such a planner I am often already thinking of our next adventure, this is something I am trying to work on, to focus on the NOW to live in the present and stop looking too far ahead.
8. MEETING NEW PEOPLE Having traveled prior to having children I can definitely say that it is a little different once you start adding kids in the mix; you can’t stay out as late or experience the nightlife like you once did, but the plus side is you usually wake up the next day bright & early and with a clear head! Since having children I have had way more conversations with locals than ever before, people are drawn to babies & children. When Eden was 4 months old we visited Aushwitz in Poland, I needed to nurse her but there wasn’t anywhere that I felt comfortable or appropriate to do so, so I took her to the bathrooms, when the two older ladies worked out what I was about to do they took me back to their ‘office’ and let me nurse there. I spoke no Polish and they spoke no English, but we sat there for a good half an hour visiting, they showed me photographs of their grand babies and it was really special moment. I can not tell you how many little treats or knick knacks our kids have received from people along the way; beads from a gentlemen in Crete, charms in Japan, tissues to wipe runny noses in Hong Kong, candies for tears, the list goes on, but all these gestures usually come with a small visit (and sometimes a lengthy one!)
9. TEACHING THEM ABOUT MAKING & ACHIEVING FINANCIAL GOALS Our family is extremely fortunate to have lived in Europe and now Okinawa where travel to other countries is not only easy but pretty reasonably priced. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have to plan, budget and scrimp & save to be able to go on trips and we definitely do things on the cheap, but this is one area of our finances that we are open to Eden about. Currently I am saving for a trip to mainland later this year, since our ‘travel budget’ for the year has been allocated else where I am funding this trip by filling money tins with loose change, selling stuff & writing the odd post for money. Eden sees me doing this and when she asks I explain it all to her, she might not always understand it (she is only just turned 5 after all) but I love that she is also learning about the value of money and the effort that Matt & I put in to giving the girls the world.
10. TRAVEL WITH KIDS IS FUN Lastly, traveling with children is FUN, yes it can be testing at times but those times in our experience are few and far between and I feel absolutely blessed to be able to travel with our children, to be able to see things from their perspective; its fun, amazing and keeps us young at heart!
I understand that travel isn’t for everyone, or that budgets don’t always allow it but I do feel sad when I hear people say they want to but don’t, simply because they have children and don’t want to bring them along or that it’s unfair on them so will wait until they have ‘left the nest’. Matt & I can not imagine a life without travel or without children, so it was never a question that we would combine the two.