As a child, I had the good fortune to travel frequently. My parents weren’t globetrotters – in fact, quite the opposite. It was a stroke of luck that I had the ability to travel so early and so often, but I’m so very glad that I did. I took my first plane ride when I was three; a family trip up to Minnesota for my grandparent’s 50th anniversary. Accompanied flights with relatives to New York followed soon after that. By the time I was eight or nine, I was flying across the country all by my lonesome (with a responsible adult waiting for me at the receiving airport, of course), and by 12 I had a Delta wings collection that could rival the best of them. At 14, I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel abroad as a student ambassador with the People to People International program. We toured four countries in Europe and I had a host of “firsts;” I took my first trips via train and ocean liner, I went farther from home than I had ever gone before, and I experienced cultures, cuisine, and jetlag unlike any I had ever known.
While anyone can see why parents might be reluctant to send their children off to travel, and while the obvious logistical and financial burdens of raising a well-traveled child are many, if you have the opportunity to expose your children to all the wonders of the world, I highly encourage you to take it. There is no greater gift you can give your children than a well-rounded world view and an adaptability that they can carry with them into adulthood. I am thankful every day that my parents and sundry relatives gave me the chance to experience firsthand what it is like to step into the unknown and out of my element.
I would not trade my travel-filled upbringing for anything. For my parents, sending me off for summers with my aunts and uncles in California, Ohio, or New York was just a very convenient way to get me out of the house for a couple of weeks at a time, but to me it was an unparalleled adventure.
I would urge the parents among us to encourage their children to travel often and far, to give them the opportunity to take risks and to see the world while they have the luxury of youth. You don’t have to take my word for it, it has been shown that children who travel do better in school and in many other aspects of life. To make a long story short, if your goal is to raise successful, well-rounded, empathetic, and happy children, then your methods should certainly include a decent dose of travel. It’s one of the most surefire ways to ensure that your children turn into kind and adaptable adults. In the immortal words of Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
Thank you to travel writer Emma Sledge.
Home exchange is a perfect way for families to travel; plenty of space for kids while saving thousands in accommodation costs.