The photo above is of exhausted teen travelers in Rome.
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8 Reasons Why Travel is Good for a Family
Let’s face it, there is always a point on any family trip when you wonder why you ever ventured from your front yard.
Travel Can Be Difficult
For the Jacobsen five, our lowest of lows came when the cattle truck we were riding in broke down in a deep stream (cattle cars are not amphibious it turns out) somewhere in the Nicaraguan outback at around 10:00 PM.
Approximately five hours later, we reached our village a bedraggled, thirsty lot including village children, teenagers and humbled American tourists. My prayer quotient went way up on that long dark walk.
I watched and fretted while bats swooped over our heads. My husband carried a sleeping village tot while another American man carried a stick to beat back any feral critters real or fantastic. I imagined a CPS worker listing my many parenting sins, most critically: No Water!
In contrast, our three middle-school-age children were bantering in Spanish with the local kids . . . no worries there.
Little did I know that this journey would become the fodder for future college entrance essays and the fuel for a continued relationship with this tiny Nicaraguan village.
Travel is a Lifelong Gift
I know Sandy Nielsen (with whom I started this website) and I have often reminisced about our travel catastrophes even while we are certain of the intrinsic and extrinsic value of family travel. This is ultimately the driving force behind this website. Traveling with your family is a lifelong gift you give them and yourself.
Here are 8 of my personal reasons why we travel with our kids:
1. Unplug and introduce yourselves:
There is often limited convenience to all things electronic especially when traveling outside of your home country/network providing a perfect opportunity for family conversation a freedom from distraction.
2. Geographical awareness :
In which state are the Mammoth Caves located? What countries make up North America? What continent is home to the Victoria Falls?
3. Historical understanding:
Why was there a wall dividing the city of Berlin? Why did the Chinese build the Great Wall? What is the significance of the Western Wall or wailing Wall in Jerusalem?
4. Cultural sensitivity:
Not everybody does things the same way, what is polite here is not polite elsewhere, tread lightly and let go of prejudices.
5. “It tastes like chicken.”:
Eating new things can be the most stressful as well as the most stimulating for the senses. If we are invited to someone’s home, we eat whatever is put in front of us. If you reach your modern conveyance and personal H20 container at 3:00 am in the morning after walking five hours: Share your water bottle with strangers!!
6. Language development:
If you are traveling internationally there is nothing like language immersion to get those synapses moving. Kids soak it up like a sponge, but even those of us of a certain age will develop skills if we aren’t afraid to try.
7. Problem solving skills:
Your kids get to see you problem solve and deal with stressful situations. They are often part of the problem solving as well–I love camping trips for this in particular. My own childhood memories are filled with these collective efforts and the confidence that it built in me.
8. Shared memories:
When my parents retired and moved out of the home where I grew up, I experienced vivid memory dreams. Oddly they were not dreams of the house they were leaving behind but of all our trips together, fishing, camping, car travel including “Are we there yet?”, national parks, visiting relatives … Now when I see my brother, however infrequently, these are our best memories together. I am really grateful my parents took us with them.
Happy Family Travels,
Notes: Before writing this blog post I looked for any studies that discussed the impact of travel on children. However, I had very little success finding related studies. AARP is sponsoring a study called “The Travel Effect” targeting the older population, as I understand. And, I did find an article on USA Today regarding travel benefits for children which might be interesting to some of you.
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