“Two of the greatest gifts we can give our children are roots and wings.” -Hodding Carter
While committing a few months or even years to travel as a family isn’t entirely uncommon, when I’ve shared with others our decision to choose this path, I often encounter responses along the lines of “That’s amazing. I wish I could do something like that.”
I find myself gently responding that I believe you can and will do anything in life if it’s a priority for you. And as the 11 traveling parents featured in this post will tell you, raising their children in a global environment, or what one termed the “ultimate classroom”, has become a top priority for them.
There’s something which these parents believe their kids are gaining through the diverse experience of life on the road which they couldn’t discover at home. Perhaps the lessons are the same, but they’re heightened, absorbed, and reinforced much faster through contact with other cultures, people, and places.
So we asked them: “What was the moment during which you realized you had made the right decision to travel the world with your children?”
I’m very grateful to the 11 parents listed below for each sharing the unique, personal moments in which the efforts and sacrifices they made to provide a foundation for their children to grow into global citizens “paid off”. They let us in on that moment when they realized they had made the right decision; the snapshot which propelled them to explore the world even further.
We hope that perhaps these stories can provide inspiration to you if you’re considering making the decision to embark on extended travel with your family. And if you already have made the decision and you’re reading this during your travels or beyond them, we hope they’ll simply make you smile as you recall your own defining moments.
Talon Windwalker – 1 Dad, 1 Kid, 1 Crazy Adventure
I’ve had lots of moments that helped confirm to me that this was one of the best decisions I ever could’ve made for my life and as well as for my son.
However, I think the one that stands out for me the most was when we had an opportunity to move to a desirable place in the States, a place my son had been begging to go to. When I told him about the opportunity, he reflected for a bit and said: “No, I’m not ready to quit our life of travel.” I’ve seen his level of independence grow phenomenally as well as his critical thinking skills.
His focus on “stuff” isn’t quite the same anymore. He’s much more into the moment and not as interested in acquiring things. Spending time as a global citizen has expanded his view of the world and the people in it. And rather than thinking of home as a place, “home” is “us.”
Nancy Sathre-Vogel – Family on Bikes
As I wandered through a market with my 11-year-old son one day, he turned to me and said, “Why are people so afraid to travel?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“It seems like people are scared of anybody who isn’t from their own country,” he replied. “They seem to think that as soon as they leave their own country they’ll be attacked or robbed or killed, but when I look around, all I see are friendly people.”
If only more people could get out into the world and see that people around the world are exactly that – people just like you and me – the world would be a better place. Travel helps kids understand that it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, what clothes you wear, what food you eat or what god you worship, when you strip off all those wrappers and truly look at the person beneath it, we are all the same.
Heather Davis – Globetrotting Mama
Before we left home we talked to the kids about our belief that every one of us can make a difference in the world.
In Delhi, India I met a man who, with his wife and parents-in-law, are supporting more than 70 underprivileged children. He provides food, shelter, educational access and job training while also holding down a full-time job. And every bit of it is voluntary. It was a privilege to introduce him and the organization he runs to my family and to be able to show my kids what one person can do to change the lives of so many.
The Ashray Bhavan is still seeking assistance. I write about them in my post here: http://globetrottingmama.com/walmart-mothers-and-a-place-for-girls-in-india/.
Lisa Wielgosz – Baby Loves to Travel
As far as defining experiences, well I don’t think I can put it down to any single event and given my kids are young (they’re only 1 and 3 years old), they’re not going to remember much of our recent travel adventures. So for now, our holiday memories remain mine and my husband’s alone.
Although they mightn’t remember our trips in detail, I think the experience of travel at a very young age helps to build a base for being open to and accepting of the wonderful differences that exist in the world. In that way, I hope that their early travel experiences will form a strong foundation for accepting and respecting cultures that are different to our own.
Emiel van den Boomen – Act of Traveling
We took our kids to Morocco on our first travel, the youngest was 4 and our oldest 7. We wanted to show our kids the world outside of their comfortable home town. The world is just one big classroom and exposing them to other cultures makes them more aware and will hopefully grow their respect for other people. This is how I would describe why we have chosen to take our kids traveling:
Ourzazate, Morocco. – Day 1 of our first family travel outside of our home country, the Netherlands. Waking up on the first morning after a late arrival.
Opening the doors, one step outside on the balcony. Children become silent. “Everything is red! It’s totally different here!” Different smells, climate, sights and sounds…..a first encounter with a yet unknown culture. “Can we go outside, please?”….then you know you have made the right decision to take your kids traveling.
Taryn – Mama’s Got Wanderlust
We spent a few days in Qinghai last spring, a region of western China inhabited mainly by Tibetans.
On our second day, a couple of teenagers befriended Charlotte and taught her a couple of Tibetan phrases: “Demo” (Hello) and “Lo nyi” (I’m two). Charlotte got such a kick out of this that whenever anyone looked her way she’d greet them with “Demo!” and, holding up two fingers, exclaim “Lo nyi!” Everyone we met was both surprised and overjoyed to see a blond-haired, pint-sized westerner using the local language, and Charlotte in turn became a little super star.
Months have passed, but Charlotte is still happy to belt out a good “Demo” to anyone who asks!
Stuart Wickes – The Family Adventure Project
Well, discovering Kirstie was pregnant six weeks into a year long RTW trip was pretty defining! Especially since we were about as physically far away from home as we could be (literally the other side of the world) and were cycling, pulling two toddlers along with us in trailers. We could have gone home to rest up and wait for the baby to arrive, but decided it would be more interesting and fun to carry on.
We travel with our kids because we love traveling, the stimulus of new people, places and experiences and because we think this is not only nice for us but good for kids and their development. It’s a great stimulus for learning, for understanding the world in all its richness and diversity, for developing your own sense of character and resilience and in our experience it helps create strong family bonds.
Life is a journey, essentially unpredictable, full of twists and turns, highs and lows, persistence and change and what better way to prepare yourself or your kids for dealing with that than through journeying.
Theodora Sutcliffe – Travels With a Nine Year Old
There are too many to choose from.
I’d say his fluency in other cultures and other people, whether watching buffalo sacrificed and discussing magic with hunter-gatherers in Indonesia, holding his own on political Islamism with a Yemeni guy who worked for the UN in Beirut, or playing shoot ‘em ups with other kids at an arcade in China, is what really defines why we travel and what will, I hope, define him as an adult.
(By the way, Theodora’s son, Z, has his own blog at Kidventurer. He’s a brilliant young writer and his site is a must read!)
Mike Cooney – Cooney World Adventures
Our philosophy has always been, “Travel is the ultimate education.”
I cannot say there was one defining experience or moment. It was the culmination of all the experiences, the people they met and the cultures they were exposed to that allowed them to understand the world a little better.
One of our goals was to help create better global citizens, and Catrell and I believe we were successful.
Marília Di Cesare – Tripping Mom
Very often during a long trip to Costa Rica, my then 4-year old would easily engage in play with new kids from different culture and languages (not just the locals, but the Americans, Italians, Argentineans…).
The kids always had fun together, even when they couldn´t communicate verbally (and yet they managed to learn some words with each other in record time).
It was great to see her playing with kids of different backgrounds and discipline rules. We both learned a lot with those families.
Mara Gorman – The Mother of All Trips
Traveling with my oldest son for 13 months between the time he was 1 and 2 was what opened my eyes to the value of traveling with children because it taught me that experience is so much more valuable than stuff.
Tommy learned to walk in Boston, to talk in London, and to push his stroller on the beach in California. We got by with almost no toys or baby proofing and by the end of our trip I was hooked on sharing adventures.
At the outset of our journey, I flattered myself that I was going to show Tommy the world and teach him to love travel, but in hindsight I realized he actually did those things for me by helping me to focus on what was in front of me each and every day.
It’s my hope that he always approaches the world with the kind of openness and interest that he showed on that first trip, and it is my goal to keep showing him and his brother the world to make sure that stays the case.
THANK YOU to all of these traveling parents for sharing these moments and insights with us. Your actions and examples have and will continue to inspire many, many parents to give their children the gift of wings.
Now it’s your turn. What moments have you experienced during your travels that define “why” you go?