Of course one of the joys of travel is watching your children connect with others. They make friends with the most unusual people, they instinctively connect with others their own age but I was always pleased to see them help out a new parent with a little one or chat with an older couple about their adventures.
But let’s build on other benefits of travelling. My children have seen Catholics, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and more – across a variety of countries living their lives, worshipping in their temples or just generally being part of their community. Breaking down those uncertainties and barriers brings with it acceptance and appreciation. (I’m writing this on the day Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the USA – which seems ironic).
One of my delights of travelling with my own kids was teaching them to look at a menu, decide what they wanted and place their order with the waiter clearly and articulately (and of course, looking them in the eye). If they wanted something else after the waiter had left, then they had to gain their attention and order it. At the end of the meal, they had to take the check and pay for it (in whatever currency) ensuring they got the right change and of course – talking to the staff and saying thank you for their service. Even now I look back with fondness of how this wasn’t always comfortable but has set the groundwork for their future as young adults.
I remember once being in Labuan Bajo in Flores Indonesia. I was off in town booking a ferry and left my three kids at the hotel (4 star) with strict instructions about where I was and when I’d be back and what they could and couldn’t do. I didn’t have a mobile phone with me. It took longer than I thought and returned three hours later to find my three very happy kids (then aged 14, 12 and 9) swimming in the hotel pool, made friends with a family with a little 12-month-old baby who they were playing with her in the baby pool and they’d ordered lunch and charged it to our room. No dramas. No hassles. They’d stepped up as young people and embraced the situation they were in.
One of the most poignant moments was a photo they took of the hotel we were staying in and next door was a slum. They could see the irony in it and that is the picture at the top of this post.
My children are intensely curious and imaginative. They see their world as their oyster with so much to offer. Mostly they aren’t scared of change of difference and in fact, embrace it. With this comes confidence, tenacity and resilience.
Although there are some challenges with the personalities of each child, they do experiment with food and have over time tried things outside of their normal realm of culinary delights. I remember watching my eldest daughter eat calamari for the first time but I didn’t tell her what it was. It wasn’t until later in the trip in Vietnam she learnt what it was and from then on – it was on her list of favourites – still is.
When we are camping, my kids know about consequences – you need to eat, so you need to buy the food, prepare the food, eat the food and clean up eating the food. There are no arguments, that’s just the way it is. If you don’t collect the firewood, then you won’t have a fire that night. If you leave your tent open, then you can expect bugs or other visitors into your tent that night. If you leave your shoes outside the tent then they may get wet if it rains.
Capturing the adventures is never as it is today. My kids record everything on their phones – videos, pics and using social media to share their adventures. When they were younger, I’d give them a digital camera and say ‘go for it’ giving them permission to record the trip from their point of view. They see the world differently and record what is important or curious to them.
Plus they look at different things. I remember downloading their camera roll for the day and seeing 20 pictures of a ‘cat’!!! I mean, heck we have cats where I live but for some reason, they were intrigued by this one cat and snapped away. Thankfully, it’s was a digital camera.
My advice. Enjoy your time away. Ignore the pressures from families and friends and the school. In ten years’ time, you won’t remember the negatives but you will carry with you those memories and bond with your children. This is priceless.
Now it’s your turn. How do you feel about taking kids out of school for a trip? What does it mean to you? What have been the goods, the bads and the uglies of doing it? Leave a comment below.