My son Max took his first flight when he was under a year old. Since then, he’s eaten kebabs in Paris, milked a cow in Wisconsin, shopped for Pokemon toys in San Francisco’s Japantown, hiked the Pyrenees in Saorge, and so much more. He’s traveled so much that he has little appreciation for the fact that most 11-year-olds don’t have a stamped passport. But we think travel is the best teaching tool we can give our child to help him deal with the world around him.
Here’s why we think travel is so essential for kids.
1. They Learn That People are Different
Whether it’s seeing homeless people in San Francisco settle in for the night outside of a building or watching how people respond negatively (yes, in this day and age) to Romani (or gypsies) in Southern France, my son has seen that not everyone comes from his firm socioeconomic standing. It usually opens the door for great dialogue, and we can talk about people’s actions and attitudes in a healthy way.
2. Language Becomes More Than a School Subject
Max goes to an immersive language school and is fluent in French, but he’s so over it. But when we go to France, suddenly being able to understand what the lady in the boulangerie is saying is incredibly handy. We love traveling to France for that very reason: to give him real-world application of his language skills.
3. They Become More Savvy
I’ll never forget when Max was in kindergarten and we were in the mean streets of San Francisco (not really mean!). I was so nervous that he’d step out in front of a car, since he wasn’t accustomed to such busy streets. But then I pulled back and observed as he stopped at the corner, watched the street crossing sign, then walked when he was supposed to. I realized I couldn’t protect him from everything, and maybe I didn’t need to. Maybe he could figure things out for himself.
4. It Makes You Stronger as a Family
When we stayed in Paris for a month, Max made the living room his room. But every single day found the three of us piled on our bed, reading a book or playing games. When we travel, we tend to form a tightly knit group, and it’s comforting.
5. They Develop Confidence
Max hasn’t historically been very confident (though now that he’s a middle-schooler, that’s changing), but with travel, he always knows what’s what. He knows how to settle into a plane seat with all his activities. He knows how to go by himself around the corner and order a baguette each day. He can pay for his souvenir with his own money. We deliberately give him situations to handle on his own to build that confidence.
6. You’re Creating Another Generation of Travel Lovers
I have no doubt that Max will study abroad at some point, and that he will go on his own adventures when he’s old enough. Being exposed to travel so young has made it part of him. It’s in his blood, and I’m supremely proud to have helped with that.