People always say that education is the best investment you can make in your kids. I agree. However, people forget that your children can learn from experiences outside from school. Family travel allows kids to explore new cultures, spend quality time with their parents and expand their horizons. My parents taught me this and took my brother and I to South Africa, Russia and Europe when we were kids. I have carried on this tradition and hope my children continue it.
Traveling with children is neither easy nor cheap. But it is worth every penny. Both my kids got their passports mere weeks after they were born and boarded their first plane to Chile when they were three months old. With a little planning, the hassle of going through airport security and enduring an overnight flight can be minimized and once you arrive at your destination, it is so worth it. Worth every whine, every discomfort, every immigration line.
Every city, town and country they have visited has allowed my children to learn so much more than what they see in a classroom. Traveling exposes them to so much more than a textbook. It teaches them much more than reading, writing, adding and subtracting. They have experienced different cultures, smelled the local markets, touched handicrafts made by local artisans, tasted different foods, been in places where there is limited contact with the rest of the world, listened to music played with instruments they didn’t know existed and seen how living conditions vary not only in different countries, but also within different cities (especially in South America).
As a family, our trips together are priceless sources of memories. I will never forget my son staring in awe at Van Gogh’s Starry Night at the MOMA in New York City, my daughter eating a lúcuma dessert in Chile or seeing my children ride a camel in Israel. But what I treasure the most are those conversations that only happen when there is nothing else to do but talk, because there are no phones, battery-operated devices are forbidden and you aren’t even allowed out of your seat.
On the practical side, I can proudly say my kids (now 7 and 10) have learned to pack. They know how to fit their essentials into a carry-on bag for a short trip. They know what is allowed and what’s not to be able to go through security at the airport. They know how important it is to wash their hands and to drink filtered water when we travel to remote locations where sanitary conditions might not be the best.
The most important thing they have learned so far, though, is that no matter the differences in language, culture or race, we can always find common ground with other people. They have learned to respect others, no matter our differences, and have felt respected as well. I hope that when they grow up, they keep this in mind, because I honestly feel this would be a better world if we had more tolerance and respect.
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