The other day I watched as my 13 year old devoured his waffle breakfast and then ran to collect his backpack and shoes for school. I thought to myself, who is this young man in my kitchen and where did that little boy go who was just here… like yesterday? Seriously! Where has the time gone? It’s on days like these that I have huge feelings of nostalgia and want to press pause on these minutes that become days, and months that become years. A number of my friends are already empty-nesters or are headed that way in short order. As an on-looker, I can see with my own eyes that our family’s days living under the same roof are numbered.
That’s Why we Choose to Travel with our Kids…….
Having kids came late for us. After two years of marriage, we along with everyone else we knew, decided it was time to bring along the littles. But it didn’t work that way. We didn’t know then, but it would be a full eight years of trying, wanting and praying. Although those years brought great sadness and a feeling of helplessness, it wasn’t all bad. It strengthened our faith in a way that can only happen when you’re at the end of your rope. In addition, we discovered our love for travel. After all, what do a couple of 20-somethings and then 30-somethings do with two incomes and lots of free time? Wanderlust for quaint European villages and pristine white sand beaches set in.
So around the time of our ten year wedding anniversary, we welcomed our first bundle of joy into our lives, and then two years later the second. These boys, such gifts! We figured we’d stop traveling. That’s what everyone told us. And we did for a while. But when they were 8 months old and 2 ½ we decided it was time for a grand adventure. We went to Greece for a month. We packed up our double Graco and a suitcase full of diapers and off we went. Everyone said we were crazy. I’ll admit our stroller was no match for the cobblestone streets of Athens. Trying to persuade a two year to stop his tantrum on a beautiful Greek island beach left us flustered. But leaving them home and traveling without them didn’t cross our minds. We were now a family, a unit, a package.
We are now in the teen and tween years and our choice to travel with our kids has remained strong and even become more purposeful. As we crossed over that middle point of our family years together and we are now on the second portion of the time we have together living under one roof, there are key points of our travel together that I treasure like rare and precious jewels.
One of the great things about travel in general, but also true of family travel is the ability to get out of the rat race of life. While toddlers don’t really live in a rat race, teens and tweens sure do. This American culture of ours is nuts. Our Monday through Friday schedule is filled with early mornings, commitments for school and work, extra-curricular activities and more. And if you’re a sports family, the weekends aren’t any less hectic. Traveling together as a family means that everyone leaves that stress behind. For a few precious days together our biggest decisions will be, “What should we do today?” And, “Let’s see, should I have pistachio or chocolate chip?” When the pressures of home are on hold for a time, everyone can relax and enjoy some downtime together. It’s in those less-stressful moments families can just have fun together and share great conversation.
Oh how I love the memories we’ve made! Over this past decade of travel since that first trip to Greece, we have shared some remarkable experiences together. Some have been colossal, like that time we swam with an enormous manta ray in the South Pacific, rappelled down a waterfall in Costa Rica, or released baby turtles in Mexico. And some of been simple, but memorable all the same… favorite meals we’ve shared, late-night Uno games, putting that final puzzle piece in the masterpiece we had been working on all week, or catching frogs out on a golf course. Our shared experiences are like our own secret language. They are unique memories that only the four of us share with the time we have spent together traveling.
When you hear education you may think about all the mad geography and history skills your kids can gain while traveling. That is true. Every destination offers some kind of educational experience. Think volcanoes and Polynesian culture in Hawaii, geology in the American Southwest, or Renaissance history and art in Italy. But when it comes to education and travel, I think it includes so much more than that. We are doing our best to raise kids who are compassionate toward others, non-judgmental with people different than themselves, and good stewards of this amazing planet we live on. I love that our boys have experienced many different sights and cultures across a number of countries and continents. When you travel, you get a feel for how people live in other places and can appreciate their differences, but also realize that people are the same everywhere. We all have the same needs.
Recently I read a parenting book titled Love and Logic for Teens by Foster Cline and Jim Fay. They state, “Sooner than you think, your teenager will walk out of your life and into the real world.” While a statement like that sends shivers down my back, it also gives me some degree of comfort, knowing we are making the most of the time we have. We will look back on these years with fondness. And of course we’ll have lots of pictures, travel journals, videos and priceless memories to treasure. Someday my husband and I will be on our own again. In fact, those days are coming faster than we think. But for now, we will choose to travel with our kids.
Dianne is a former middle school teacher who became a stay-at-home mom and homeschooler. Today she and her husband are traveling near and far with their boys every chance they get. She writes about educational travel tips at www.ouredventures.com. Follow Our Edventures on Facebook! When she’s not planning a trip, homeschooling or doing laundry she devotes her time to Outside the Bowl, an amazing organization with a resourceful solution to the world hunger crisis.
Thank you so much to Dianne for taking the time to share! Want to start planning your next family adventure? We travel on a budget and suggest checking out Hotels.com , Groupon , and LivingSocial first!