There are so many life lessons kids can learn from traveling. In fact, that may be the best reason to travel as a family. Even more than having fun, relaxing or shaking up your family routine, traveling will help you all learn more about yourselves and the world around you. We know it sure has for us!
For our family, traveling with our kids allows us to see the benefit of viewing our trip through their eyes too. After talking with multiple parents, we are convinced this is true. No matter how often you have been to a certain destination, children will see it differently. They literally will view your travels from a different perspective than you. If you get on their level – both physically and mentally – you can actually learn from your own kids.
Amassing Life Experiences
Sometimes at dinner we reminisce about some of the amazing places we’ve visited around the world. Sunsets in Hawaii. The food in Mexico. Zip lining in Costa Rica. We have tons of obvious favorites over the years. However, when we asked our teen girls their most memorable foreign destination, they both said it was our journey to Cambodia. Sophia and Ava didn’t pick a trip with the poshest hotel or the most luxurious destination. The girls chose our family adventure in Asia because of the fantastic people we met there! We’ve learned through our girls that it doesn’t have to be all about what you do when you travel. It matters so much more WHO YOU ARE when you travel.
Since we have been traveling with our kids since the very beginning, we have taken advantage of the opportunity to learn from traveling with them. They have really taught us so much. Looking back through all our travels from Istanbul to the Mexican Riviera to our annual jaunts to Palm Springs, we have had some fantastic trips with our girls. From these trips, we’ve grown in every way and learned much more than we anticipated.
9 Life Lessons Kids Can Learn from Traveling
We are more alike than we are different.
Kids often point out people and places that are unique to them, we have found that they notice the things that are the same even more. Our girls have made friends in places where they didn’t speak the language. They have smiled at other little girls who seem so different on the outside, but they just noticed is that the girls were the same age as them. While we often focus on the differences around us, kids can help us see we are really more the same.
The world is bigger than just my corner.
Sometimes it is easy to think that everyone operates the same way we do. We assume every neighborhood looks like ours, the schools are run the same way and the food, clothes and toys are all the same. And then we get out of our bubble and see that there is so much more to see. We learn from travel by observing places and people that are not what we’d usually find near our home. Kids have a great way of pointing those things out without making it seem like they are wrong.
When in doubt, you can always find a pizza.
Don’t get me wrong, you shouldn’t travel halfway around the world just to eat the same pizza you could eat around the corner from your house. However, you learn from traveling with kids that sometimes there is something to be said for finding a piece of home when you are far from it. Even finding a pizza place in Paris or an ice cream shop in Madrid can make a big difference. The truth is that you can’t always make your Nana’s Pasta Carbonara recipe when you’re on the road. (Save it for when you get home.) It’s OK to give in to the comforting pleasures of home every so often.
We all know this, right? No matter where you travel the Golden Rule applies. Kids instinctively understand this (even if they don’t always follow it). Do onto others what you would have them do onto you. No matter where you are or who you are with, treat everyone around you with kindness. In 1944, my Pop was the valedictorian of his high school. In his Valedictorian speech, he wrote about the definition of leadership and how it relates to kindness. He wrote that “Our leaders in political and community life must be capable, intelligent and honest, worthy of the faith of the people.” In other words, be kind.
Never make assumptions.
You do know what making assumptions turns you into, right? A jerk. When you travel, let go of what you think people should be like. Avoid the stereotypes that often come up. Kids are usually ignorant of these preconceptions and just see things as they are. Take a cue from them. On a recent vacation in Loreto, Mexico, I wasn’t sure how I’d be treated as a gay man. Thankfully, it was awesome. Safe and relaxing with no second glances or side eyes, this city shattered any assumptions I had made. This is one of the best life lessons kids can learn from traveling.
Remember that not everyone needs saving.
When you travel, it can be easy to think you are the great white knight riding in to save the locals from themselves. In reality though, maybe no one needs saving. Before you start “helping” the people you meet on your travels, but sure the help is wanted. Kids seem to understand the value of “doing it myself”. Learn that from them. We can find lessons in so many different places. One steaming hot day in a Cambodian jungle, where we pushed through a 12-mile jungle bike tour, we were shocked to see the obvious poverty. We passed homes with no doors, windows, or sometimes even walls. Some houses had chickens walking freely inside. Yet these people don’t need us sweeping in with my Democratic, American ideas to “save them”.
You get what you pay for.
The farther away we travel, the more this adage is true. Don’t cheap out, especially when it comes to where to stay (this doesn’t mean you have to break the bank). Your lodging, whether in an Airbnb type of situation or a local hotel, you will spend a large portion of your trip there. You want to make sure it’s safe and clean above all else. As far as valuable life lessons kids can learn from traveling, this is one of the more important ones.
A smile always translates.
Have you ever noticed that children smile at everyone? They don’t try to TALK REALLY LOUD thinking that will help someone understand them. They just smile and point to the playground. Smiles can overcome a lot. On our family trip to Cambodia, there were so many unique places to discover and things to see. However, our girls said it was the Cambodian people, specifically the other kids, that affected them deeply. “Their lives are so different from ours – so hard in comparison. Yet they smiled so much and were genuinely pleased to welcome us.”
We can do hard things.
One thing we believe in our family is that we can do hard things. We can deal with things we don’t understand. We can zip line through the Amazon. We can deal with travel delays and airlines losing our luggage. We can survive 13 hour flights and hotels without air conditioning. When your kids start forgetting this, remind them. And then say it again to remind yourself. We can do hard things.
Many Lessons Learned
The things you learn from travel aren’t always quantifiable. You can’t always see them in the Instagram photos you post during the trip. They may be hidden unless you look for them. So look for them! Let your child lead you. Traveling with your kids will help to highlight what is most important for families. That time together is precious. The truth is that our kids are wise beyond their years. They understand more than they can communicate and are often given credit for.
Kids can be astute travelers too. There are so many valuable life lessons kids can learn from traveling that will last a lifetime.