There are certain key ingredients needed to raise a happy and well adjusted child. Love, support and affection would obviously be at the top of the list. Then you have your basic necessities of life such as food, clothes and shelter. And also near the top of the list for me would be education and an opportunity to expand a kid’s imagination – and I can’t think of a better vehicle than travel.
I’m almost ashamed to admit that when my wife and I were contemplating starting a family, one of my biggest concerns was – “yeah but, won’t a kid get in the way of our future travel plans?” And somewhat related – “will I have to stop eating sushi, curry, Thai, oysters etc. etc.” The good news is, nothing really needs to change after having a child. And in many ways, everything is enhanced when you add the boundless energy and enthusiasm a child can bring to your travel adventures.
Suggesting that people bring their child or children with them on trips can sometimes elicit shocked expressions and in some cases, hearty belly laughs. And I totally understand that sometimes it’s not only nice, but a dire need exists for Mom and Dad to get away…alone. But trust me, there will come a time when our kids will do almost anything to avoid the dreaded family vacation because they would prefer to just hang out with their friends. So personally, I want to take advantage of this opportunity to show my child the world while I still have a somewhat captive audience.
Needless to say, travelling with an only child is much easier and much cheaper than having to transport a family of three or four kids. But who says you need to travel overseas to exotic locations? Some of our favorite vacations were road trips to Ottawa for Canada Day, hitting cultural festivals in Toronto, and heading to Northern Quebec to visit relatives. Budget travel can still provide the same opportunities to do and see things that bring interest and excitement to the routine of everyday life.
Based on my experience, the earlier you start travelling with your kid(s) the better. I think our daughter was 3 months old the first time we had her on a plane. Cars, buses and trains are pretty easy, but flying is a whole different ballgame. If you plan on taking frequent flights, get your children use to the experience. The passengers and crew will appreciate it.
Now for the benefits. Where do I start. For the child, travel will help open up their minds to adventure and possibilities. Nothing builds confidence like climbing a mountain, snorkeling in the open sea, or striking up a conversation with a child from another country. Teaching your child to be outgoing and enthusiastic about life will pay huge dividends for them in the future. And opening up their minds to new cultures and ideas will help us fill this world with more understanding, tolerant and accepting individuals – something we could all benefit from.
But don’t think it’s just the kids who reap the benefits. The perspective that children bring to every situation is truly unique. I remember our family of three sitting in a hot tub in Roatan in a torrential downpour, my wife and I feeling less than thrilled about the situation. My daughter, absolutely beaming, jumps up and says…”isn’t this GREAT!!!” That type of positive perspective is contageous. I’ve spent hours combing beaches for sea shells or looking for wild flowers on hikes, something I would never take the time to do without my daughter. Simple things become magical adventures in a child’s eyes. And who of us couldn’t use a little magical adventure in our lives.
So the next time you’re thinking of buying that new iPad or video game console for your kid, put your wallet away and save your money for something worth investing in – like your child’s growth and development. Nothing benefits a person more, both young and old, like new experiences. Exposure to different cultures, different lifestyles, different languages, different customs and even different architecture and topography will stimulate a hunger for knowledge and self-awareness that will last a lifetime. For now, back to the cage.