Why travel? The dust, the long waits, the horrible lines to get through security at the airport. The inevitable stomach bug. Is it really worth it? Everyone has their own answer, for me the answer has always been “Yes”.
I travel because it makes me uncomfortable
Even after more solo trips than I can count, when I head off alone, I get butterflies in my stomach. That little bit of tension lasts until I can drop my bag wherever I’m staying first, then I’m carefree. Those butterflies tell me that I’m pushing myself, and that’s when we grow- when we push ourselves out of the comfortable and into the unknown.
It can be uncomfortable to see your life contrasted against others. To feel helpless when you see dogs with no fur roaming the streets. To see children playing happily in the dirt with only a few chickens and a tin roof over their heads. Uncomfortable is good- it gives us perspective, and makes us grateful and empathetic.
I travel for unexpected adventures.
I’d been wandering for ten minutes with my heavy pack on my back and still couldn’t find the entrance to the metro to take me into Istanbul. Alone, I was forced to introduce myself to a stranger I recognize from my plane and ask for help. It turned out he couldn’t find the metro either, so we joined up and decided to walk into town. We are still friends today.
I travel for the freedom
I travel for the freedom to walk around a new city on my own. To sip a coffee and watch the kids in their school uniforms hanging out along the hills of Santiago and then head down to the center to discover a protest and some cops in riot gear. To smell the tear gas and decided for myself just how close to get and how soon to turn around.
When I was in Florence a group of girls asked me to join them to visit some museums. I turned them down, and then awkwardly ran into them in front of the David a few hours later. I love art, but that day I gave David about 1 minute of my attention before I left to seek out some gelato. I just didn’t feel like being there, and I didn’t owe anything to anyone. I was free to go my own way, in my own time, with no judgments.
These days most of my solo travels are behind me, and I’ve traded some of that freedom for the chance to share my adventures with the people I love. There’s nothing more gratifying than seeing awe or excitement on my kids’ faces.
I travel because it makes me better
I was terrible at making friends. I had the same friend group all through grade school, lived in the same house my entire childhood, and never learned how to break through my own awkwardness.
Traveling taught me to get out of my own head and approach people. In Honduras, I watched in awe as an Israeli girl approached me and my travel partner and asked if we’d go on a hike with her the next day. Our hostel was covered in signs warning against solo hikes and the danger of bandits. She was traveling alone (though army trained) and needed some companions in order to hike. Of course, we said yes, and spent a lovely day hiking together. I realized I needed to learn from her- that I wanted to be more like her.
Traveling has made me more outgoing, and more confident. I’ll never be an extrovert, but I’ve learned to approach people and strike up conversations. As much as I enjoyed wandering the streets of Santiago by myself, I also loved going salsa dancing with a group of other travelers later that evening.
I travel because it restores my faith in the world
Sometimes we all need to be reminded of how much alike we really are. We may look different, dress differently, or eat different foods, but deep down we’re more alike than not.
A smile doesn’t need translation. It’s easy to get jaded living in a highly politicized Western country. I was nervous about being in Morocco on the first anniversary of September 11th. When the day came, I didn’t feel uncomfortable once. Instead I met only kind and friendly people there.
I travel because the world is beautiful
And I want to see as much of it as I can in the short life I’m given. And I want to share it with my husband and my kids. Because one life can’t have too many colorful sunsets or too many beautiful waterfalls.
Why I take my kids traveling
I take my kids traveling because I want them to appreciate the world, and not be afraid of it. I want them to have the confidence to head out anywhere and know that they can handle whatever life throws at them. I want them to see the beauty and the commonalities and decide for themselves what kind of life they want to live, and what kind of person they want to be.
I want them to see they have choices
That not everyone works 9-5 or puts in long hours in an office. That we don’t need the biggest house or the fanciest car. That the most precious thing we have is each other.
When I was traveling through Central America in my early twenties, we set up our tents on a stunning beach in Panama. It was just us, a few palm frond palapas, and one restaurant down the beach.
Each night there was only one option for dinner, always for two dollars. Generally, it was fish or chicken and rice. A few days into our stay a couple from Canada showed up at the restaurant. They were biking around the country with their three-year-old, who was slowly learning Spanish.
It was the first time I saw that life with kids could look different. That adventures don’t have to stop when you have kids. The family running the restaurant fawned over the child and quickly fixed her a plate of spaghetti. After so many days of the same type of food, it looked like perfection. I asked if I could order spaghetti and was promptly and firmly denied. I take my kids traveling so they can see different ways to live, meet new people, learn new languages, and when offered, appreciate a delicious plate of pasta.
I want them to be curious about the world
I want them to ask questions. To know that education is not limited to classrooms, and sometimes you don’t even need a classroom. That there’s more than one way to any dream or any career that they choose. That learning happens when you keep your eyes and your mind open no matter how old you are.
I studied Roman history in school and even took a class in college on Roman art. But it never really clicked for me until I stood on the sloping hills of Athens and looked up to see the Parthenon sitting majestically above the city. Traveling makes all the pieces fall into place.
I want them to know how strong and capable they are
I see strength and confidence in my young daughters, and I want to help them hold on to it. I know how capable they are, and I hope that travel will help them see that strength in themselves as they get older. I want my girls to be leaders who aren’t afraid to raise their voices. To be travelers who aren’t afraid to talk to strangers.
There you have it!
Why is travel important to you? My reasons why I travel around the world with my kids may be different from yours, but there’s no wrong reason to embrace the world!
Ready to hit the road long-term? Check out What is a Family Year Out?
Getting ready to travel again? Read 21 Family Travel Tips for 2021: Best Tips for Travel with Kids.
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