Normally with this blog I come up with a few topics I could write about throughout the course of the week and then in the weekend I pick one. This was a tough week for coming up with topics. I could not think of any worth reading about. Later in the week, a topic presented itself to me. My mother sent me an opinionated article about why you should never travel with children.
The article stated that it is a huge waste of money, time, and effort to take children abroad with you. I strongly disagree. I can very easily state why and have many personal experiences and a few statements from people who were with me in those experiences to back up my own.
Here is that article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/family-holidays/long-haul-holidays-are-wasted-on-children-until-theyre-teenagers/
I am 17 years old and I have traveled internationally more than most people I know. My traveling started at a very young age, in 2001, when I was 18 months old and I went with my parents and grandparents to Ireland, sadly this is a trip that I do not remember at all. In 2011 I had just turned 12 and my brother was 8 we went on a huge three week trip all over Europe to Finland, Estonia, Germany, Holland and Belgium. The next year, my parents decided to check out an organization in Guatemala that helped work with poor farmers to teach them to get more food and profit from their crops. This year my parents got the opportunity to go to Seoul, South Korea for the Rotary International Conference and took my 13 year old brother and I along. Finally, although I will not be using this in any of my arguments, I am currently on an exchange year in Denmark. That is my entire international traveling history so you can see where my opinion comes from.
I admit, I believe it is a lot better to travel with a teenager because they tend to know when not to complain or have a better sense in making use of opportunities than kids do, not to mention they also will be able to remember more from the trip. However, every child is different. I am told that as a 12 year old I was easy to travel with and that even after traveling from place to place every day I was still thrilled to see new things. And I cannot recall a lot of that trip but I was smart enough to keep a daily journal to record all of my experiences in. Traveling as a child gets you far more accustomed to traveling later in your life. Since I have done so much traveling it is easy for me to keep my mind open to new traditions in cultures I have never experienced and I almost have the procedure of going through an airport completely memorized.
To share my experiences, I have asked my family a couple questions about when we traveled:
Can you share a memory from when we were in Europe that you remember to this day?
“When we were in Amsterdam I remember sitting at a restaurant that was beautiful and it was right next to a canal. We were spending our time talking to each other and I remember seeing horses with carriages going by and boats in the canal. Looking back on it now it was amazing to have that experience and how insane it was to be so close to something as historic and symbolic as Anne Frank’s house.” -Colin (my brother,14 years old now, 8 at the time of the trip)
What was it like to go abroad with an 18 month old baby? Were you worried?
“On the trip to Ireland, we had some worries about traveling with a baby, but we made plans to keep you occupied on the plane, and keep you on as regular schedule as possible, and let the chips fall where they may. I guess your attitude kind of reflected what you saw, the more relaxed we were, the more relaxed you were. The more stressed we were, the more anxiety you showed. I think in traveling with a child, you have to make accommodations appropriate to the age of the kid, but beyond that, the ease of travel depends a lot on attitude. On each subsequent trip, things got easier as you got older, and attitude was still key. I saw you gain confidence and common sense, which was gratifying. In Korea I was blown away at your self-confidence and poise, even when we were in such a different situation, it was the most culture shock I’d ever felt, and you said the same. Often we were the only non Asian people we would see for days.” -Beth(my mother)
Can you compare my attitudes throughout each time we traveled as a family?
“For the other overseas trips: Finland (plus Estonia, Germany, Belgium, etc.): your attitude was fantastic. You tried new things (new food, new experiences), you were excited to explore, and you never complained about hauling luggage around or staying in a new place so many nights in a row. I know that moving around a lot created a lot of uncertainty for you and your brother and I learned some important lessons on that trip, but overall I am really proud of how well you did and how appreciative you were of that trip. Along the way (on all trips in fact) I work hard to keep my own travel stress in check because I know that if I am stressed, it has strong ripple affect among the family, sometimes we just need to separate what we can control and what we cannot and when we are traveling there are things (plane schedules, storms, miscommunication) that are going to happen and we just need to roll with it. So when I planned that Europe trip I tried to make sure we didn’t have any really tight schedules and I tried to have a “plan b” in my head at all times. Saara(our friend who stayed with us as an exchange student) was really helpful for navigating trains too and I learned a lot from having her there.
The trip to Guatemala was pretty easy to plan; your attitude was really good for that one too. I know that it was a lot different than the Europe trip, but probably just as educational — we got to see some not-so-pretty living conditions and again I was proud of you for your sense of adventure and you did not complain about the conditions or schedules. And when we went to Korea, I was watching you closely because your exchange was coming up soon and I wanted to get some insight on how you would handle new experiences, uncertainty and stressful situations… The restaurant experiences alone were proof that you have what it takes to be an exchange student.
Also, that situation in the Hong Kong airport gave me a good sense of your attitude toward uncertainty and stress: we ran a mile with luggage hoping to catch that plane… only to miss it. No one was angry and we were all smiling when we realized that our plans were broken — we had our good humor and the realization that sometimes we need to rely on the kindness and diligence of others for things to work out–which is what happened for us eventually. A lot of times the plan that we have in our mind is not the one that works out, but something different (and maybe better). We ended up getting home within an hour of our original plan even though we were stuck in Hong Kong for a few hours waiting for new airline itineraries… It all worked out and your attitude was fantastic throughout this whole experience. As a parent, I want to share experience with my kids — and I think the awesomeness, the hilarity, the stress, the weirdness and the unpredictability of travel can bring a family together in ways that staying home together never will. I would not have wanted to take any of those trips without you, and I’m so grateful that we have had these opportunities together. We are truly blessed.” -Mike(my father)
All in all I believe that you should travel with children and would never advise against it. They way they travel is affected by how they mature and how well they have been parented. No two children grow up with the same experiences so you the only actual way to test your children is to travel with them, if they don’t take it well then wait until they are teenagers. However if they do take it well then urge them to take pictures and record their experiences through writing, and do that regardless of what age they are. With the money my parents spent on traveling with my brother and I they could have bought a brand new car, but they don’t regret spending a cent on those trips.