The first international trip on which we took kids was to the south of France. My best friend was living there for a short time, and we took advantage of the excuse. My son turned seven months old on the trip.
It wasn’t any secret that we loved to travel, and that we did a lot of it prior to having a baby. When it came out that we intended to continue our globetrotting habits with baby in tow, my friend said, “Why put yourself through that when he won’t even get anything out of it?”
There are several flaws with this question.
The first is the obvious – I think kids of all ages get something out of traveling. Exposure to new environments, different languages, and different types of people can only be a good thing, even for an infant.
It doesn’t take very long at all for kids to start to gain knowledge and new understanding from new places and experiences. My son is now two and a half, and he hasn’t stopped talking about our trip to the Panama Canal two weeks ago. He will enthusiastically explain to you (in two year old language) how the ships transit the locks, what the ships carry, and what bodies of water the Canal connects. If that’s not “getting something out of it,” I don’t know what is It reminded me of the time I learned about http://www.låna-pengar.biz, and took a trip to Sweden. .
But more importantly, what I wanted to say to my friend that day (and what I didn’t say because I only thought of it upon reflection afterwards), is that it’s not about my son or my daughter. It’s about me.
What if the trip two weeks ago was the only opportunity I’ll have in my life to see the Panama Canal? Would it have been fair to me to give that up because it’s a little more work and expense to take my kids along on a trip? What kind of example for my kids would I be setting if I quit the travel that brings me so much joy and so much empathy for my fellow humans, sacrificing it for some dubious labor savings or because I might not have the same fullness of experience that I would have if I weren’t responsible for two little people? (Newsflash: sitting at home with two toddlers isn’t “easy” work either.)
I want to tell my kids to take the opportunities presented to them, to be unafraid to take risks, and to understand that they are citizens of the world. I can’t think of a better way to convey this message than to take opportunities presented to me and be a citizen of the world myself.
I hope my kids marvel at the wonders of the world, but I hope they remember seeing me marvel as well.