Family Travel, 2011
Family Travel Is Worth The Effort!
©2011, Mom to Madre
This month my husband and I had the special treat of traveling to Europe to visit our two adult sons who live there. How did two kids who grew up in San Diego end up living in Europe? I lay the responsibility of this outcome completely on early family travel. Whether you take a car trip with your kids to the local mountains to camp, visit relatives every year or go to far flung places, traveling with your kids has a positive impact that lasts a lifetime.
Our first big trip came about unexpectedly. My husband David, a lawyer, had his calendar blocked off for three months for an upcoming trial. When the case settled instead, we were left with a clear block of time and the desire to get out of town for a break. I’ll never forget his coming home, tickets purchased, for a summer in Fiji and Tahiti. The kids were four and six and we had a little family celebration.
We left home with a ridiculous number of suitcases, filled with too many clothes, books, and toys. Note to parents traveling to tropical paradises-pack lightly! If your destination is going to be hot, you need bathing suits, flip flops, bug spray and a few tee shirts for the kids. Taking life jackets and kid-sized masks and snorkels is a good idea too. This way, the kids can experience snorkeling safely as Mom and Dad pull them along in their life vests. That was really great for the kids.
After that big travel adventure, we took local vacations and the ocasional trip to Hawaii, where my brother and his family live. The big change in our family travel came about when the kids were ten and twelve. My parents attended a tennis fundraiser with us and bid on a trip to the French Open in Paris. They won! Incredibly, they gave the four of us the tickets and the trip. We were thrilled. The Goldin family was going to Europe.
We added a week to visit London on our dime, and Voila!-we took off for Europe. I’ll never forget that first afternoon in Paris-with incredible jet lag and exhausted kids. Standing on a gorgeous corner on the Left Bank, our youngest uttered words that would chill any parent’s heart: “Paris sucks! I want to go home.” Had someone told me at that moment that my chubby ten year-old was going to become a handsome young man living in Paris at twenty-five I would have fainted. It just goes to prove you have no idea what your kids are going become and do as adults.
We actually had a great time, after the jet lag subsided, and decided to make travel to Europe a family priority for the kids’ teen years. Over the following years we were able to travel to Europe several times, visiting Portugal and Spain; Ireland and Scotland; and Italy and Switzerland. By the time our sons were eighteen, they began to travel on their own and both sons lived out of the country for a year or more to attend college.
The impact of visiting different countries and cultures is enormous. The world becomes smaller and kids learn how to navigate on their own. It is a great confidence builder as young people figure out different metro systems, deal with different currencies, and make their own arrangements.
We view travel as an educational opportunity. My husband and I could not have predicted the impact our vacation experiences would have on our family. This recent trip took us to Belgium to visit our oldest son, who found an interesting educational opportunity in that country and has begun his journey towards a Ph.D. Who knew our younger son would make French his own language and complete graduate school in France!
One of my favorite moments of this recent trip occurred in the Le Musée de Cluny. I was looking at an ancient monk’s chair when the urge to see how it worked overcame me-I touched it! From the other side of the room, I heard my son say, “Don’t touch that, Mom.” As the mother of two kids who were uber-tactile when they were young, this was music to my ears. The role reversal was complete. Our early time (fast!) in museums had an impact and the kids learned how to behave.
You never know how travel with your kids will impact them. It is likely to be
valuable, exciting and help them become independent adults. Travel shapes the adults too-I’m going to try to resist touching objects in museums when I visit one with our sons again! Or, maybe I’ll just pretend I’m going to touch them, like the boys did when they were young!