Growing up, my parents didn’t have many opportunities to travel. Road trips consisted of visiting relatives and short vacations. For them, ensuring that their own kids saw the world was a top priority.
I took my first flight as an infant to Colorado. Of course, I don’t remember it, yet I like to think that it was formative in some way. Throughout my childhood, my family of four went on more road trips than I can recall across the U.S. We often skipped school for a cheap flight. The experiences I had on these vacations have shaped me into who I am today. Although traveling with youngsters is a pain, it teaches invaluable skills and bonds families.
Traveling with children instills patience in them. Whether waiting for a flight or entertaining yourself on a 14 hour drive, you learn to make most of the time in between adventures. Delays in flights, hotel complications and car sickness are all hassles, but being able to get through those issues as a family early-on strengthened our bonds.
Organization is another valuable skill traveling from a young age taught me. I’ve seen peers struggle, often overpacking and bringing items that would be better left behind. I quickly learned what was essential for a week away from home and what wasn’t. Furthermore, I now know how to get through airport security like a pro.
Travel helped me get out of my shell. My dad will talk to anyone. The folks with whom he connected knew the best restaurants, the most secretive dive spots and the cheapest entertainment. Even traveling in the U.S., we often met foreigners. My younger brother and I learned to overcome language barriers to play with other kids. As I grew older, I became passionate about languages, something I attribute to my first time abroad with my family.
Spontaneity is the most valuable skill that traveling from an early age taught me. Things will not always go according to plan. The best beaches aren’t on maps, and taking the wrong turn leads to a view like no other. As important as planning is, beginning to travel as a child has helped me fixate less on the idea of “perfection.”
I am grateful for the chances I had; so many are unable to travel. The connections and values that venturing out of my comfort zone have instilled in me will remain with me forever. If there is one thing you can do for your children, travel with them.
Photo by Brandon Fishman