Whether you are a parent wondering if your child is ready for an amazing trip, a child trying to convince your parents (logically) to let you travel, or someone like me, looking back at the travels you had as a young person to see how they changed your life, this is a very important question to ask as the world becomes more and more global.
Obviously, based on my passed posts (see this post about my baby niece traveling!), my answer is a resounding yes.
I’ve been traveling since I was very young – I was almost two years old in England when I threw away my bottle and learned how to crawl out of my crib, moving to a big girl bed. Before I graduated middle school at the age of fourteen, I had already been to Italy, Japan, England, Australia, Mexico (if barely) and across the US and back. I had stayed in hotels, locals’ houses, farms, military housing, and apartments. I had traveled by train, bus, car, taxi, and motorhome.
I’ve been teaching off and on for the past few years and whether I am talking to students, parents, relatives, or acquaintances, it quickly becomes apparent which people have traveled and explored outside of their comfort zone – home. This isn’t just because of stories that they are able to tell or not tell. There is a way of looking and talking about the world that is most easily accessed and discussed by actually experiencing them.
My final trip before graduating eighth grade was a three week trip to Australia with 40 other students and three chaperones as a People to People student ambassador.
I was thirteen years old and had never gone anywhere so far without my family – either extended or immediate – and never for so long.
On this trip, I had to monitor my own spending, watch that I was eating properly, do my own laundry, figure out calling cards (yes, this was before wide use of cell phones and decent international plans), deal with an ever changing rotation of roommates, plan my time – such as free-roaming time and morning schedules – according to a larger groups schedule rather than my own desired summer sleep in. This is more than most of us do voluntarily at the beginning of our teen years (I met people in college who still had not mastered these skills).
Now, I am not saying that the People to People Program is perfect (I’ve known many people, siblings included, who had mishaps and less than fun experiences), however, my trip was amazing. 21 days in Australia was a great amount of time for a single coast. If I was planning it myself, I would have spent more time in each place, however, I wouldn’t have been able to experience a school stay, a home stay, a farm stay and so much more without being part of the group. Take into account that this trip worked because it was a single country (and only part of it), unlike many other offerings.
But back to should kids travel.
This trip, as well as my other trips, was expensive but what I learned about myself exceeded any expense.
I gained confidence in not only myself and who I wanted to be, but in my opinion and place in the world. I struggled in school and at home in the years leading up to this trip, but going helped me refocus on what I wanted to achieve from trying out for football and challenging stereotypes to earning high honors to start high school off on the right foot. I had some anger and emotional control issues but by getting the chance to stand on my own and figure it out for myself, I was able to learn how to take time to balance myself – a pretty big thing for an emotional teenager.
Every time we push our comfort level, we gain the chance to learn more about ourselves and the world. Sure, there are many things we give up to do this, whether for ourselves or for children, but these experiences can’t be replicated and not letting kids experience this when they can, doesn’t give them the chance to grow.
Near or far, let kids travel. That’s all.
This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.