Five Reasons Why Travel Experiences are Essential for Young Kids
The meaning of “local” is changing. About a century ago, most children grew up with an idea of local that was restricted to their city limits, or the farthest end of Main Street. Today, the whole world is starting to become its own “locality”. It’s not so hard to go to another city on a whim. Heck, it’s not even so hard to go to another country if you really wanted to! The far-off is becoming the new “local”. In light of this new reality, I believe it’s important for us to offer our kids as many experiences of their greater global neighborhood as possible, even while they are still young. Here are top five reasons why:
1. Kids learn that movement is possible. When I was growing up, our vacations consisted of visiting places that were within a few hours of home. These trips were great (and no shame if that’s what you’re into), but as I grew older I began to feel that those far-off places on the map or on TV were inaccessible. Travel seemed to be something impossible or reserved for the wealthy. While plane tickets, visas, and lodging do come with a cost, it teaches your kids that they CAN get out into the world, and that they CAN experience the places that they have only heard about.
2. Kids begin to develop social-cultural understandings. This is huge. I got my degree in International Studies, and one of the biggest obstacles to truly appreciating diversity that I identified within myself and my classmates was the inability to determine what was an absolute value, and what was just a cultural preference. This was extra pronounced when studying controversial people, places, or systems of government/belief. Those of my classmates that had seen the world (or even small parts of it) seemed to have a better grid for looking at foreign ideas or concepts because their “local” was not just the American South, or the Northeast, or their hometown. They understood that the world was a big place, and that they have to be careful in making harsh judgments.
3. Kids are confronted with other languages. I heard a great joke recently on this topic: What do you call a person who speaks two languages? Bilingual. And, what do you call a person who speaks only one language? American! It’s funny and sad at the same time, I guess. Travel experiences, however, begin to dissolve a child’s belief that their language is somehow superior, or better than all the others. In fact, language teachers have found that, the younger the student, the easier it is for them to learn new languages. If you desire for your children to become multilingual, getting them out into the world while they are young is a great start!
4. Kids learn to develop confidence in unfamiliar places. Moving to the city when I graduated from college was a disorienting experience. I had literally spent my entire life in suburban America, and was surrounded with people that looked like me, talked like me, and lived in similar houses to mine. As a result, I was incredibly unsettled in my new home. Everything seemed like a threat, and every person seemed to know that I was out of place (which, actually wasn’t true; I just felt that way). Traveling to diverse places while kids are young, and their prejudice/discernment is minimal, can help remove this sense of discomfort in the face of unfamiliarity. These experiences will help them develop into more confident and adaptable people who can make the most of their circumstances.
5. They may undergo their own worldview transformation. According to legend, Siddartha Gautama (who Buddhists refer to as the Buddha, or “Enlightened One”) grew up in a palace as the son of a king. Until he was 29 years old, the palace was his whole world. That is, until he decided to go out and meet the people that would become his subjects. He saw several things that deeply challenged his current worldview, which was that everybody lived like him. As a result of his findings, he developed a profound sense of purpose for his life. Regardless of what we think about Siddartha, his story is very revealing (as I understand it, Bill Gates had a similar experience). Our children would benefit from stepping out into the world and seeing what it is truly like. We all want our kids to succeed and do important things; to do good things. Some of the most influential people in the world did what they did because of a well-developed worldview. Simple travel experiences do just that in kid’s lives.
Author Bio: Ethan S. writes on behalf of MoroccoTours.org. Plan your life changing excursion to one of the most culturally and geographically diverse nations in the world!