While I was sitting in the back of our car on our road trip, able to let my mind wander, I felt so privileged. Privileged to be able to do a road trip with my family. Privileged to experience something new together with the people I love. Privileged for the family we are. I also felt privileged for being able to travel again. Privileged for knowing what traveling means, what it has in storage for you.
When I was a child we used to spend our summer school holidays in Italy, where my parents owned a vacation home. It was a beautiful place and we usually couldn’t wait to get there. This vacation meant sun, fun, beach and pool and yummy food. But it also meant breaking out of the ordinary. Being somewhere else again, with different kind of people around you. People with a different mentality than what we were used to. And it was about spending more quality time together. Because although my dad was already retired, we still went to school and he was doing some sort of consulting to a friend of his who was building his company. And my mom had her chores to do. But in Italy it was all different. We did it together.
My parents grew up in poor circumstances. Growing up was different for them that what it was for us. My dad is much older than my mom, he could easily be my granddad. So I always admired him for deciding that he wanted to travel in a time where traveling was not as easy as it is nowadays. When he was still young, he traveled to the US, he traveled to New Zealand and Australia.
We complain today, that the trip from Australia back to Europe takes us basically 24 hours. For him it took weeks… Weeks on a boat… But he did it. He was an adventurer, a womanizer and a business man. And he was lucky. He was lucky to have the guts to go on those adventures and in doing so experience things which would later help him in life and meeting the right people at the right time.
I grew up hearing all those fantastic stories he told us about his travels, about what he experienced and sometimes they sounded a bit too crazy to be true. But then we met people who did it with him or who he met and became friends and they told us the same stories. We had kids of his friends from New Zealand stay with us when they were traveling to Europe. We were some sort of a base camp for them. And they all told the same stories which they had heard from their parents. So we knew it was true. Maybe growing up and listening to those stories made me want to travel. Maybe it was the fact, that those Kiwis came and stayed with us. Kids from people from the other side of the world. My dad’s friends kids… from the other side of the world… Whatever it was, it for sure triggered that I wanted to travel.
We loved the summers we got to spend in Italy and every now and then we actually spent spring or fall there too. But going back there all the time sort of limited the traveling to only this place and as much as I loved it, I thought it was a pity to not go and see some other places too. I think my mom was pretty happy with this one option as I never felt like she wanted to go somewhere else. Still, every now and then we went on a new adventure. Not as often as my dad and I would have loved to, but we still managed to break out of the “routine’ every now and then. Most of those trips happened, when I was older. But there is one of the trips we did when I was little, which I think is worth mentioning.
I can still remember the ski trip we made to Vail, Colorado when I was about 6 years old. Let me rephrase this: I can not remember the skiing or the trip itself, not even when I look at pictures from back then. What I do remember are some funny random things. I remember that we could not land at the airport we were supposed to land. Not even sure if Vail has an airport or had one back then. But I think the plane had to be diverted to Denver due to a Blizzard but was not able to land for a long time because the weather was not much better there. When it finally touched down, everyone clapped like crazy and my mom had this really relieved look in her face. I remember that we were picked up the next morning by our friend (One of the people my dad met while traveling. They used to own a hotel in Vail) and that we drove to Vail. And I remember seeing a herd of bison on our way, which was magical to me. I remember loosing my first tooth there and that the toothfairy came and brought me a coin and that I bought Trident chewing gum with it (because I thought it was cool but turned out I did not like it). Or that my parents bought a Playmobil stage coach for both of us. I remember the cowboy hat my mom got for herself and the how the church looked like in Vail.
But the best memory I have is that there was a TV with cartoons running all day long and the huge amount of channels to choose from. Something I did not know from Switzerland. Back then the only program running every day (but never all day long) was the News… On each of the three channels we had back then and at the same time… And I remember the breakfast we ordered to our room. There was bacon and there were sausages and beans and eggs and Rösti (or for you guys hash browns). Something you would eat for lunch or dinner in Switzerland but for sure not for breakfast. At least not over 30 years ago… And I remember my brother peeing on the carpet in the hotel room. He was about 3 back then and got angry because my mom was not speeding up with whatever she was doing in the bathroom… So he got naked and peed on the floor… And that was really weird as none of us ever did something like this…
While siting in the car on our road trip I was thinking about this memory. Actually I remember more and more while typing this. Do I feel like the trip was educational to me? No, but that was also not a trip which was intended to be educational. Do I feel like it is sort of a benefit for me that my parents took us little kids on a trip like this? Yes, I do!
And after this long “intro” we are finally where I want to go: I think it is great to travel with our kids. No matter how old they are!
In my past I had so many conversations with friends and family about how much sense it would make to travel the world or to certain destinations with little kids. I got told that it is a waste of money and your energy to take kids to a nice destination. Because they do not get it… You know what? I don’t think so!
I think kids DO get it. They learn, they appreciate if you let them experience it. And their mind grows! It opens up!
See, I think, that traveling widens your horizon. You learn. Even if you only travel to a nice resort. But you learn. The world is different outside of your little oyster. And no matter how far out you go, you will see the difference and you will learn.
While driving from Melbourne to Adelaide and from Adelaide to Melbourne, I thought about how much my kids have actually experienced already. Where they have been and how easy it is to travel with them. We’ve traveled from Switzerland to Chicago, New York and Miami when my son was only about 18 months old. For vacation/work. We traveled in Europe with him. Some trips were road trips, some were on a plane, some on a train. We moved to Australia with him and then traveled in Australia with my son and later my daughter.
We went back to Switzerland to visit family and friends with both of them but not without a stop over in Hong Kong or Singapore, where we tried to see and experience a little bit of these great cities. Each time we visited Switzerland we traveled back to Australia via the States. Not only because we got really good deals but also to make this big trip even more special and to try to see new places and experience new things. So we covered Miami, the Caribbean, San Francisco or LA. On another occasion we’ve met friends sort of “half way” in Hawaii and besides enjoying the beauty of the Islands also tried to really experience it. A catch up in paradise…
Although our trips were always a vacation (at least for me and the kids), I feel like they were educational too. We try to combine having fun with learning and in doing so always have a little project for the kiddies (and it is always meant to be fun). So last time we did a bigger trip, they made a little video journal of it. They had to do some research and had to figure out what they wanted to film and what kind of information they wanted to give. Together we choose sights and researched and they made the little movie. They loved it and so did we. And I tell you what: Watching that clip will be so much more fun then anything else… because they did it in their way. The talked about what they thought was important or interesting. And in doing so, they learned heaps about the place.
I think that if you take your kids with you when traveling, you offer them a huge gift. Not only do you open up their minds about new places, different ways, different people, different languages. You also teach them how to deal with traveling. How to get comfortable, how to deal with the long trip, with the “are we there yet”. You also teach them to adjust to something new, something out of their routine. Something you can not influence.
Our kids are great travelers. They are excited about traveling and they want to go see places. They want to learn more about this world and the people who live on this planet. They understand that things are done slightly different in Australia than in Switzerland or Germany. They understand that the mentality in France is not the same as the one in the US. They are open to try new kind of foods. And they want more.
I love it. I love the fact that our kids want to see more. And the more they see the more they want to experience the places they haven’t been to.
I understand that for some people it is just not possible to go traveling or even thinking about taking the family along. I understand that money and time plays into this big time.
But there are other people who just don’t want to open their little oyster. People who don’t want to see what is out there. People who don’t want to experience new things. And that is okay too. That is one thing. And I can sort of see why people like these can not open the oyster for their kids either. And that is okay as well.
What I don’t understand is when mom and/or dad can’t be bothered to take the kids along. Parents who love traveling and do so a lot. But never take the kids along as long as they are little. Because they can’t be bothered to spend that time with their kids. They can’t be bothered to teach the kids, to show them the world outside their oyster. Because it needs a lot of explaining and watching and listening to everyone and everything… together. They can’t be bothered to experience it together with their kids. It is too much effort. It is too hard to travel with them because the kids need to be entertained. It is too hard to travel with them because they still need a certain routine. It is too hard to travel with the kids because you can not just do grown-up-stuff. And in doing so they rob their kids of a great experience which will stick to them for the rest of their life. They rob themselves of a great time with the little people who look at the world in such a different and fresh way.
Again, this is only my point of view. Each to their own. I just feel like we can give our kids so much by simple take them out there. Show them as much of this world as we can. And in return they give us a huge gift as well. They let us experience this world through different eyes.
A fresh focus, more fun and full of energy. Maybe wondering why certain people park their bicycles on a tree…