Tonight I’m writing my 100th blog post, which seems like a milestone to me. Although there has been much talk online about the death of blogs (apparently, like everything else, they have been ruined by corporate greed and poor attention spans) somehow I feel like I’ve proved that I am around to stay. Certainly I have no intention of going anywhere, except, of course on many more trips with my kids.
I’ve found that as in my traveling life, my blogging life does not always go as planned. Since this is as-yet an unpaid enterprise and since my children are still pretty young, there are times when my ambitions exceed my output. So this post is coming to you on Wednesday, rather than on Monday. And it is not accompanied by a weeklong celebration during the course of which I will present you with a list of 100 reasons to travel with children (although isn’t that a great idea?). Instead you are going to have to settle for my top five reasons. I’ll do the best I can to make them good ones.
One thing I’d like to say at the outset is that although I was crazy and did take my one-year-old on the road for a year, I’m not speaking only of that trip when I talk of “travel.” For me travel covers a wide range of experiences that include not only airplanes but excursions to local museums. Travel is in some ways a state of mind: it is a willingness to step outside the easy, everyday boundaries that comfortably circle my life.
So here are my top five reasons why traveling with children is worth it:
Reason #5: Traveling with my children makes me a better parent. Heck, it makes me a better person. Why? Because it requires so many different things of me. To travel well with my kids I have to plan well and make sure that I’m prepared for contingencies. And then when circumstance requires me to abandon these carefully-made plans, I have to be flexible enough to make changes on the fly and find new solutions. I must be patient during trying situations and I must continually think about someone other than myself. And when I completely miss the mark – I point you here and here for just a few examples – I have to be able to laugh at myself and move on to the next thing, because of course I don’t want to spoil the trip.
Reason #4: Life is short and travel prioritizes experience over things. Everyone knows that the economy stinks right now. Since I am lucky enough to have income left over after bills are paid and donations are made, the question becomes how best to spend it. And with the Pottery Barn catalogues arriving regularly at my doorstep it can be tempting to think that money should go to feathering my nest (I refer to these catalogues as “PB kiddie pornography” with their curly-haired children wearing spotless smocks as they finger paint at a Mission activity table.) But somehow I usually manage to resist that temptation in favor of a weekend in Washington DC or a spring break trip to Arizona. I have never once regretted spending that money on a trip. When I get stressed out about how messy my house is or think that I really should buy some new stuff I ask myself what memories I’d rather my children have: sleeping under matching bedspreads or climbing mountains.
Reason #3: Whether it’s going across the ocean or up the street, travel exposes my children to the world outside the walls they inhabit. I have seen how this exposure makes them more flexible and receptive to that world. They both get up every day and ask me what kind of “adventure” we’re going to have, and every night they thank God for “the fun day we had.” They are always willing to try new things and they run into most new situations without hesitation because they assume they will be fun and interesting. To me, having children who are so open to new experience, who embrace the world so vigorously, are worth the effort that it takes to show them that world.
Reason #2: The expression on Teddy’s face the first time he saw the Eiffel Tower.
Reason#1: Travel may be less glamorous, more work-intensive, and sometimes more costly with children than without, but it is also more deliberate and meaningful. When I travel with my kids, I don’t waste time but spend virtually every minute doing things that are interesting and new. And even experiences that aren’t new (or interesting) say staying in a hotel or visiting a park, are revealed in a completely new light because my children enjoy them so much. In a way, I am forced to live life on the same terms as a child – moment to moment, completely in the present, with little thought for what came before or what will come next.
When I first started traveling with my children I flattered myself that I was going to show them the world and teach them to love travel, but in hindsight I’m humbled to realize that they have done these things for me.
If you’d like to try and add a few more reasons or your own (I’ve got room for 95 more!) please feel free to do so in a comment.