Deciding not to travel with your children because they won’t remember the trips you take is like saying don’t read them books because they won’t remember the stories you read. – Unknown
Overseas Travel Adventures – Should you Bring Your Children?
Like so many parents who love overseas travel adventures, I would not consider an international family vacation until my son was old enough to appreciate it. Why would I take him? He won’t remember anything. He’ll complain about being tired or hungry. The long flight will be a nightmare. I won’t be able to do anything I want to do because what I am interested in, won’t be interesting to him.
Wow, putting this into words makes me feel like the worst parent in the world but, I’m not. I’ve just had my share of parenting struggles and when I travel, I want to be selfish. I want to go away on vacation and enjoy every moment of it without a care in the world. As a parent, it’s ok to let yourself have those special moments, but was it fair that I was choosing to take away these experiences from my son?
The selfish side of a woman who loves to travel abroad
When my son was three, his father and I divorced. It was the last thing I ever wanted for my child, but as we all know, life doesn’t always work out the way we plan. What did this mean for the woman who had traveled to almost thirty countries before she was a parent? It meant I had a built-in babysitter of course! It meant traveling would now be easier knowing my son would be well cared for while I was away. Of course I was going to miss him, but I deserved to indulge occasionally too, right?
The selfish side kicked in and I started planning my next trip. I messaged my friend who lives in England and asked her if she wanted to meet me in Frankfurt, and that was that. I went on a Rhine River cruise for eight days and had an amazing time making new memories with wonderful people. I missed my son, but I checked in every day to let him know I missed him and reminded myself that he would be ok while I was gone. And he was. When I returned, it felt like he barely knew I was gone, even though I know he did. But the trip reignited my passion for travel, and I was committed to traveling overseas at least once per year.
The trip that changed it all
When I was on my river cruise, I met my Australian sister from another mother. When we parted ways in Amsterdam, she and her husband invited me to visit them in Adelaide, Australia. I had lived in Australia for three years, but I had never been to Adelaide and hey, leaving winter to spend time at the beach sounded great. But how could I leave my son already, three months after I returned from my last trip? Then again, how many opportunities do you get to stay with amazing people in a wonderful country?
The battle continued as I thought about the expensive flights and how hard it would be traveling by myself, with a five-year-old, enduring almost two days of travel each way. You’d have to be insane and besides, what’s the point when he won’t remember it anyway? It came down to the fact that I could either spend my first New Year’s Eve divorced, by myself at home, or celebrate it by traveling to Australia with my son. I’m sure you can guess which option won. I thought I was crazy but the idea of passing up on this opportunity sounded even crazier. I got my son’s passport ready and booked the flights. We were going to Australia!
Your child may surprise you
Of course, my son had no idea what was going on. He was just excited that he was going to be on an airplane and that he would be able to watch movies and play video games for hours on end. I braced myself for horrible travel days. I mean I didn’t even like traveling for that long. There was no way my son was going to make it through these two days without at least one tantrum.
The night before our departure, one of our flights was canceled and we now had a 16-hour layover in China. I couldn’t believe it. How was I going to entertain my child in the airport for 16 hours? I figured the best option was to take the airline up on their offer for a free hotel, get a temporary visa at the airport, and make our way into the city of Guangzhou, and that’s what we did.
You are stronger than you realize
Luckily, my son didn’t have any meltdowns on the flight over, but I was going by myself into a foreign country with my son. I was nervous, but I figured it was the only way we were going to make it through the long layover. We would be able to take a nap and I knew we would both desperately need it by that time. We got on a bus arranged by the hotel at the airport (so I felt rather safe), but I was still nervous.
As we started driving away from the airport, my nerves went away (for the most part) when I looked at my son. His facial expression as he looked out of the window let me know I made the right decision. He was in awe. He kept squealing with excitement, telling me to look out of the window because he wanted to make sure I saw everything that was new to him. It made my heart smile. When we arrived at the hotel, we ate in the hotel restaurant, and he tried the local food. He was looking around the entire time, soaking it all in. We then went to our room, took a long nap, and made our way back to the airport. The look of awe rarely left his face.
The turning point that completely changed my perspective
When we returned to the airport, what I saw there would completely change my mind about taking my son with me overseas. As we were sitting in the terminal, waiting for our plane, my son wanted to play on the moving walkway. It was the middle of the night, and the airport was fairly empty, so I let him play. A little Chinese boy smiled at him and before I knew it, the two were playing together, smiling, and laughing the entire time. Neither one of them understood the language spoken but they understood the universal smile, and that was all it took.
I realized from that moment, that not only was I opening his eyes to a new culture and perspective, but he was learning to see people for what they had in common and not for their differences. He learned that even though he couldn’t understand the boy, he was still a friend because he smiled, and that’s all that mattered. I loved that I gave that experience to my son and from that moment on, I wanted to fill his life with many more experiences like that.
We ended up having an incredible time in Australia. My son got to feed kangaroos and pet koalas. He was surrounded by people who sounded different than him, but he didn’t care because they were so nice to him. He tasted his first pancakes with ice cream and swam in the Indian Ocean. It really is just like reading a book with your child when they are young. While they may not remember every character or every story, when they read the story, they are forming their perspectives and ideas of how they look at other people and the world in general.
Traveling to other countries broadened my son’s perspective and introduced him to new cultures and for that, I will forever be grateful. I have now chosen a career that allows me to travel with my son. I will still travel on my own as I do have a different experience when I travel with adults, but I will keep traveling with my son a priority. I now understand just how much it will contribute to the boy he is and the man he will one day become.
Written by: Erika Bud. You can find out more about the author, Travel Rangers book series, and travel podcast at: http://bigworldpub.com/