If there’s one thing I want to pass on to my kids that I learned from my parents, it’s the love of traveling.
We took a big family vacation at least once a year when we were growing up. Mostly I give the credit to my dad because he knew the value of travel and he prioritized it.
Sure, we may not have always had new furniture, or the fanciest car in the neighborhood, but the memories from those years of family vacations are things that I wouldn’t want to have given up for material possessions.
And perhaps it’s because I have such warm and fuzzy memories of traveling with my parents that it doesn’t surprise me that recent research has shown that “experiences bring people more happiness than do possessions,” as explained in this article from The Atlantic,“Buy Experiences, Not Things.”
On the other hand, if the trip isn’t one that requires a huge investment of time or money, even better. Although, to be honest, some of my favorite memories are from the “bigger” trips we took to relatively far-flung places for us Midwesterners like the mountains of Banff and Jasper, clam-digging on Prince Edward Island and visiting the house that inspired Anne of Green Gables, or picking up fresh lobster as it came off the fishing boats off the coast of Nova Scotia.
So here are the top 5 life lessons that I believe kids can learn from traveling, whether that be to places near or far.
1. Being in nature puts everything into perspective.
Even as a little kid, I realized that there was something special about staring out at a vast ocean or breathing in the cool air on the top of a mountain, or walking through a quiet forest surrounded by giant redwoods. It’s not that I couldn’t experience the beauty of nature from where we lived, but traveling somewhere for the sole purpose of soaking in that beauty made all our day-to-day problems seem a little less daunting.
2. Planning and anticipating is half the fun.
Although we had some spontaneity in our travels, my dad was a planner at heart, and he used that to his advantage when it came to our family vacations. In the pre-Internet days, he spent weeks researching places at the library, making photocopies and drawing maps on whiteboards for our family meetings where we would place our votes for our favorite itineraries. I think that was part of what made every trip for us so exciting, knowing just enough to get us interested, yet still recognizing that we wouldn’t really know what it was like until we stepped off that plane and saw everything with our own eyes.
3. Traveling brings siblings closer together.
Sure, the idea of spending 16 hours in the backseat of a car with your little sister may not always sound fun, but 20 years later my sister and I are still pretty close, and I don’t doubt that some of that came from all the time we spent traveling all over the country together. Long road trips were never my number one choice, but I do have some fond memories of sharing inside jokes with my sister, eating lots of Twizzlers to pass the time, and making my parents listen to The Bangles “Eternal Flame” on repeat.
4. You learn to see the humor in bad situations.
Speaking of Florida, there was one trip we took during spring break when our little Korean American family found ourselves on the way to the beach in Panama City along with thousands of partying college students. It was a nightmare, one that my usually well-prepared father hadn’t anticipated. But after a couple nights fighting for a little bit of our own white sand on the beach, which was beautiful by the way, we decided to pack our bags and head to Destin. The complete opposite of Panama City, the sleepy town at the time was a welcome break from the crowds of Panama City, and we ended up enjoying and relaxing the rest of our trip there.
5. Traveling helps you find that elusive balance between fun and rest.
Over the years, my dad went from planning jam-packed itineraries to more relaxed vacations where we didn’t drive hundreds of miles each day or move from location to location in order to squeeze in everything we could possibly imagine during our trip. Some of it depended on where we were. If it was a relaxing trip to the beach in the Bahamas, it meant that we weren’t rushing from activity to activity. But if we were at Disney World, you better believe we were going to get our money’s worth and ride every ride and see every show until the park closed. I kind of enjoyed both. I’m still trying to find that balance when planning trips with our 3 year old and 6 year old. Hoping that gets easier as they get older!
As the summer quickly approaches, I’m scrambling to put together a last-minute vacation that will hopefully encompass all these wonderful things about travel that I remember. Although we’re not going anywhere too far this year, I hope a quick getaway to somewhere like a quiet cottage in Door County will be the right choice for us this year.
What are your plans for summer vacation this year? I’d love to hear about it!
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Filed under: Travel