Oh, The Things He’ll Know When A’Travelling We Go
I am not well travelled – yet. But for 8, my son James is off to a fair start. As I write today, we are in beautiful Cahuita, Costa Rica. James has been throughout Canada, to parts of the US including Alaska, to Mexico and to Costa Rica (now twice). We have bigger, far aflung dreams. Our dreams never include destination resorts and take us to tucked away places where it’s possible to take in local culture and customs a little ways off the beaten trail.
FYI VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) is a great online house rental booking tool for short stays pretty much anywhere in the world. LOVE it, and it can provide the best value for the money when it comes to accommodations.
My husband and I travel very well together, which means we can stay married for quite a while longer. (Good news!) Travel is a gift we share with our son not only because he is the 'funnest' person we know, but also because we want to:
- empower him to be a confident, responsible, adventurous traveller.
- foster a deeper appreciation of the simple pleasures and comforts of home.
- develop his own understanding of who he is as a person and how he fits within our world.
With those goals in mind, I've built a list of my own personal "learnings" for life-altering excursions well beyond your front door:
1. Planning ahead and being prepared is simply a part of travel.
Involve kids in travel planning, from booking flights, to putting travel documents in order, to online research (especially using Google images)".
2. People are a little different wherever you go.
Sometimes the differences are small, like attitudes, or accents. In some places racial, ethnic, and religious differences are more pronounced. Seek out and celebrate our global diversity together.
3. People are the same wherever you go.
They cook, they eat, they go to work, they play. They laugh and sing and cry and dance. They love their friends and families. Humans are humans.
4. New to you.
Try new new activities, flavours, even modes of transport. Go with gusto for those experiences that you can’t get at home and are a common part of the life of the region you are visiting. (My son loves taking public buses, ferries, and trains, but took a big pass on zip-lining.)
5. Strange currencies.
Back home in Canada, as well as in many other parts for the world, businesses will often accept US currency. Bah! You’ll get better value for your dollar when using the local currency. Kids love to handle the different bills and coins can polish their math skills learning the value of their colones, pesos, francs, deutsche marks.
6. When in Rome.
Make an effort to speak the language. The locals will appreciate the effort, even if you do terrible things to their beautiful native tongue. In doing so, you will be teaching your child language, respect for culture, and a dose of humility.
7. Use a real map.
Has the GPS stripped us of our ability to get from here to there without the help of a satellite? Nay! Pull out a real map and get kids to mark the routes using markers. BTW - Map reading will be an essential skill if a zombie apocalypse ever takes place. Be prepared!
8. Stuff makes you heavy.
If packing includes taking ‘home’ with you wherever you go, you may as well stay home. It’s a hard lesson all the way around, but travelling light teaches an awful lot about our attachments to stuff. Take a hard look, together, and ask "what we really need?" (For more on the weight of stuff, read "Perfect, More or Less")
9. There’s no place like home.
A little time as a wandering nomad can add a new sparkle to the simple comforts of home, including the special loft of one’s own pillow, a rekindled joy in a familiar toy, and the pleasure of the company of good friends.
10. Things don’t always go as planned.
Remember tip numero uno? Well, things don’t always go according to plan, and that’s ok too. Sometimes it really hits the fan, sometimes it’s just a bump in the road. However things go awry, it’s all part of the adventure and a learning opportunity. Laugh. Cry. Adapt. Find a go-around.
11. Theory of Relativity.
Our frame of reference is limited not by our imaginations but through our understanding of what we have experienced. Meaning, our perception of rich/poor and ugly/beautiful is relative to our range of view. Travel builds bigger windows, changing how we see ourselves and the world.
12. Happy is not a place.
It is just as easy to be happy, or unhappy, anywhere. Laughing or crying is not limited by geographic location, which means that the grass is not always greener somewhere else. We carry the power to be joyful with us everywhere. (Oh wait, perhaps that lesson is actually for me. I'm still working on that one.)