Traveling with my son Miro has been the greatest gift of my life. Through the laughter, fears, discoveries, adventures and quiet moments experienced together on our travels, our mother-son relationship has forever changed. Almost 3 years into our travels, we have learned to slow down and enjoy life. No longer is ‘time’ missing from the equation. We’ve stepped outside of a daily routine and dropped the ‘we’re supposed to do this‘ type of mentality. Travel has furnished us the opportunity to allow inspiration to flow freely though us.
Together, we’ve earned a profound trust in each other, not to be taken for granted. Most of all, we adore and support one another, words often spoken about the family unit, but not experienced enough due to the distractions of daily life.
”When you travel, you experience, in a very practical way, the act of rebirth. You confront completely new situation, the day passes more slowly, and on most journeys you don’t even understand the language people speak. So you are like a child just out of the womb. You begin to attach much more importance to the things around you because your survival depends upon them. You begin to be more accessible to others because they may be able to help you in different situations. And you accept any small favor from the gods with great delight, as if it were an episode you would remember for the rest of your life. At the same time, since all things are new, you see only the beauty in them, and you feel happy to be alive.”
~ Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage
And imagine all that with your kids…..there is something clearly magical bout traveling as a family.
But do you need to take on a permanent travel lifestyle to experience these things? I don’t think so. I was so sure travel was the magical element that bonds a family, I asked 25 other traveling families to share their thoughts. The beauty is, all of these families are very different, from different countries and different walks of life. Some are single parent families (like us), but most are not. Some are long-term travelers, but most are not. But what they all have in common is that they have experienced the benefits of family bonding through travel.
In their own words:
I think there’s an openness and freedom to the parent-child relationship when you’re travelling that’s hard to maintain when you’re tied down with work, school, the whole daily life routine — an equality, if you like. There’s also a welter of shared experiences to bring you closer, both the great times and the war stories, which I hope will last a lifetime.
Shared experiences of all kinds are great relationship-strengtheners. Traveling together with your child allows for a concentrated dose of shared experiences.
For us one of the biggest benefits will be letting the world be our teacher. Travel is one of the greatest ways to educate people of all ages and exploring and learning about the world through travel will provide our children with a global education.
Traveling with my girls gave me a new appreciation for their point of view. As an adult we see things differently than our kids, both in vantage point and logic. Slowing down, getting down to their level and viewing things more simply has increased my appreciation for my daughters’ imaginations as well as what we see and do.
For us, the benefits of family travel are twofold… We get to spend uninterrupted time together, away from the busy-ness of our day-to-day lives, and I think travel broadens the mind, and will help my children grow into the kind of tolerant, patient, kind, and adventurous adults I hope they will become.
In our experience travelling as a family provides the time, space and opportunities within which parent child relationships can develop in ways that are different to the routines of home. The stimulus of new experiences provides different talking points to those in home life. And dealing with different situations, cultures and people brings out different skills, talents and aspects of character. Through this both parent and child get the chance to see and relate to each other in different ways which, if handled well, can deepen and strengthen the bonds between them and generate a rich tapestry of shared experiences and reference points.
As short-term family travelers (meaning 1-3 weeks at a time) we find getting out and exploring the world is essential to our parent/child bonding. My husband works hard with lots of long hours. Our trips are time for our toddler son to really enjoy just his parents, not his parents distracted by housework, phone calls and other everyday life distractions. He has our undivided attention as we discover the world together at his pace, not ours.
We were traveling before we had Cole, so we knew from the beginning that we had to raise him a way that made sense for travel. That meant a more natural/minimalistic approach — he sleeps in our bed, he doesn’t use baby furniture (like a crib, high chair or kiddie seats), he will continue to breastfeed as long as he wants (he’ll be two in March), we let him move to solids at his own pace with real food (he is an adventurous eater now and will even enjoy a spicy dish), and we’ve very laid back about most things (we’ve let go of trying to control his environment, so if that means he watches Thai cartoons or plays in the dirt in India, then it’s all part of the experience). The more I travel, the more it has opened my eyes to the idea that there are many different ways to raise happy, intelligent, well-rounded child. For us, the most important thing is our relationship with Cole — not with “doing it right” or “giving him an advantage in life”. I think having a happy, loving family is the best gift we can give him.
Traveling together as a family has brought us together in ways that we’d be hard-pressed to replicate. The sense of adventure, the thrill of exploration, the challenge of problem-solving on foreign soil, shared laughter and tears of frustration, all combine to form memories we’ll treasure forever. It’s made us hard-core family travel evangelists, encouraging all families to travel, whether that’s in the nearest city or another country. Families will never regret the time and energy because it will be returned to them in spades.
Family travel strengthens the relationship between each family member, and allows kids and parents to share in activities that may be unconventional or not done at home. In today’s society, children and adults have different cultures, in other words do different activities, share differing interests, etc. When a family travels, they have the opportunity to share interests and communicate their thoughts more freely, without being judged by peers as being dorky for hanging out with mom and/or dad a lot.
Traveling as a family teaches our kids to learn to compromise. Being together in a small room for a long period of time means there will be some conflict. They learn to work together and resolve their issues. Yes, it might not work all the time but they have worked through their problems most of the time.
I also find that our kids learn to entertain themselves during a long travel time. On the plane, now that they are old enough they actually like to sit together instead of with one of us. They have learned to play with what they have instead of us having to play with them. At one of our recent flight, my son enjoyed reading the security pamphlet for over 30 mins!!
We left Toronto as four people with very defined roles: mom, dad, big brother, little brother. 6 months into a yearlong around the world trip we’re a family unit. We are the only constant in the 15 countries we’ve visited so far. We are each other’s only sure thing. Our relationship with each other is forever changed for the better. I’ve got no regrets about this decision to flee the routines of our lives and focus on each other for one year. I’d do it again in a heartbeat and luckily I’ve got six months more to cement the security and contentment we’ve found in each other and a lifetime to reap the rewards.
Most of our travels involve quirky destinations, and the humorous elements inspire a lot of laughter and camaraderie as a family of four. Plus, our travels are building a lasting set of wonderful family memories. I want my kids to talk about me when I’m old and grey. I want them to say, “Remember when Mom made us visit the world’s largest bowling ball? What was she thinking?
There are so many ways that relationships are benefited by travel, for us, the whole reason we hit the road was to spend time together, make memories and learn as a family. There’s something about struggling through hard things on the road that bonds people. We have an interdependence and a connectedness that makes it easy to rely on one another and causes us to approach new challenges with confidence because we know that together we can overcome. Kids aren’t just accessories, or responsibilities, they are contributing members and very valuable to the team. Since so many of the “high” points in life are shared and the great successes come as a family (instead of independently through work or school, in the absence of family) we become one another’s greatest cheerleaders in addition to team mates and our memory is a shared collection, a mosaic of team victories. That bonds parents to kids and sibling to one another in ways very few other things can.
1. Quality time – families that don’t get the opportunity to do long-term travel, really really connect with their kids and each other when on the road. It’s the best way to spend time together.
2. Education – My family and I travel all the time, and all the adventures and meeting of new people my child learns the most important part of life which is no-discrimination and having an open mind to everything!
3. I’ve traveled on my own before having kids and the experiences you share with your children on the road are just so much richer, since they are so inquisitive and let you discover stuff you would have walked right past if you were traveling alone or with another adult.
There is a magic that takes place when you mix kids and travel. Life accelerates or decelerates just so, just enough to evoke that beautiful singular sense of wonder from the kids that is especially infectious. Observing how they see the world (whether swimming at the neighbor’s pool or staring out over the endless ocean) is a sweet reminder that certain parts of this world are, and always will be, totally ineffable. Their sense of wonder is lasting and prevails long after the moment is over. So, thank goodness for digital cameras to freely capture those moments and for the backdrop the world provides to explore with the ones we love.
One of the best things about traveling with a child is the doors that open up for you. You are no longer just a backpacker checking off a list of sites in a town. You spend time in the community playgrounds and parks, and meet the most interesting people. Your kids play together and everyone learns a little more about the culture.
Another advantage I’ve found about always being together, is that we as parents are there to answer any and all questions our child has. It is pretty amazing to teach him about volcanoes while we sit lakeside and watch Volcan Puyehue erupting. Or for us all to learn about the Incas in Peru. Our family gets a little closer after sharing a learning experience and it is really fun to see Bode’s interests spark.
Slow traveling with a 3 & 1 yr old.
Being a traveling family has enriched our lives and relationships and allowed us to experience new culture, food and relationships every day… together. We saw early on that a busy, fast paced society lends itself easily to stress and not to enjoyment. We wanted to enjoy raising our children without societal pressure into smarter, happier and more well rounded people: global citizens.
Being a traveling family has enriched our lives and relationships and allowed us to experience new culture, food and relationships every day… together. We saw early on that a busy, fast paced society lends itself easily to stress and not to enjoyment. We wanted to enjoy raising our children without societal pressure into smarter, happier and more well-rounded people: global citizens.
When we travel as a family we laugh more and are more present with each other. We are creating so many beautiful memories, which gives us such a strong bond. My children spend their day with their parents sharing and enJOYing life together.
In the year they were away from school and traveling, the changes in my kids was nothing short of stunning. They are SO mature now, and so kind and respectful. They have NO problems talking to adults and managing mature subjects. They also got a LOT of time away from the typical American mindset . I know the best thing we can do for our kids is to keep traveling…
When you travel as a family, you’re all in “it” together: everyone shares similar experiences, faces new challenges in tandem, observes the same wonders/ people/ places, and, perhaps best of all, has the time of day to fully interact with each other. When you’re in a foreign city or village in a foreign country where you don’t know a single other person, families tend to stick together, play together, live and learn together. It is this constant togetherness that really brings families together on the road, as the wonders, the struggles, and the experiences that are inherently shared is the right stuff to make family bonds grow thick.
For us, being a nomadic family has allowed us to be, to breathe, to spend endless unproductive hours doing nothing but hanging out. For us, traveling the world , has opened our hearts, minds, and souls not only to the tastes and sights of this marvelous world; but has allowed us to meet ourselves, in the fullest sense.
What improves a relationship more than shared experience? By traveling together, my family has made a trove of stories that links us forevermore. I like to think that even when my children are eye-rolling teens they’ll still remember with joy our trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower where we pointed out every beautiful thing we had seen in Paris for the previous week and even made up our own silly tune that both boys still sing when they see a picture of that landmark. To me there is no stronger bond than that of memory – and nothing makes more memories than travel.
We talk and talk. Smile. Ask questions to each other and play games. Family travel. When you are traveling your mind wanders away from your daily routines and chores back home. Daily routines are the pitfall of an intense parent/child relationships. Why? Because with routines, everyone tends to move into his or her own direction. We live our own routine and don’t take enough time to really learn and understand what others are engaged in at school or work. Suddenly when you travel things change. You depend on each other, far away, the strangers in a strange land. Trying to understand local habits and cultural events, you start to discuss. You feel proud when you and your kids reached another milestone (understanding something new or just reaching a destination). Travel increases the interaction between family members, which I believe is one of the most important things for a family. The love and understanding strengthens, travel is so worthwhile!
Traveling has opened our eyes to so many wondrous things about the boys. They bring the best out in us and help me to conquer my fears and doubts. They show me how to look at the world with wide open eyes and truly appreciate everything. We have also learned that home is where ever we are altogether, house or hotel makes no difference at all! I wouldn’t travel without them, they enhance our journey so much!.
I have just dropped my son off at school for the start of the 2012 Spring term. Most parents were happy to get back to work and the regular routine but I feel like I’m missing a major body part. One year ago, almost to this very day, Noah ( aged 8 ) and I set off on a round-the-world trip. We grew so close, living and breathing every mile and minute together. Make no mistake, travelling with a child is exhausting. We moved, on average, every 3 nights. Unless you get along together that pace cannot be sustained, let alone enjoyed. Travel brings you closer – right now, without him, I feel too close.
What benefits have you experienced as a family traveler? We’d love to read your thoughts, please feel free to share yours below.