I have a 2 year old boy. Our first international trip occurred when he was 5 months old. We had the routine concerns of first-time parent travelers: how will he fare on the plane, will he adjust to the new foods, to the smells, to the time difference? While we spent our time strategizing and worrying, we scarcely noticed that our 6-week trip to Singapore and India was over, and that our baby was happy, well, and perhaps even a little more robust for having had the experience.
We tried it again – same thing. Minor issues on planes (he threw up or had an exploding diaper every time we were at a check-in counter, which we sometimes leveraged to get an upgrade or an empty seat at least), but for the most part, with every trip, Karam became more adaptable, easier to manage and much more curious. We have now covered 12 countries and over 25 cities around the globe.
Travel has become a part of our lifestyle and our value system as a family. I believe it opens young children up to exposure that helps them adapt to life, and then some. I believe my son will learn to appreciate beauty in every culture, and not be limited to seeing poverty and filth. I believe that my son will truly learn to appreciate diversity, not just the lip service we give it today but by understanding that a fascinating chain of historical, political and evolutionary events leads to the how’s and why’s of a country’s existence. He will respect and ask about these differences, and see that there is no “best” nation out there; all have facets we can learn from and emulate. Finally my son is already showing survival and adaptability skills that will hold him in good stead as an adult – he will eat anything, sleep anywhere, and as long as he’s got his monkey (Bobo), everything will be a-ok!
Part of this is also for me. As adults, we tend to adopt an air of superiority, as if we are too cool to stare in wonder, too composed to clap our hands and squeal in delight. Traveling with children you can’t help but participate and when you do, you truly experience things you may have overlooked before.
So to parents who ask me why, I ask them, why not? As far as I am concerned, the risks of not traveling with your kids are too high. The time of middle-aged Americans without passports has passed. ‘Tis the age of global citizens. So do what you can to raise one.