Most people think of extended travel vacations as being suited only to adults needing some time away from the routines of life. But travel can help children develop character traits that will serve them for their entire lives.
When you think of someone taking a long, exciting trip somewhere, do you envision a single person, a couple, or a group of friends? Or do you picture a family? Most people, when considering the idea of a long trip, think of only adults. Long journeys have long been considered to be activities that can’t be enjoyed by a family, especially a family with small children. Couples have always thought that they had to make a choice―they could start a family or travel, but they couldn’t do both. But in reality, there is no need to make a choice.
Nowadays, increasing numbers of families are hitting the road with children, even babies, and they’re doing it intentionally to give their children experiences they can’t possibly participate in at home or at school. Although parents who take their children traveling are often asked why they go to the trouble, they have made a conscious decision to open doors for their children that will not only bring them fun, adventure, and education, but also give them opportunities to develop their character and experience personal growth in unique ways.
One of the problems people automatically see in traveling with children is that they think children will be impatient and uncomfortable if they don’t have access to modern-day conveniences and something to keep them entertained all the time. But the reality is that there is no better way for children to develop virtue and strength of character than to realize that life isn’t always easy and being comfortable and entertained isn’t always essential. For example, instead of an expensive trip to Disneyland, try taking kids to a place that isn’t as commercial and encourages children to think for themselves, be self-reliant, and explore new experiences on their own. Take them camping, so they can get back to nature and develop self-reliance by not having a television, telephone, or maybe even running water. Cook over a campfire instead of in an oven. Sleep in a sleeping bed rather than on a comfy mattress.
To have the greatest impact and the most lasting effect on children, a trip should not be rushed. The longer the stay, the more time children will have to experience the places they visit, the people they meet, and the things they see. Being able to immerse themselves in a particular area gives children a view of the world that just a couple of days cannot match. For example, instead of visiting a resort in a big city for a long weekend and eating at chain restaurants, try renting an apartment or motel room for a couple of weeks. Visit local attractions, dine at locally owned eateries, shop at local stores, and get to know the people and the area. Let children imagine what it’s like to live in a different place with different opportunities and even different weather than they are used to.
Children of any age can be taken traveling, and will be all the better for it. No matter what age, traveling with a child will not only help them to experience places, people, and situations that will open their eyes to a world they would never be able to experience at home, it will help them realize how that world compares and contrasts with their own day-to-day existence. It doesn’t matter where you go―just go. Seeing the bigger picture and stepping outside their own lives for a while helps children develop character traits and strength of virtue that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.