The plane touched down at London Heathrow Wednesday night, and on Thursday morning jet lag kicks in hard.
"Why are we doing this again?!" I always wonder for the first few days in a substantially different time zone.
Throughout our travels with kids over the years--whether by train, plane, or automobile--I've had some interesting experiences:
I've been vomited on, rubbed a child's back while they vomited into a bag at the end of a long plane journey, listened to a child screaming for what felt like a very. long. time. in the back of the van on a road trip, and overheard so much bickering from the backseat that I'm pretty sure I've met my lifetime quota.
So why on earth do we keep going?
Here's why I travel with my kids, in spite of the trouble:
1. It takes us all out of our comfort zone...and that's a good thing.
As a highly sensitive introvert, I love routines that let me know what to predict from life. I like taking risks from a place of stability. But travel often yanks that peaceful rhythm out the window.
This teaches us flexibility. When your plane gets delayed, when you don't know what you're eating, when you hear a different language spoken, when you don't know your way around a city--these moments build inner resiliency. You face a challenge and conquer it. Or you face one and fail, and learn something new.
That resiliency easily transfers to other areas of life as our kids grow.
2. Traveling increases empathy, compassion, and mission-mindedness.
As our kids have traveled they have seen people far less fortunate than ourselves. This has left an impact. Coming close to extreme poverty in the Philippines two years ago is something they still mention now and then: "Remember the kids who lived in those cardboard shacks we passed by?"
I try to take the opportunity to point out all we have to be grateful for in such moments, while also reminding the kids that God put us here on this earth to live in service of others. Traveling has more easily enabled us to raise kids with a mission.
3. Traveling teaches us that there's more than one way to live well.
It's far too easy to dig a serious rut in our middle-class, American life. We start to think everyone more or less lives like we do, learns like we do, speaks like we do. Worse, we start to think ours is the BEST way to live, learn, or speak.
This slow-growing arrogance benefits nobody, and leads to growing heartache between nations.
Seeing how others live points out creative solutions to our own problems. It reminds us that there's more than one "right" way to do things. It shows children that you don't have to be rich to be happy.
4. We learn so, so much through our explorations.
When you travel, the world becomes your classroom. History comes alive. Just yesterday I stood in front of Winston Churchill's funeral train--reading and watching clips of the nation coming out to honor him after his death.
During this time in England we've walked on Roman walls, studied the Vikings, explored castles and stately homes, and seen the sites in London.
What a privilege--one that more than makes up for the hassle.
There's no one way to make traveling work for a family. It's definitely possible to travel with very young kids, but when I had a five-, four-, and three-year-old I honestly wasn't up for it. We stayed close to home, and explored the world through other avenues back then. But now that everyone is in double digits there's no holding us back!
Don't assume that your voyage has to be a global extravaganza, either. Trust me, a sense of adventure thrives just as much with a one hour drive up the road and a packed lunch box on the seat beside you. I know, because that's exactly how my dad nurtured my love for travel many, many weekends over the course of my life.
So please, as the warm days stretch ahead of you this summer, go somewhere--anywhere! It will definitely be exhausting, but it will also be unforgettable--for both you and your children.
"Life is stressful and life is wonderful. There is no contradiction here."
~ Laura Vanderkam, I Know How She Does It