Almost 10 years ago I was travelling through the Indian Himalayas, child-free and care-free. Having children seemed like a far-off dream (possibly a nightmare), something more likely to happen to my broodier friends than me. Fast-forward to today and I’ve got two kids under my (expanded) belt, and I can pinpoint the precise moment that parenthood became an attractive prospect.
1. Travel is a bonding experience like no other
Seeing, hearing, smelling or feeling something for the first time at the same time is a great leveller. For so much of childhood, the parent is (of course), the teacher, the rule-setter, the experienced leader. So when you and your toddler see the towering skyscrapers of NYC, hear howler monkeys at dawn in Costa Rica, smell elephant musk on safari in South Africa or feel the spray of Iguazu Falls for the first time together, it’s something you can marvel over together.
2. Travel expands their horizons
While they might be the centre of their world and yours (for now at least), travel shows them there’s an enormous world out there – and it’s something to be marvelled at and explored, not feared and jeered.
3. Travel builds the foundation for a global perspective
Even if they don’t remember their travels, they’ll know that they can make friends – of all ages, colours and backgrounds – all over the world. By taking your child, you’re helping to grow a global citizen.
4. You’ll see the world through a child’s eyes
Never mind travel to distant shores. Take your child to the places you’re boringly familiar with and they’ll teach you to see it anew. While you might be busy expanding their horizons, you’ll soon see there’s a lot to be treasured in seeing the world through macro. Slow down and examine flowers, trees, road signs everything – up close as your toddler does and you’ll start to appreciate them as if you were seeing them for the first time, especially when you see the joy they bring your babe.
5. Travel brings history, architecture, language and geography lessons to life
Children can sit in a classroom and be told about the D-Day landings, the Empire State Building, how to ask the way to the railway station in French, and the scale of Everest and the Amazon, but nothing compares to experiencing these things first hand. You can plan your travels to support their syllabus, or fill in the gaps of knowledge you think are missing. It’ll stick in their brains far longer and more vividly than it will when it’s taught from book and screens.
Did you take your young children travelling, or did you travel when you were a young child? Do you think it was a positive experience?