A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions. — Oliver Wendell Holmes
Although traveling with children can be a lesson in patience, it is profoundly rewarding. It allowed me to experience the world’s wonder through my daughter’s eyes. I still remember her delight with meeting the Little Mermaid in Disney World or her joyful squeals riding a carousel in Paris. Every experience for her, no matter where it was, was an adventure. And traveling as a family gave her the safety to explore new cultures and even creatures without fear.
She quickly learned the six big lessons travel teaches all of us.
Flexibility — Travel teaches children that other countries do not operate on their timetable, that all of us have to adapt to crowded trains, late planes, and unexpected accidents. For example, as we struggled once with a flat tire in Mexico, we had to speak Spanish and deal with the insurance agent, the tow truck driver, and a representative from our credit card company. My daughter learned that not everything goes as planned and courtesy with a smile works in any language.
Food — Discovering different cuisines is a wonderful part of travel. My daughter fell in love with tropical fruit juices in Playa del Carmen, sweet scones in London, couscous from Tunisia, buttermilk biscuits and apple cobbler from the South, sweets from Germany, and the hundreds of cheeses from France. With each entrée or pastry, she wanted to learn its particular history. Her favorite story was that the seventh Duchess of Bedford introduced afternoon tea in England because she would become hungry at 4:00 pm and asked for tea with bread and butter. In France, her grandparents taught her about “Le Goûter” usually homemade cakes or a slice of baguette with Nutella given to children after school. By discussing the differences in traditions both here and in Europe, my daughter decided that afternoon snacks were important for everyone’s tummy!
Cultural Sensitivity — Children can gain new perspectives visiting other countries, developing empathy for others’ situations, and appreciation for their own lives. In Belfast, we discussed the Northern Ireland Conflict with our host who described his family’s experiences and learned that tens of thousands were maimed and wounded in…