Lessons in traveling with children

We often hear the expression See the world through your children’s eyes. It sounds cliché but, I remember the overwhelming feeling of bliss when we took our little one on her first trip. It was a place we had visited before but seeing the excitement in my child made me remember my first time seeing it. I also felt like I had a newfound purpose; a mission to raise this little person, and show her all of the beautiful things our world has to offer. 

Travel has always been a passion of mine. I grew up in the Soviet Union where the borders were closed to the rest of the world. When the gates opened, all I wanted to do was see the long-hidden world. When I became a mom, I realized traveling is much more than just going places. Here are a few lessons our children can learn from travel.

The lesson of humility- This one came to my mind first as it seems the most obvious the minute you step on foreign soil. We have to admit we are very spoiled living in America. Seeing other places is an excellent eye-opener to all of our blessings. 

The lesson in communication- I remember when we were at a pool in St. Martin. A young girl was playing in the water, and my girls become instant best friends with her. They chatted away, pointing at things and laughing. A little while later, I realized that the girl was speaking entirely in French. The language barrier didn’t keep them from bonding.

The lesson in finance- Travel can get expensive; we communicate openly with our kids about the costs involved. Should we buy that book, or can we save money for our trip by checking it out at the library? Somehow, the little trinkets that we used to pick up while traveling became less critical. Instead, we save plane stubs or museum tickets. These small tokens have made their way into a big shadowbox full of memories that trigger happy feelings each time we glance at it. 

The lesson in releasing inner creativity- This one came from one of my kids’ teachers, and we loved it so much it became our new tradition. When we had to miss some school because of travel, I asked the teacher if she could give my kids some make-up work. Instead, she asked them to keep a journal of their experiences. Brilliant! We could not answer their tirades of questions fast enough. What is a kilometer? Why does the money look like that? How do you pronounce that word, what does it mean? 

Second, I give my kids cameras to record their experiences. It is so exciting to see what they choose to photograph, and it allows us to get to know our kids better when we know what interests them.

Third, (another idea from the teacher) is to have the kids do a presentation of the trip. It entails a short story with some pictures presented to an audience. What a great way to foster speaking, computer, and writing skills.

The lesson in cuisine- Even the pickiest of eaters are sure to get caught up in the excitement of trying new things on vacation. We have one adventurous eater and one who prefers American staples. They both seem to throw caution to the wind on vacation and Sushi Boat becomes the “best place they have ever eaten.” 

The lesson in making do with less- There is nothing like living out of your suitcase for a week to see how many unnecessary things we could’ve done without packing. Frankly, one time dragging oversized luggage on a long trip will cause you to rethink packing anything but the essentials. 

The lesson in gratefulness- When kids see the way others are proud of the place they live, it teaches them to appreciate the place we call home. As people come to visit us in Montana, we put thought into planning their itinerary and making their trip memorable. It gives me so much pride to see our kids become “Ambassadors” of Montana and share their home with others. 

The lesson in an open mind- This lesson came at the end of my list, but it is one of the most important. It's nearly impossible to come home after exploring another place with a closed mind. Traveling helps us see the vast variety of ways people live. As children grow older, they start to understand such concepts as architecture and buildings. Exposing them to old cultures shows them how things were constructed in ancient times without any modern technology or machinery.

Finally, I would like to finish with the best lesson - in my humble opinion - let's not forget, all of us, to be kids again.

about the author...Akvilina Rieger was born in Lithuania. A scholarship to MSU-Bozeman unexpectedly brought her to Montana where she created her family with husband Paul and daughters Sofia and Savannah. An explorer at heart, she is a little bit obsessed with showing the world to her family and everyone around her.

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s July 2018 issue.

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