17 February 2009

Why take the kids: the expanded version

We choose to travel with our kids for all sorts of reasons. We've done three long-haul overseas trips from Australia since the eldest was 20 months old, and we're not about to give up now. So why do it?

1. To see the world. Yeah, I know the world is full of pretty grim news. There are major crises, wars, disease, social ills of every kind, but the world is also a beautiful place. The natural world is awesome, the cultural world rich beyond description, and people everywhere are worthy of appreciation and respect. We have been shown tremendous kindness as visitors to other places by complete strangers, and this inspires hope in us that the world is not yet ready to blow itself to bits. The world is inherently interesting: socially, culturally, artistically, naturally.

2. To build our family. Travelling with our kids forges strong shared memories, and shared memories are one of the building blocks of family stability. Even long after our return from overseas, one of us will come across a picture of a place we have visited, thus setting off the "We've been there..." and "Do you remember when..?" reminiscences.

3. To show our kids that not everyone is like us, nor is everywhere like Australia. We have to face the fact that our little corner of the world is pretty good. Socially, economically and politically stable, with more than its fair share of affluence. We want our kids to grow up knowing that it is a privilege, and not a right, to grow up in our society. We want them to understand that not everyone has what we have, nor do they think the way we think. In fact, they might hopefully learn that less economically fortunate places have advantages that our kids will never have at home.

4. To help them appreciate differences in culture. Language, food, customs, beliefs, artistic and musical traditions, history, geography, climate, ecology. You name it, it's going to be different despite the best efforts of a certain superpower to create a global monoculture.

5. To challenge ourselves. In the first instance, we wanted to see if we could do it and survive. Now we do it partly to challenge ourselves to make the next trip a little better than the previous one - for us and the kids.

6. To introduce our kids to the iconic places and milestones in our own cultural heritage. Western culture comes in for a bit of a hiding from the media, but whether we like it or not it is the cultural heritage tradition to which our family is connected. This gives a not-very-politically-correct Eurocentricity to our heritage, despite living across the globe from Europe. But the roots of our culture, our laws, religion, art, music, language and history come from thousands of miles away in places we have - mostly - never seen. We are newcomers to Australia - arriving here a little over 200 years ago. Being proudly Australian I still want our kids to know our roots since it is patently false to claim that our roots are "from here".

7. Because there is so much to learn - and experience is a great teacher. Sure, we could stay at home and pore over glossy art books to get a sense of art history, or go to Virtual Pompeii on the internet, but there's nothing like reality to inspire and teach. I own dozens of books, on all sorts of subjects, but there's nothing like standing in a place and thinking, "Now I know what this is really like". Books, TV and the internet are great tools, but real life experiences can't be beaten to teach a kid (or an adult!) something.

8. Because our kids are part of our family, and are therefore our responsibility. Just because we're going overseas doesn't give us the right to abrogate our responsibilities for looking after them completely or farm them out to relatives. We have an obligation to include them in our family experiences, and that includes the big travelling trips. They are not our "optional extras" or "accessories".

9. Because sometimes they are useful to take! Everything from skipping queues in customs because of a screaming child to the fact that our then 7-year-old read important information on a sign in Hong Kong airport about baggage security that neither of us adults saw!

So, if you can manage it take your kids with you. Travelling with them IS different to travelling just with adults, but there is a lot to be gained by doing so.

1 comment:

  1. This is a fabulous list of reasons to travel with kids, well-thought and concise. Thank you for sharing!