It’s a big decision to take children out of school for an extended trip, so it is good to know the benefits of long term travel for kids. Everyone can get a great deal from traveling, but as you are essentially interrupting the education process, it is crucial that the experience has some very definite and measurable upsides. Here are the most convincing benefits of long term travel for kids.
1. Experience the Global Community as an Insider, Not an Observer
One of the benefits of long term travel for kids is that it allows them to see and experience life in communities across the globe from the inside. To eat, sleep and live as the people of a country or region do allows children to grow up as fully actualized members of the global community, rather than visiting as an adult with judgmental comparisons and preconceived notions of what is “right” or “normal”. In particular, traveling kids have the opportunity to see beyond stereotypes. Many minorities are viewed through a narrow lens. Traveling kids get to see that people all over the world run the gamut of strengths and weaknesses, rather than just fitting the slots assigned to them by television or movies.
2. Language Immersion
DVDs and tutors cannot compare to being totally immersed in a foreign language. Street signs, television and radio along with everyday conversations – both with peers and overheard among adults - saturate young, eager minds with language usage, inflection and cultural nuances that defy classroom duplication.
3. Learn to Appreciate Experiences over Possessions
A main reason why long term travel is good for kids is that it teaches them to value actions and experiences over “things”. Long term travel does not lend itself well to the over-acquisition of objects. This is great for kids because they learn to travel and live with what is necessary and little else. The things they do keep are treasured that much more. It prevents them from developing a materialistic mindset, where every action and long term goal involves purchasing or possessing something rather than having an enriching experience.
4. Develop the Ability to Easily Adapt to Change
When kids travel long term they grow to recognize change as a normal part of life, rather than something to be feared or viewed with suspicion. Meeting new friends, learning to say farewell, dealing with lost luggage or unexpected accommodations are all life skills that most stationary kids learn in adulthood, if at all. When kids travel long term they grow up with the ability to be flexible and even welcoming in the face of changes great and small.
5. Natural Appreciation for World Cuisine
Much like learning a language, an appreciation for world cuisine is best taught through immersion, and extending their palates is another of the benefits of long term travel for kids. Of course individual children will still have their own preferences and aversions, but they will be less likely to simply reject food just because it is “different”, doesn’t come out of a box or has no major restaurant chain logo attached.
6. Lessons That Can’t Be Gained from a Textbook
The opportunity to go fishing with jungle tribesmen in South America, explore tropical Asian rainforest or walk among the ruins of ancient Greece provide cultural and historical lessons that just cannot be gained from a textbook.
7. Learn to Think for Themselves Rather than following Prescribed Paths
One of the most important ways that kids benefit from long term travel is that they learn to think for themselves and decide their path in life without merely falling into prescribed roles. Almost from birth, stationary kids are inundated with the expectations that they will go to school, get a job, get a house, get married, reproduce, retire and die. Kids who travel long term have a chance to avoid that trap because they see and experience for themselves that the world is so much bigger.
The benefits of long term travel for kids aren’t so very different to the benefits for adults; the difference is their significance at a younger age where travel should be as much an education as an experience. Do you think there’s justification for kids missing school to travel?