It’s summertime and vacation is on everyone’s minds. Traveling with small children can be stressful. There is, after all, relentless planning, panic-inducing air-travel, tantrum-ridden eating-out and ceaseless tantrums and sleepless nights to contend with. And then, as I schlep my kids around on these adventures, I sometimes wonder how much they will actually remember. Will they remember the name of the pristine nature bath in Iceland, the idyllic beach in Costa Rica or the swinging bridge across the mighty Ganga in India? Probably not. But traveling brings us other intangible things
We share memories: Our memories though shared, are are vastly different from those of children. For children, memories are not tangible chunks labeled with a place and time. Instead, they come as little bursts of recounts in a way only they see and remember things.To be given a glimpse into that is priceless. I might see a soak in a hot tub viewing the mountains one way. But for my three-year-old son, it is a vivid retelling of the orange stool he climbed on to jump into the tub from where he saw a place take off magically into the sky. Children see things that we don’t notice and experiencing things with them gives us a chance to see things from a fresh perspective.
We gain insights: In completely unguarded moments come up surprisingly deep conversations. We were in Reykjavik, touring the town cathedral when my five- year-old made his first acquaintance with religion. We talked about churches, temples, mosques, religion, and diversity among other heavy topics in a laid-back, explorative setting. The best education comes combined with fun.
We value experiences: Children don’t care how much you spend on things. What matters is the experience and the best experience sometimes does not cost much. The highlights of our travels might be the luxurious amenities of the hotel overlooking the ocean or the sumptuous meal at a five star rated restaurant. But for children joy comes from innocuous things like getting drenched in the first rain of the season, playing with rubber ducks in a bathroom or jumping on hotel room cushions.
We share an unstructured day: Maybe a vacation is the last chance we have to enjoy some unstructured time. A time where kids can run wild in new places, hear different languages, and run into unplanned situations. So when the power suddenly goes off at their grandparent’s place, or we unexpectedly run into heavy winds and have to change plans, it is all a lesson. There are not that many opportunities these days, what with school, after care, summer camps, to just let go. What better time to do that than when on vacation?
We share family time: More than anything vacations are precious for the time we spend together. It might make us parents weary, but the kids can’t have enough of us. It is flattering! And at the same token, it is uplifting for the kids to have their parents all to themselves for such a long time. It is also a great time for siblings to be in each other’s face all the time and realize they work as a team.
The things we experience together traveling are not available in any brochure. Travel brings us priceless moments of growth for both children as well as parents. So even though I swore I was not taking a vacation again after one busy month of travel, a week into my everyday routine at home, I am yet again dreaming of our next vacation.