We always dreamed of traversing the waterways of Venice on a Gondola with a real Italian who slowly navigated our way, serenading us as we sit back into each others arms, taking in the beauty of the architecture, sites and sounds of Italy. A few years back we fulfilled this dream. Sitting for a brief moment in time, with the breathless reality that we were free from the cares of the world until the silence was broken from directly behind us…
“Are we there yet?” Yes, our third son was getting a bit impatient with the lack of speed our wonderful ride was providing. The other four children seemed to be somewhat content with the pace, but we have one son, as I’m sure every family does, who’s tempo is a bit more of a speedboat. So much for that moment of ‘romance’.
Yes, we took our four children plus one extra on our perfect romantic vacation to Italy, and it wasn’t the first time nor would it be the last. See, my husband and I have a passion for travel and though a second honeymoon would be nice, the most important thing we can do for our children is to share our passion for exploration with our children.
Our family began traveling overseas when our youngest daughter was three. Actually she had her fourth birthday on that trip. You might well wonder how much of a trip like this would sink in or if she would even understand much of what we were trying to do. Our hope however, was that in some small way she would begin to see her world as something just a bit bigger than the sandbox she typically enjoyed during the summer months. Our other children were nine, eleven and thirteen respectively.
Traveling with children isn’t always easy, but if done with a purpose it is extremely rewarding. Our little four year old exceeded our wildest dreams and even at fourteen she still remembers vividly her first trip to France and England. Just ask her about her birthday cake at the hotel in the shadow of the chateau where Leonardo Di Vinci lived and is now buried or when we finally got to England and she could finally, somewhat, understand everyone. There is so much she can still recall and so many incredible memories made, that we hope will last a lifetime.
Why then travel with your children? You may have a different answer than we do. For some it might be to just get away to just say, “been there, done that”. To others it might be for the adventure itself or to explore new cultures and ideas. To us, it has been a vital part of our children’s education. Now, after ten years, it has become a way of life, but most importantly it has been an education. The Greek, “exegesis” means to “draw out of”. When we travel, especially with our children we try to use this principle as our main purpose to our adventure. Often our trips have taken a year to plan and prepare for. They first start off by studying the area, the cultures both past and present. Understanding some of the language and the historical notes that have made a difference in how we do things today. Seeing what interests each child and when you find it, start digging deeper and then, together study it out. This is when the fun begins and the trip is set.
On one of our trips was, as mentioned above, Italy. Others have included France, Germany, Switzerland, Honduras, Belize, China and Mexico, all multiple times, England, Canada, Spain, the Caribbean and nearly every state in the US. We have done all this with our children in tow and with the express purpose to educate and immerse them into the world around them. Our trip to Italy was probably by far our personal favorite because it was then that we really started to discover how best to travel with purpose and direction. Now before we go on, we want those who are thinking, “Well that’s nice but an average family could never afford to do vacations like this”, to get those notions out of their heads. We once thought this too until we discovered reality is what you make it. Most of these trips to Europe were with seven of us and were for a duration of three weeks and cost less than $3000.00, for everyone and everything including air. Most of our trips in the US were kept around $200.00 per person total including places like Hawaii. No, we didn’t sleep in the parks or even hostels. In fact we have slept in Marriott’s, Castles and in Italy we made a 600-year-old restored farmhouse, just outside of Florence in the Tuscan hills our base camp. The best part is that any family, any size on any income can travel the world this way, you just have to know the secrets and take the time and effort to plan… with your family!
The benefits however are worth any cost, the fact that we have been able to do this at minimal expense is just icing on the cake. As our children have grown they have developed a greater understanding of the world, the problems facing their generation and have been able to, for the most part they kept “unplugged” from the distractions facing most kids their age. Travel brings a greater sense of self with a better understanding and compassion for others less fortunate. It provides a greater gratitude for even the small things they have and opens their world to opportunities and erases perceived barriers others wish to portray.
We believe it is a direct correlation to the travels they have experienced that has been responsible for their being accepted at the ages of 15 and 16 to their University studies with full academic scholarships, for their love of the arts and their acceptance of cultures and differences in others. For these reasons and a host of others, travel in our opinion is essential in these difficult times for this next generation.
So the next time you think about a wonderful getaway as a couple with children turn that thought into traveling with your children and immerse your family into this incredible, wonderful world.
*Originally posted 5/2011