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Two years ago my husband and I decided to make family travel apart of our parenting style. Although we knew traveling with toddlers wouldn’t be easy, we jumped with excitement at the idea. As a result of our decision, traveling has become an essential part of our lives.
It was during our first trips abroad to Bangkok and Phuket that I realized how ambitious this goal was. Family travel can be overwhelming; however, that makes it all the more rewarding. Exposure to other cultures not only enriches my children’s lives, but it also strengthens my role as a mother. I believe sharing “5 ways family travel made me a better mom” is essential to providing moms with a real insight into this lifestyle.
1. Enhanced Communication Skills
“Traveling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” ― Ibn BattutaThe Travels of Ibn Battutah Quotes
New experiences like flavors, sounds, and sensations mean I have to find ways to describe it all to my family. By introducing my kids to new words and gestures, we developed new methods of communication. Different communication methods make it possible for us to learn about new cultures while strengthening their growing vocabulary.
One of my proudest achievements in parenthood thus far, is hearing my three-year-old recant her day volunteering at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. Listening to how well she describes her interactions with the elephants truly solidifies the impact these moments will have on her life. Knowing that my family can express ourselves through the skills we’ve developed while traveling reinforces our decision.
2. Heightened Sense of Self-Awareness
Someone once said “you only have 18 summers with your kids,” and I’ve never been able to forget that. To me, that quote is a reminder to be present and available to my children. Those eighteen summers give me the opportunity to learn more about myself and my family.
According to a recent study published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes journal, traveling abroad causes a person to reflect more on himself as they confront the differences of a culture a new location. Also, traveling far from home can bring the traveler closer to themselves, leading to significant implications regarding decision making.
Connecting with my children is the primary factor of our decision to travel. Self-awareness is critical because it is easy to get swept up in the things around us. Traveling causes me to take a step back and focus on cues from my children that I hadn’t recognized before in our daily lives at home.
3. Gaining a New Parenting Perspective
Parenting is not simple by any measure. I am grateful for the opportunity to raise my daughters in a clean and healthy environment. Traveling to less developed countries reminds me of how fortunate we are. It is in these moments that I see the value of teaching my children compassion and empathy.
Keeping my children clothed, warm and fed seem like easy tasks when everything I need is within my means. Witnessing other adults confront these same challenges with fewer resources, puts the simplicities in my life into perspective.
4. Patience Development
You may have heard the old saying, “Patience is a virtue.” Well, when traveling with kids, patience is a necessity. Traveling with little ones is overwhelming, and the potential for a meltdown is always evident. I still find that my patience is tested every step of the way. Though I consider myself somewhat of an “expert traveler,” I am not exempt from the stresses of traveling.
I never realized how much waiting was involved with traveling. Buses run late, flights get delayed and in some cultures, slow is just the normal pace. While I simply learned to accept what I can’t speed up, my children are another story. Little kids live by their own terms. When they’re tired, they want to sleep. While they’re hungry, they want to eat. If something prevents them from doing so, things can get ugly. Traveling gets in the way of normal schedules and idle time can sometimes lead to restlessness.
When we began traveling as a family, delays used to stress me out. I’d get anxious and worried that my kids would do something to disrupt everyone around us. But over time I learned to go with the punches and use delays as a way to connect with family. I’ve accepted that fact that tantrums will happen, potty accidents will occur, and a disgruntled passenger will roll their eyes. Luckily, learning to be patient is a skill that develops over time. Travel provides us with ample opportunities to do so. I like to think of patience as a muscle, and traveling as a type of CrossFit!
5. Learning to Let Them Go
One of the hardest challenges I face as a parent is learning when to loosen the proverbial leash. While I want my children to be safe, I regretfully understand, that I cannot keep them covered in bubble wrap.
Everything from stomach viruses to walking across a busy street opens a pandora’s box of dangers. I am continually learning how to find the right balance of free-range and helicopter parenting styles while away from home. Traveling with my kids teaches me the value in letting them be free at a safe distance. Regardless of their ages; I want my kids to be able to get the most out of every excursion we take. With every trip abroad, I grow more comfortable with letting them explore and create adventures on their own.
It’s all worth it
I am confident that traveling affords each of us new applicable attributes to apply throughout our everyday lives, which is why
Two things change our lives forever: parenthood and traveling. Parenthood turns us into selfless leaders and to guide with love and logic. Travel teaches us that we are not alone in the world and connects us to other cultures. Now, parenting while traveling gives us an entirely different lens to view the world through. If we threw away our passports and never stepped foot on another airplane again, I would not fret over it because family travel has already afforded me so much.