Why travel with young kids? After all, they won’t remember it.

reading“I never bother to read to my kids because they won’t remember it.”

“Why would I bother to play with blocks with my child? He won’t remember it when he’s older.”

“I certainly wouldn’t bother taking little Joey to the supermarket. Why would I? He won’t remember it anyway.”

I don’t think anybody would actually say those things, and yet I hear this all the time:

“Why travel with your children? They won’t remember it.”

Why bother? Only about a million reasons. Or maybe 85 billion is a better answer. (That’s how many brain cells your child has.)

sphinx

Why do we do anything with a small baby? Why do we rock him and cuddle him? Why do we change his diapers and put clean clothes on him?

We do all that so that he will grow up knowing he’s loved and cared for. Will he remember the hundreds of times we changed his diaper? If your child is anything like my sons, the answer is no. And yet we do it anyway – because we know how important it is.

It’s important that our child feel secure and loved when he’s one year old. That feeling of security will affect what risks he’s willing to take when he’s two. And after taking those risks at two years of age, he’ll feel confident to tackle new challenges at three.

There is no question that a feeling of being loved and taken care of allows children to reach higher, to attempt new things, and to trust in themselves.

Even if they don’t remember it.

ethiopia

We take our children shopping with us when they are toddlers so they aren’t nightmares when they’re older.

We play with our children to help them develop coordination and spatial awareness.

We read to them so they develop a love of story that will be with them forever.

Our children don’t remember doing those things with us, but the benefits last a lifetime.

And the benefits of travel as a young child will last a lifetime as well.

What children do and see and learn when they are two impacts how they perceive what they do, see, and learn when they are three. And that will impact what happens when they are 4. Although they might not remember it when they are 15 or 20, the impact is there anyway.

My sons went to Kenya when they were two years old and they were able to feed giraffes from a platform there. They LOVED it!

When they were three, we traveled to Thailand. “Can we feed giraffes?” Daryl asked. Although we couldn’t find giraffes to feed, he was thrilled to feed elephants and an orangutan – a desire directly linked to the giraffes he had fed earlier.

elephant

Daryl’s experiences feeding animals when he was three contributed to his comfort around animals when he was four. He loved being around sheep and cows and any other animal he could find.

riding a cowBy the time my sons were six, they no longer remembered feeding giraffes from the platform, but we knew that experience drove the way they thought and acted when they were three. And that affected what happened when they were four.

If we can give our children unique experiences with various cultures, foods, languages, and religions, they will grow up accepting that as normal. The fear that so permeates American society will be tempered by personal experiences. And that can’t be anything but a good thing.

All of those varied experiences that kids have perform together in their brain to create a mystical dance that will be unique to that individual person. We will never know exactly what impact any individual experience has on our children, but we CAN know that it will have an impact.

leigh and lilaLeigh Shulman, founder of Cloudhead, an art & technology NGO dedicated to educating and inspiring change through collaboration, tells this story about her daughter Lila: My daughter Lila was two years old when my husband Noah and I made the choice to leave our home and life in Brooklyn and explore the world. We traveled non-stop for three years. I didn’t make the choice to travel because I wanted to create lasting memories Lila will hold onto for a lifetime. That’s a Disney tagline.

We traveled, because it made the most sense for our family taking all family members into account.

What did Lila get from travel? She met new people, tried new foods, saw animals, landmarks, and places most kids only read about or see on television. The world became her classroom, and that forms the core of who she is today.

Will she remember it? At first, she remembered every single detail. Many things, I didn’t remember until she reminded me. Now, some things are a blur, but I see the impact travel has made on her as a person. She’s more open to people, open to differences in food, place and culture. Mostly, though, she’s extremely adaptable and a natural traveler. We just got back from 3 weeks traveling and volunteering in Bolivia, just me and Lila. I was so impressed by her. She is so independent, confident and mature.

 

melani roeweMelani Besler Roewe, a traveler, teacher, author, composer, philosopher, wanderer, artist, musician, wife, mother, dreamer, goalsetter and goal achiever put it this way:

Travel is beneficial in so many ways, but especially for children. It opens their eyes and minds to the wonderful diversity of cultures, flora, and fauna on the planet.

I was reared on military bases around the world. Dad also had his pilot’s license, and on weekends would rent a twin-engine from the local Aero Club and we would island-hop or visit other destinations depending upon our starting point. Whenever he was received transfer orders, the family would travel “the long way ’round” to get there in order to take advantage of seeing as many different locales as possible.

The folks would also invite over for dinner a family from dad’s squadron who had recently returned from wherever we were being transferred. They would bring their photo slides or 8/16mm home movies and tell stories about life in the destination and we would become not only informed, but so excited we couldn’t wait to get there!

Growing up, I never knew that prejudice existed. My friends and classmates were children of ethnically diverse blended marriages. Some were native residents of the locations. It was not unusual to know someone who was Greek-Mexican, Polynesian-AfricanAmerican, Puerto Rican, Samoan, German-Spanish, etc. It made no difference to any of us from where our bloodlines derived. We didn’t even know to wonder about it!

I encountered prejudice and bigotry in its fullness only when returning to the United States upon my dad’s retirement from the military when I was 16. For the first time in my life, I met with forced bussing, schools only recently integrated, and strong views on which were the “right” or “wrong” sides of town. Incredible, sad, and frightening.

Eventually, I became a teacher, and I can definitely say that exposure to travel influenced my career choice. I left the classroom after 20 years to begin a travel career designing custom vacations for individuals and groups.

 

Billie Frank, a freelance travel, food and features writer based in Santa Fe New Mexico, and blogger at Santa Fe Travelers said:  Our son, now 38, remembers an experience he had when he was four. We were on Cape Bretton in Nova Scotia and we took a walk in the woods. My husband told him if he sat there and didn’t make a sound, he might be able to see a wild animal. He sat there silently and got rewarded. A HUGE snowshoe hare hopped by about 5 feet of so from where we sat. He called it the “woods trick,” and to this day, remembers it fondly.

 

Freelance writer, cultural anthropologist and instructional designer Justine Ickes, who specializes in international education, travel and cultural exploration tells this story of how her travels got started:  Long before I ever set foot abroad, I was already a traveler of the mind, thanks to my grandpa’s View-Master.If you grew up in the 60s, you too probably had one of those red plastic stereoscopes, plus the cardboard disks of 3D photos.viewmasterGrandpa had a large collection of reels with titles like “Tulip Time in Holland” and “Africa – Cairo to Capetown”.

On sticky insufferably hot summer days, we’d blast the air-conditioning and marvel at the sights.The forests of giant sequoias in California. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. “The Seven Wonders of the World”.

And the names?! Kathmandu. Samarkand. Barcelona.Each was so evocative – magical, even. I was only a toddler but I was hooked.

Years later, when I was living in Madrid and traveling the world with the Peace Corps, I realized what those mind travels taught me – The familiar in the unknown. The power of imagination. The beauty in wandering.Sadly, Kodak discontinued the iconic red View-Master a few years back, opting instead for newer pop culture-inspired models like Dora the Explorer or Nascar.

But that hasn’t dampened my memories of my stereoscopic travels with Grandpa. Or my wanderlust for sites and cultures unseen.

 

Another friend, Lisa Lux, explains the importance of traveling while young like this:  I came from a very large family with very limited income. Regardless, every summer my mother would pack up the family van and hit the road, while my father stayed home on the mountain for a month. My mother had an extremely adventuresome nature, my father was a homebody. They found a way to respect each other’s’ differences and satisfy their needs; my mother’s wanderlust/ my father’s need for quiet and reflection.In order to fund the ‘adventure’, my mother used all sorts of ways to get to where she wanted to take us, we would help a local church with landscaping then get the run of the church that night, or camp in yards of friends, or volunteer and make new friends to have dinner with. And, the list goes on.

Here is what stayed with me: an unconventional nature, my wanderlust that never seems to be satisfied, and resourcefulness; I never let lack of funds stand in my way when I want to do something. I’m not sure I’d have those qualities if it weren’t for all the traveling I became addicted to as a child.

 

Freelance writer Theodora Sutcliffe has been traveling the world with her son, Zac, since he was a few months old, and living nomadically since he was nine. – All childhood experiences shape the people we become, not only those we can consciously remember. No one would ever say, ‘Why cook that meal for that child? They’ll never remember it as an adult.’ So, why use that same argument against travel? Young children experience travel differently from older ones, and babies won’t remember it at all. That doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.

 

Annie AndreAnnie Andre, another world-traveling mama, is convinced her travels as a youngster have had a dramatic effect on her adult life: I was born in northern Thailand in a city called Udon Thani. (My father was French Canadian and my mother was Thai). I spent the first five years of my life in Asia until we moved to San Jose California where I learned English and began to integrate into American life.

I can’t prove it and I know it sounds impossible because I was so young when I lived in Asia but I think being exposed from an early age to multiple cultures shaped me and opened my mind in ways that it could not have been opened had my parents raised me in a protective bubble say just the US or Canada.

By the time I was 10, I noticed that I was different than other kids. I had a wider set of interests than my American and Canadian counterparts. I wanted to learn Chinese, Japanese and I dreamed of having a job that would allow me to interact with different people from different cultures. Food wise, I loved eating spicy Kim chee and Bok Choy just as much as Nutella or roast beef. Contemporary music was fun to listen to but I also enjoyed Chinese pop music. I felt more at home when we went away for the summer to Taiwan or even to Quebec to see my Aunt and cousins. Like I said, I can’t prove it but I think once your mind is stretched and challenged to different ways of doing, being and living, you forever have that need to keep stretching your mind.

Other bloggers are writing about this same topic as well! Check out these posts about how much kids learn from travel:

Catherine et les fées: Travel Memories

Living Outside of the Box: But will our kids remember?

Break Out of Bushwick: Why travel isn’t wasted on kids

Flashpacker Family: Is traveling with young kids worth it?

Edventure Project: Why travel is not wasted on the very young

Living Differently: The gift of travel

Portable Professionals: Why I don’t care if my child remembers our travels

Barts go Adventuring: Will kids remember travel? Is it worth it?

Where’s Sharon: Why travel when your kids are too young to remember it?

Raising Miro on the Road of Life: Do you doubt that travel has value?

Adventure Bee: Traveling with young kids who “don’t remember”

TravellersPoint: Selective Memory – What will they remember?

We Travel Countries: Why travel with they won’t remember it? Experience vs Memory

Simon Says: The world is my playground

Bohemian Travelers: Is Traveling With Young Kids Worth It?

The Expat Experiment: Why Travel When Mak Won’t Remember?

 

 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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29 Responses to Why travel with young kids? After all, they won’t remember it.

  1. Melissa Banigan May 28, 2013 at 7:08 am #

    I’ve used some of the same examples on my post about this subject, reading, particularly. “Kids won’t remember travel…” Yeah, and my mom reading to me as a kid didn’t shape my future as a writer/editor. Haha!

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  2. Spramani May 28, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    Great article, I’m a home school mom and have seen all the benefits with my kids. Thank you for your blog post. Keep enjoying life!

    Spramani Elaun

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  3. Leigh May 28, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    Well said!

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  4. Leigh May 28, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    Thanks for including us in this, Nancy. It’s great to read what other parents do and how they approach this as well. LOVE the comment above about reading to kids. Such a good point. We don’t do things with our kids in early life so they will remember it. We do things to give them experiences that shape them.

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  5. Kiera @easytravelmom May 28, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    I couldn’t agree more! Traveling with kids is so important, even when young. My daughter is 3 and she has been on more than 20 flights, to several states, and we just recently got her a passport. No trip planned yet but we want to be prepared as it’s coming soon. She may not “remember” the actual trip but she will learn and develop based on travel… just like I did.

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  6. Tazzieval May 28, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    Our son still remembers his travels around New Zealand in the ‘house on wheels’ when he was a 3 year old. He has been back-packed and carried with us since he was born, and absorbed so much into his inherent knowledge, ANYTHING you do with your kids is invaluable. They are an extension of your living not a part to be set aside for convenience and retrieved later.

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  7. Charu May 28, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    I think you’re going to find the naysayers and the people who say yes. As you have done–do it for YOUR kids. I am certainly doing this for Erika. I really don’t give a hoot what others say or think, it helps her. She has already learned a ton in ten months. I do think this post is awesome, but I also think that there are too many families saying “oh my god what are they thinking.” The truth is, parenting is very very personal and I am glad that I am doing what’s best for my kid. If it works for others–then great! I’m very glad my parents took me all around the world when I was a baby.

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  8. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family May 28, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    I agree! Whatever you do with and for your children will impact on them later in life, no matter if they remember it or not.

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  9. Annie André May 28, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more with you. I also use the same argument as you. Would you NOT read to your child or hold them just because they won’t remember? Hell no. The experiences pave the way for other experiences which ultimately shape our children..
    Just tonight, my little five year old Catherine was looking at photos of herself travelling as a baby but could not remember. But just her knowing and seeing what she did even in photos has a profund affect on her.

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  10. Jenn Miller May 28, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Love it! As always, you and I are on the same page… great quotes from other travelers as well… so glad to call you my friend!

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  11. Mary May 28, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

    Great analogies Nancy! Travel is no different from any other gift we give our children!

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  12. Living Outside of the Box May 28, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

    It’s fun to read all of the examples you quoted! “That feeling of security will affect what risks he’s willing to take when he’s two. And after taking those risks at two years of age, he’ll feel confident to tackle new challenges at three.” I love how you reiterate that experiences at age 2 influence age 3, then age 4, etc. Every year is built upon the experiences of the prior…which is why we turned out to be such unique people—each one of us!!

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  13. Ann May 29, 2013 at 12:53 am #

    I agree! I’m actually shocked by how many traveling people without kids think it would be a waste to travel with kids because the kids won’t remember. To be honest, I barely remember all of my recent travels and I’m an adult. It’s not about remembering, though. Part of it is about myself. I love to travel and we share things we love with our kids. Soccer players, I’m pretty sure they play soccer with their kid before the kid really understands what they are doing. The other part, is of course, starting early with the thought that as they grow they’ll just get better at it and we’ll get better at it. I feel bad for those with older kids that are stressed about traveling with them because it’s so hard. Yes it is harder because they’ve never done it, but it’s not hard.

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  14. Wheres Sharon? (Sharon) May 29, 2013 at 4:10 am #

    so many great inspirational stories. I can’t wait to see all the ways that travel shapes my kids after reading all this :)

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  15. Kris May 29, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    I love reading about the perspectives of some of the other travelers as well. It’s funny that so many people can’t immediately recognize the benefits of travel for kids, whether short or long term, yet they shell out big bucks for yoga for their 3 year olds!!

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    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Kris, Very good point!! I’m not knocking yoga, but it’s ALL good for kids! Get them out there exploring.

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  16. Gabriel - We Travel and Blog May 29, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    I love your outlook on life and commend you for your amazing journey and future ones to come. Traveling with a full family, I imagine is not easy, or at least significantly more difficult than with just two people.

    Anyways, it’s definitely important to do all of those things, because as you stated, their experiences from 3 to 4 define them and so on throughout their whole life.

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    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Gabriel – We Travel and Blog, Yup – give our kids lots of experiences, then watch them bloom!

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  17. john@discoverydiscovery June 2, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    when I go travel with my kid..i know sometimes it’s hard…but my reason of having him with me is to make him familiar with the art of traveling…though I really know that he might not remember every detail of it..just show him pictures in case..:)

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    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @john@discoverydiscovery, It’s all about helping our children grow and develop. And travel helps them do that, even if they don’t remember it.

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  18. Sally@Toddlers on Tour June 8, 2013 at 10:23 pm #

    Great article.

    I had this discussion with a friend many years before kids. She didn’t take her young son with her often when travelling as he wouldn’t remember it her thought “my parents took me to Singapore and I don’t remember it – so what a waste”.

    I on the other hand had been taken travelling with my parents constantly from a young age. Whilst I don’t remember all the details, I know that we had a great time as a family and is fun to spend time together.

    This is why I travel with my young son whenever we can get away.

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    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Sally@Toddlers on Tour, I don’t get the whole emphasis on only doing things that the kids will remember. I know my sons don’t remember me changing their diapers or reading stories to them (while very young – they do remember the stories from their older days) but I did them anyway. We do those things because we know they are helping our children grow and develop.

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  19. Savi at Bruised Passports June 19, 2013 at 1:37 am #

    Great post. I think travel can open minds in a way that nothing else can- well-travelled kids are usually educated, tolerant, and wise beyond their years :-)

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  20. Marina June 20, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    thanks for this post, I am going to have a baby in a few months and love to travel, and I was worried.. until I read this.
    thanks!

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  21. Kirsty June 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Great post Nancy – there’s no telling the impact of all our choices and actions on kids, but there will be one. Loved all the pics of your boys too!

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  22. Javrose October 12, 2013 at 6:36 am #

    Kids have very strong childhood memories and they always remember good things. Moreover it will let them to learn new things.

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    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Javrose, Absolutely! Those memories are good things.

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  23. Janice Stringer May 17, 2014 at 11:14 am #

    They may not be consciously aware of it but they will carry it always in both their heart and soul.

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