“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.)
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.
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.
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.
By 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 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 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.Grandpa 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 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?