8 Lessons Children Will Learn From Traveling Abroad
by Jenn Bodnar | August 28, 2016 6:35 pm
Entitled. Over scheduled. Coddled. Micromanaged. Stressed. Just some of the words that describe kids today. With lawsuits and liabilities lurking at every corner, it’s a wonder they leave the house even as little as they do. Excessive rules and expectations are boxing children in more than ever before.
The problem is life is not a one size fits all. There are some things you simply cannot learn from a book, blog or pictures… .nor in the comforts of home. Life must be experienced and if you are limiting your child’s exposure to other countries and communities, you may be hindering their growth in a very big way.
While recently traveling on the Discover Corps Sea Turtle Conservation mission in Costa Rica, our group concluded that travel abroad should be included in all grade school curriculum. Traveling abroad with your children can strengthen bonds between all family members. Here are just a few valuable lessons to be learned:
1. Trust. Most children (pretty much when they reach speaking age) begin to doubt you, or at least question everything. Removing your child from the comforts and confines of home will immediately reinforce their need for you to advocate for them. Hello customs, immigration and foreign language. Many countries feel like “the rules are, there are no rules.” No seat belt, no problem! At first it can be exciting, but at some point kids need you to be accountable when those unfamiliar situations escalate. They know you have their back in these more lax settings.
2. Acceptance. Out of bounds evens out the playing field. Your child is not “popular” or “scholastic” in a foreign country. No matter who they are surrounded by (or not surrounded by) they will have a much greater appreciation for their new reality. They learn to accept where they are and who they’re with. The people, the food and the activities will ultimately be treated with respect and importance as there simply is not as many options in other areas of the world.
There is not another country in our world consuming more than America. Most people in the world do not have unlimited hot water, 24 hour fast food or even internet available. You will be amazed what your children do to pass the time when you remove everyday conveniences from their life. They might play cards or play in the ocean waves.…for hours. Maybe they take time to learn about a new person or new endangered species
. They will learn to appreciate the little, more simple things.
4. Enlightenment. Whether they try a new experience or a new food, without all the distractions and influences of home, they may learn something about themselves. They might discover they love jackfruit or they really enjoy the sense of achievement when they catch a fish. Traveling gives you a basic reset. This creates clarity and awareness often missed in the hectic “go” mode on the home front.
Whether you’re in a small rural town or hotel, traveling with a group
or even participating in small tours, your children will meet people who are different. They will meet people from different places, people who are different from their friends and family and of course the locals will likely be much different from what they are used to. Because it’s secluded, they will learn to connect and rely on this temporary tribe. Soon they will notice similarities among everyone. We are all connected!
6. Moderation. There is no greater consumer than the U.S. Citizen. Pretty much everywhere else in the world consumes less (of everything) than America. Things like hot water, paper towels, ice and food are treated with much greater regard. Travel provides a needed break from instant gratification. Less is more!
7. Patience. When I think of time in other countries compared to time in the United States I’m reminded of the sloth, “Flash” in the animated movie “Zootopia.” Everything takes a little bit longer. People walk more and take their time. Many services and businesses are not available after certain hours and you simply have to wait until the next day for many things.
8. Courage. The unknown can be scary. Change can be difficult. Traveling forces you to adapt. Different time zones, routines and practices get you out of your comfort zone. Overcoming fear is a huge lesson to be learned over a life time. Children will be encouraged to break out of their shells, seek and explore!
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