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Travel with kids

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I never really realised how unique my family was, until 2 teenagers told me how fascinating they found us. I have a German passport but was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and South African/German father. My Italian husband, who was born in Switzerland has both British and Swiss passports. My children, born in Switzerland have Swiss and German passports. And we live in a small village in Italy… How we travel constantly with our young children. That is 2 teenagers, the next generation, looking at my situation and thinking how fascinating our lifestyle is.

Then recently a friend raised an interesting question - why I had this constant eagerness to drag my young kids around the world. At first I became very defensive because I felt I was being judged, and as a mother of 2 young children, I'm already constantly questioning my own parenting skills. But then after much thought, and remembering my own upbringing, I feel that what I am doing benefits my children and prepares them for the future because I am fortunate enough to be able to make the world their oyster!

My diverse multi-cultural background already set the foundation for my instinct to want to see more, do more, and learn more outside of my own domain, which was beneficial and allowed me to be able to adapt so quickly, even when I went to boarding school in a totally different country. My parents made sure we travelled consistently and exposed us to different cultures.

Everyone wants to go somewhere new. But not everyone can do it or desires to do it with 2 toddlers. Many may think I'm crazy, or nuts, for travelling as often as I do with my children. And you know what - there are times when I am sitting on the plane with my 2 year old screaming down the aisle and other passengers looking at me with judgemental eyes, that I also start to question, am I doing the right thing? And then I see my daughter's face light up when she sees a rhino on safari in Africa, and to this day still carries her stuffed rhino around. Or I see the excitement and fascination in their eyes, when we walk through a night market in Taiwan, and all the questions they ask me about the different types of food they see…

Children between the ages of 1 and 5 are human sponges. They take in all their surroundings, then they mimic what they see, this is how children learn. They are highly influenced at this stage. And who are the most influential people in your children's life? Of course, the parents! What children are exposed to and the experiences they have at this age, sets a precedence for their compassion for others and their outlook on life and really how they view the world. There are many adults who can't see past their own neighbourhood, and don't want to know what else is happening outside their own safety zone. And then there are others that are always questioning and always wanting to know more, and see more, and experience more.

Yes, my children travel a lot. And they might not remember every country we've been to, or every town. But what I AM beginning to see in my children… They are colour-blind. They do not see race, they do not see religion. They know that people are different, but they think that's normal. And because of the exposure to so many different cultures and languages, they understand that not everyone speaks English, or Italian, or Japanese… But they are not scared of it, they just accept it, and they are curious about the different languages that they hear.

I understand that traveling financially can be very limiting. And don't get me wrong, it's not like I have unlimited resources, but I have learnt to budget and plan. We don't stay in expensive hotels when we travel, we always stay in Airbnb's and sometimes at friends houses. I like staying in Airbnb's (read my blog about this here http://www.mikinava.com/?p=1285), it allows us to live like locals. I don't expose my kids to 5 star hotel services where someone comes to clean our room everyday and order room service. We stay in an apartment, go grocery shopping, make our own food at 'home'… Of course we go out once in a while but on average we eat at home.

Just to clear up any misconceptions people may have. We are not always on holiday. We travel because my husband travels 70% of the time for work. We want to maintain the family unit as much as possible. We are fortunate enough to be able to travel with him. In fact it's a win-win situation. We get to travel, the kids get to spend more time with their father, and they learn about different cultures along the way. This will all end when school starts in 2 years time. So for now we are going to take advantage of every opportunity that we can to spend time as a family while educating our children in an adventurous way.

Simply, traveling with kids is based on ones limitations. We do what we feel we are capable of doing, or what we think is right for our children and for ourselves. Traveling with my kids is within my limitation. Why? Because that's what I know. I know how to travel. And I love to travel with my kids, so will continue to do so as long as I can!

What are your limitations? Do you like traveling with your kids?  Do you think traveling has a positive effect on kids?

12 comments

Mar 27, 2017 • Posted by Tiffany

Great blog – So great to travel with kids! And give them that exposure. Twins had been to 7 countries by the time they were two. X

Mar 27, 2017 • Posted by Monique Mass

Totally wonderful! To many more adventures! ?

Mar 27, 2017 • Posted by Maily

Great blog!! The girls are benefiting from being exposed to so many different cultures!

Mar 27, 2017 • Posted by Eman

Great blog miki … Keep traveling with u beautiful girls and let them exploare the world ❤️❤️

Mar 27, 2017 • Posted by Miki Nava

Thanks Tinnie for your stories, love that you travelled with a 14month old baby by bike! Will be in Stellenbosch in December, hope to see you!

Mar 27, 2017 • Posted by "Tinie Muller

Dear Miki!
So nice to read your stories and thoughts! Would love to see you should you visit Stellenbosch again!
I also had my child fairly late in life. By then my husband and I have had a few very exciting adventures. So now we had to prove to ourselves and the world that this new addition to our family is not going to change our way of life! Ha ha!
Two years before he was born, we went cycling through Madagascar; the year before his birth we did France on bicycles. So where to with a 14 month old baby?! We settled on Holland, thinking that they are bicycle friendly. They were, but nothing prepared us for travelling by bike with a 14 month boy!! The worst was that he would be peacefully asleep at the back of my bicycle while we were peddling along ….. just to be full of beans once we arrive at a campsite! I remember one morning in Utrecht when we actually dozed off again after he had got up …. and woke to the sight of our son in his wet babygrow with a flock of geese following in his footsteps! We admitted to ourselves that it was an experience and not a holiday!
In 2010 we took advantage of the long winter holidays in South Africa and the three of us went cycling though France and Italy. He was 16 then and learned everything he needed to know. It was a far more relaxing holiday that 16 years before!
This year he did holiday work in Germany. Once that was completed he climbed on a bicycle and toured the northern coast of Germany and crossed over to Denmark. I am convinced that he would not have been able to do this on his own if he didn’t have the experiences he had when he was young.
So, in summary: go out and do with your kids as much as possible and as many crazy things as you can!! I realize that school terms will put a damper on your travels, but remember the old saying: "Never let going to school interfere with your education!!

Mar 27, 2017 • Posted by Miki Nava

Thank you Linda for your message, happy to hear that my mother is promoting my site;) I loved reading your response and happy to know that other people feel the same about exposing children to the world, at a young age. I like very much your suggestion on 3 wishes from each person! Thank you:)

Mar 27, 2017 • Posted by Linda Lynes Groetzinger

At age 70, I’ve started to write a memoir, focused on “how I came to love cross-cultural experience”. When I entered George School in Pennsylvania, I had lived in 18 homes, and attended 11 schools before high school! Meeting and getting to know your mother (who encouraged me to read your blog!) in high school features prominently in an early chapter. Many years later, when eating in a restaurant in Mexico, our 5 year old daughter overheard some (presumably American) college girls at a nearby table say, "Why can’t these Mexicans cook chicken “right”?!; she exclaimed to us: , “If they don’t want to enjoy something new, why do they come to Mexico?” So some of the credit for our raising her to be a now 33 year old student and educator of teachers of multicultural students, goes, through me, to your lovely mother! Which is to say, traveling when young is very powerful and important. — For the later years, when each family member’s interest differed, we developed an agreement which I recommend: each person lists their top three wishes for the trip (such as, surfing, hanging out at a bar, exploring the shops, sleeping late, dinner with a local family, a long walk, whatever) - and everyone promises the others that at least one, if not all, of each person’s wishes, will be made possible. - Getting enough sleep (even on suitcases!) helps a lot.

Mar 27, 2017 • Posted by Mari

I love this! So insightful and your girls are blessed for seeing the world at such a young age!

Mar 27, 2017 • Posted by Johanna Sargeant

Such a great post, really interesting to read your insights! This, to be honest, is kind of what I had envisioned life to be like for me living in Switzerland with two little kids, but my eldest had other ideas. He is so incredibly sensitive and overwhelmed by … well find me something he isn’t overwhelmed by! So now we have to readjust everything and find our new version of normal and ‘doable’. It looks great, though — you’re doing a great thing!

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