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?