Travel can be very rewarding. From tasting new foods and seeing other cultures to immersing yourself in new experiences and learning to adapt, the entire process of taking yourself outside your comfort zone can teach so much to people of all ages. For kids, travel is just as rich and rewarding of an experience and a huge reason why Worldschooling has become a popular way to educate children.
I wouldn’t recommend the lifestyle we live for every family. It’s a lot of work. The pace we travel at and the comforts we go without are a lot of stress on a family. However, I do recommend finding a way to put your life on hold and travel for six months.
While traveling, there are many moments of bliss, but they are usually sandwiched between large doses of uncomfortableness and endurance.
For our first trip through Europe, these stresses came in the form of putting up with the smell of the toilet cartridge which constantly needs to be dumped, having to wait five days to shower, and limiting the amount of food consumed at each meal in order to stay in our tight budget.
The values and lessons that they learned in the two months we lived out of a tent and four months out of a 22-foot RV were way more valuable than what they would’ve been taught sitting behind a desk in a classroom.
These are my ten favorite lessons that I saw my kids learn over the course of our very first six month road trip through Europe and a few recommendations that you can do as a parent to make travel a richer and more educational experience for your kids too.
What My Kids Learned from 6 Months of Travel
1 | Communication
I have shy kids, but by the end, my oldest three kids would walk into a grocery store or restaurant and communicate with eye contact what they needed to people who most often did not speak English. I think it helped seeing me struggle communicating in some countries that it helped them realize you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to try.
Parenting tip: Let your kids see you try and fail often. And make sure they also see the times when you succeed 😉
Related blog – Why I’m Raising my Kids to be Dirtbags
2 | Mindfulness
While I don’t make my kids all sit in a circle and meditate or hold hands and chant, there are plenty of quiet times for reflection over the course of our journeys.
Through the questions they asked and conversations they have with each other, I know they are spending a lot of time contemplating what’s important to them and what they want from their own lives.
Parenting tip: Ask your kids hard questions and let them develop their own opinions.
3 | Persistence
This one is my favorite lesson because we all find ourselves wanting to quit something at sometime in our lives.
- By finishing a 12 mile hike
- Or dropping in on a wave that was well overhead and beating five other surfers in a paddle battle to get it
- Or finishing a climb when you really wanted to just leave your last piece of gear on the wall and give up
You learn the value and the satisfaction that finishing a physical challenge brings and the sense of accomlishment that comes with it.
Parenting tip: Make sure you throw in some physical challenges on your travels
You don’t want your kids thinking life is all about eating and rewards, do you?
Related: Why Challenge is Important in Life
4. Appreciation for Nature
Sure you could sit in a classroom and watch a Discovery Channel movie in HD and think you know nature but it will never compare to experiencing it first hand.
- To paddle out into the icy oceans of Ireland and Scotland.
- To compare rock formations around the globe while searching for your next handhold.
- To stand in the middle of the Dolomites while a thunderstorm rolls in above you.
- To hike past Eiger mountain and look down on the tiny village of Grimsel while listening to avalanches crash down from the glaciers across the river bed.
- To sleep under the clearest of nights full of stars under a castle ruin.
From the fjords in Norway, to the alpine plains of Denali, to the sun setting over the islands of Croatia, kids who have traveled can tell you we live on one gorgeous planet.
Parenting tip: Always practice “Leave No Trace” to keep our nature beautiful
Related: Seeing is Believing (Gabi’s experience watching the Great American Eclipse of 2017)
We are taught to beware of strangers but when you travel you have to do so with a sharp mind and an open heart because at some point you will need the help of a stranger.
The crazy thing is, the more you ask for help, the more you realize just how kind and giving most of the world is.
Parenting Tip: Don’t always be protective
Teach your kids how to assess situations and give them opportunities to figure things out.
Related: How to Let Karma Into Your Life
6. Where Your Food Comes From Matters
Everywhere we’ve traveled abroad—Europe, Costa Rica, New Zealand, and Bali—there are cows and sheep all around you, but if you live in the States, you rarely see cows. Maybe in a feed lot but rarely in an actual meadow.
We have seen a lot of cows in our travels. All cows are not the same. Nicaraguan cows are the skinniest cows you will ever see. Scottish cows are the stalkiest and most muscular. Swiss cows are tall and elegant looking. Irish and English cows are stout and beefy.
The point is that while we travel, we are always close to the food we are eating. It’s rarely being shipped hundreds or thousands of miles.
I love that my kids have grown to appreciate and ask for locally grown food and we all miss seeing cows and sheep surrounding towns.
Parenting tip: Shop local
By shopping at local farmer’s markets when you travel, especially the ones in smaller villages, you can teach your kids more about how much love goes into making high quality food.
We had a budget of €150 a day for all our food, gas, and camping expense. The kids were very involved in how we spent that.
If we free camped that meant no showers or electricity but then we could go out to eat. If we ate mostly vegetables for our meals we had more money for splurges like gelato.
Parenting Tip: Make your kids budget
Try giving yor kids a travel budget or let them be in charge of keeping track of expenses during your travels.
8. History and Architecture
We walked through a lot of old towns, explored dozens of castles, and took pictures of too many churches to keep track of.
They may not be able to tell you the chronological order of the kings of England, but they can tell you how cold the castle floors were, how intricate the sculptures are in the Duomo’s of Italy, and how slippery cobblestone roads are now from so many hundreds of years of use.
Knowing the smell and feel of history is again, priceless.
Parenting tip: It’s not about the facts
Remember, we live in an age of technology, memorizing facts isn’t nearly as important as being able to analyze and think dynamically.
Related: 6 Castles You Must See in Europe
9. Value of Technology and Applicable Researching Skills
I can’t believe how lucky we are to travel today with smart phones. My kids spend hours researching
- The best hikes and climbs to do,
- Top attractions in the cities we visit,
- Which campground to stay at,
- When the next swell will hit our next surfing destination,
- And keeping an eye on the forecast in hopes of avoiding the rain that seems to constantly be chasing us regardless where we are in Europe.
Research skills are incredibly valuable nowadays and can be applied to whatever career path they choose.
Parenting tip: Make your kids plan part of your travel.
My now 18 year old planned over half our trip to Europe when she was only 15. I’m sure that played a huge part in how she became a professional travel blogger at 18 🙂
Related – Manifesting Your Purpose in Life
10. Life is fleeting
When every day is the same routine, we often let weeks and month go by unnoticed. But when you are waking up to something new every day, your days start to stack up differently and all of a sudden you realize the value of making each day special.
I hear my kids constantly saying, “That feels so long ago.”
Hiking to the edge of Molden and staring down on the turquoise still waters of the Songfjord leaves quite an impression on your mind and soul, but when the memory starts getting mixed in with a hundred other awe-inspiring moments they may start to blend together.
Parenting tip: Slow down.
Adventure takes time and shouldn’t be saved for special occasions. You can make every day feel like an adventure by blocking out time in your day to experience new sights, sounds, and activities (and this doens’t have to be expensive either).
Related – Tips on How to Live “The Good Life”
So with all these lessons and experiences, you may be asking, “Have you made them jaded?” People will say to me, “You’ve shown them the whole world. What do they have to look forward to now?”
True, I’ve shown them the world, now what do they have to look forward to?
Well, we skipped Rome, we didn’t get to do a Via Ferrata (though it’s been 1 year since I first published this and we know have done a Via Ferrata), we didn’t climb Ceuse or Verdon Gorge, we missed all of Austria and most of Spain, we didn’t spend nearly enough time in the Dolomites (& that’s just Western Europe). We still have barely touched on many parts of Washington and Utah, and then there’s the whole east coast of the US. Plus we’ve never been to Africa or Australia or most of Asia. You get the point.
I’ve only shown them the tip of the iceberg and my goal wasn’t for them to see it all.
I really just hope it inspires them.
- I hope it inspires them to seek out their dreams and search for their own meaning of life.
- I hope it inspires them to find the good in the world and to fight to protect the oceans, mountains, forests, and all our natural resources.
- I hope it inspires them to take the road less traveled even if it means they may be uncomfortable some days but in the end, it takes them to their version of happiness.