By now, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about the new lifestyle trend, full time travel. Over the last few years, this form of long term travel has gone from being practically unheard of to a community of hundreds of people ditching their old lifestyle to have a taste of the dream…traveling the world with their loved ones, experiencing life, and making memories. Some people don’t stick with it long and commit to a single year but more often than not, people start and just can’t go back to their old lifestyle.
People of nearly all walks of life are taking to the roads and are off exploring the globe. There are vanlifing 20-somethings, budget travel families with newborns and pre-teens, RVing 50 year olds, and backpacking 30-somethings (not stereotyping here, just naming a few). Despite this, there is a shocking lack of travelers in one particular age group, teenagers.
I mean seriously, I’m 18 and over the past 4 years of full time traveling, I’ve met dozens of long term travelers. I’ve met families and young people and old people and despite that, there are never families that stick with it as their kids get older or more often, people aren’t willing to begin this lifestyle if their kids are older, as if it’s too late to make that big of a change in their kids’ childhood.
The reasons people don’t travel with teenagers is seemingly logical when it’s you whose trying to make that full time travel decision but it all comes down to one thing…fear.
I’m here to point out why you should rationalize those fear, say f*&k it, and just go live your dream. Chances are that if you’ve found your way to this article, you already have a sense that full time travel could be the thing you’ve always wanted out of your life: adventures, memories, and happiness.
In addition, if you haven’t noticed, this article is being written from the perspective of an 18 year girl who began traveling the world full time with her family at the age of 15. This blog is not made up of assumptions a parent is making about their child’s development, it’s firsthand experience.
Disclosure: Please note before you read this that while these things are totally honest reasons that people don’t travel full time with teens, they’re meant to be funny and comical. If questioning the status quo offends you, just stop reading now because I’m not beating around the bush.
Okay enough with the rambling let’s get into the 10 reasons why families don’t full time travel when their kids are teenagers…
1 | You Want Your Kids to be Just Like the Rest of the Teenage Population
School breeds clones. That’s a fact. Okay, maybe that’s dramatic but still kinda true.
It’s not that everyone looks the same, has the exact same interests, or has the same style, but more that everyone has been taught to think the same way. To never question the status quo, to do as others are doing (hint: that’s called peer pressure), to speak in a long series of internet trends, and chatter about the gossip (yes, even the boys do it).
Really, why would you want go and change that? If you let them follow that script you are guaranteed to get a child that fits in with all societal norms, is accepted by a friends group as they get older, and will never stand out.
On the other hand if you travel with your son or daughter and actually expose them to different cultures and different types of people with all sorts of different lifestyles, you could end up with a child who is self aware, unique, happy (not joyful, happy), independent, and stands out like a sore thumb because they’ve discovered exactly who they are deep down …yeesh *she says with a shiver* who’d want that?
2 | The School System Provides the Absolute Best Form of Education
Forget the fact that there’s a whole world out there full of people who actually know a little bit about life. I mean those $30/hour teachers pfftshhh, they know their shit. They got something other people don’t have: textbooks and a degree in teaching.
Textbooks really contain all you need to know to be educated in life. There’s really no point in learning life skills like adaptability, challenge, risk, and mature communication.
Get off your high horse and think about how much you yourself probably don’t even know about the world. Think about every single country and culture that exists and think about how each of these cultures has a slightly different perspective on life and the world. Think about how many things probably exist in the world that you don’t even know exist.
Life has an endless amount of lessons to teach us and by letting the world be your teacher, your son/daughter will acquired a unique array of lessons and skillset. Whether your teenagers decide to attend college or not, by the time your kids are ready to go out and get a job, the things they’ve learned from travel will be seen as far more valuable than their textbook education.
3 | The World is a Worthless Teacher
The quotes are wrong:
- “And then I realized, adventure is the best way to learn” – Unknown
- “There are lessons that you can’t get out of a book that are waiting for you at the other end of that flight” – Henry Rollins
- “Travel, it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller” – Ibn Battuta
Those were written by wise psychopaths who had it all wrong. What’s out there that you couldn’t learn from the safety of your home and school? What benefit could possibly come from facing discomfort, taking risks, being brave, and taking falls?
Doing crazy things, seeing mind blowing sights, facing mishaps, and failing teaches something that schools don’t include as a subject: self growth.
Self growth is my favorite subject because you never run out of curriculum. It keeps you on your toes and never stops delivering “Ah-ha!” moments.
If we live within a certain box of ideas and perspectives, our minds are constrained to only think in those terms and viewpoints. Seeing life from the other side of the world can expand your ideals and open up your mind to entirely new possibilities creatively, intellectually, and philosophically.
4 | Culture is Simply Meaningless
It surely doesn’t matter the traditions of the times before us. This is how the world functions now. All that matters is that you have a brief understanding of history, mostly so that you know the way it is now is far better.
Well here’s the thing, culture is history that you can see, taste, and smell. Culture can open your eyes to a whole new way of seeing the world around you.
Culture, not just history, is the roots of a tree, and from the past we’ve built this foundation of humankind and now the branches of time are growing in all directions in different countries creating new cultures and discoveries. Kids are the future they say and I believe in that. The broader our understanding of culture, the more innovative we can be with the future.
Culture is understanding the past to analyze your own future. Schools tell you that’s what history is for, “Learning from other’s mistakes” but I disagree because, except for the occasional history lover, most people don’t reflect on history and apply it to their own life, let alone remember anything the learned in history. Yeah maybe the dates that wars started and ended, but you don’t remember history like you do culture.
When you experience a culture, you remember how things looked, the smells that filled your senses, and most of all, the shocking moment where all of a sudden, everything clicks and a whole new chamber of your mind opens up to see a new way, a new perspective of the world.
Culture is time travel and all of a sudden, after experiencing a location yourself, you can see how the modern way’s traditions are incorporated and how history evolved the culture to where it is now…
(Was that too deep for a humor post?)
…yeah definitely not valuable at all, after all, that doesn’t help your kids score a 4.0 GPA on their high school history exams.
5 | Teenage Peers Teach Way Better Manners
…wow, I can’t believe you’re still reading.
This is crap compared to what I normally write but given that you’ve made it to this point in this meaningless blog post about raising kids, I’ll take it as a compliment that traveling as a teenager didn’t screw me up too bad.
The next reason people don’t decide to worldschool their kids is this common belief: I want my kids to be around kids their own age.
Well it’s fair. Teenagers do teach great drive, manners, work ethic, and expectations out of our actions. Take a look around. Can’t you see all the high school kids trying to pursue greater happiness, working hard to achieve their dream futures, living their passions, and forgetting about what other people are pressuring them to do.
This is not to say that ALL teenagers have bad manners, poor work ethic, and lack of future drive. And it’s totally fine to want your kids, or your kids to want, to be around people their own age. It’s fun to be around other teenagers that you get to just be young and dumb with.
The problem is that too often, people use the phrase “I only want my kids to hang out with other people their age.” I don’t really see how hanging out with adults has a negative affect on a teenager’s personality. By all means, peers are not always a bad influence, but they’re rarely a good influence.
The same goes for adults but the difference is, adults can teach kids a lot about manners, especially when you’re meeting adults from all different parts of the globe. You pick up on universal manners like making eye contact when talking, being kind to everyone you meet, and not having your head in your phone all the time. There’s a good chance that being with a traveling family will also bring teenagers plenty of encouragement from others adults and affirmation in itself could influence your kids to aspire to something greater rather than just going along with the crowd.
6 | They want to be sure their kids preserve 9-5 office jobs
Golly gee, I just love waking up at 5 am every morning and scrambling to make breakfast, prepare the kid’s lunches, dressing myself in presentable attire so as not to be judged by my colleagues, drop the kids at school, and sit in traffic for an hour only to arrive at a job that quite honestly bores me to death. I basically hate my boss and my work is just robotic movement, no real passion in the efforts. Then I get to sit in more traffic on the way home, stop by the store and attempt to get groceries to achieve that “healthy lifestyle” everyone talks about, whereupon I realize that there’s no way I can summon the energy to actually cook something healthy when I get home, so instead, I grab a premade Cesear salad (that’s healthy right?), boil pasta for the kids, and call it a day…are those cookies? Then, I get to be bombarded by more human beings that I dearly love but don’t have the energy to interact with. I cook, eat, clean, bathe the kids, bathe myself, collapse in bed, and scroll the endless abyss of social media to help me feel “inspired”…said no one ever.
The rat race is great. I mean that 9 to 5 job provides a lot of monetary security and who doesn’t want that for their kids. That is, unless you want your kids to actually love their life and wake up excited every day
Look, full time travel might not make it so that your kids get into the best college, so they can graduate and get a degree, and get a well paying office job, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I’m not saying your kids shouldn’t be educated, after all I’m writing an entire blog on worldschooling teenagers (blog coming soon). But, it’s just that, it’s not the only way and one of the greatest benefits of full time travel is that your kids get the opportunity to see what’s out there: occupation wise and location wise.
If you’re interested in educating your high school kids while traveling, click here (BLOG COMING SOON).
7 | But What Will the Neighbors (And Everyone Else in Your Life) Think?
Other people’s opinions of you are a direct representation of who you actually are. If they say you’re irresponsible for just ditching conformity, then you should totally believe them. After all, those people know everything there is to know about me- like my dreams, fears, and problems- and they’re better judges of what you should do with your life.
“But what will they think?” Everyone’s biggest hang up. Our whole society revolves around this question and it has caused a myriad of issues on both a personal level and in the populations as a whole. Depressed? Worried about what people think? This could be why most people don’t achieve their dreams…
Do you really want the one thing that inhibited you from setting off on the adventure of a lifetime to be “I was worried about what people would think?”
Sometimes it’s loving: “Will they think I don’t love them enough to be around them?”
Sometimes it’s fearful: “Will they think I’m a quitter? That being irresponsible? Will they think I’m weird? Or crazy? Or worse?”
Yes people may, actually probably will, judge you. There will be a whole lot of love, fear, and jealously amidst the budgets and most of the time they’re feeling all three at once. There will be haters but there will also be people who are inspired by your decision to just go. But most importantly, none of it matters. Not a single one of their thoughts or opinions about you should change your decision to travel with teenagers or not.
Remember, even when traveling as a family, travel is personal journey for each one of you, both the parents and kids, and if you feel the road calling out to you, trust your gut, block out the chatter, and know that you’re doing what’s best for both you and your teenagers.
8 | Your Kids are Sassy and Parents Trust Their Angsty Opinions
If you’re considering full time travel, you should definitely just forget the idea when your hormonal angsty teenager sasses you and responds to the idea with a blunt “But I don’t want travel with you guys!” Or maybe it’s my favorite, “But all my friends are here!”
If it’s not portrayed enough movies, tv shows, and the actual upbringing of teenagers in modern society, teenagers do not know what’s best for them.
If you have the inkling that full time travel could be your calling, go with it. Your kids will absolutely learn valuable lessons like how not to be sassy and rude when they’re trying to order baguettes in a French bakery and don’t speak an ounce of French. Kindness and good manners are the only way you’ll make it out of there in the real world with the bread you came in for.
9 | You Don’t Want to Separate Them From Their Friends
“But what about friends?” People ask this question as if they’re telling a secret. As if they can’t possibly imagine a response in which the response will be positive and non-depressing. Anyone I’ve ever met whose curious about travel has asked me this question. Why is this question so important to people?!
Well actually I know why. Because in many people’s eyes, having friends in high school is the single most important aspect of their life when they’re a teenager. Because when you’re a teenager, nobody really knows self love and they count on other people to make them feel good about themselves. Because more friends mean you’re more worthy as a person, right? Wrong, and in all fairness, I had myself convinced for the first few years of travel.
Here’s the deal. Friends are fun and great and yes, when you travel you can’t be around those great people in your life, but I’ve got news, most of them aren’t really true friends. A sad as it is, the second you start traveling, people tend to cut their relationships off with you even though there are plenty of ways you COULD keep in touch—texting, Skype, social media, Marco Polo, etc.
Whether it’s jealously or just the fact that people don’t really care to keep in touch if you’re not involved in their OWN life, travel tests true friendships and I honestly think that’s a good thing.
It’s not just me either. Other traveling teenagers I know have said the same thing. “You start traveling and all your friends become assholes”…That is true all except for a special few. Those are the real friends you stay in touch with your whole life and that’s a pretty cool thing.
So sure you can look at it as a tragic social life for your kids or you can choose to see it as a skip ahead in the learning curve of friendship. Screw the assholes, appreciate the ones who stick around.
10 | Talking to Strangers Doesn’t Improve Social Skills
I bet those kids are awkward. An unspoken assumption about traveling kids that I have no idea where it could’ve logically come from.
So you’re telling me that because I don’t spend 8 hours of my day chattering with other teenagers in a meaningless drawl of “and so he was like” and “she was like” and rather spend most of my days meeting new people both young and old, some who speak English and some who don’t speak English, from different countries and cultures, I have bad social skills…righhhhttt, okay sure whatever you say.
Fitting in is what matters I know (we covered that, didn’t we?), and I understand that you want your kids to develop mature, adult communication skills at the exact same time as other people their age because otherwise, more mature social skills may be seen as socially awkward.
What is it with that term socially awkward anyway. Did you accidentally stutter one time? Are we calling introverts awkward now? If you’re not talkative, does that mean you’re awkward? Does a teenager who holds a conversation with an adult as if they themself were an adult make them awkward?
For one thing, not to toot my own horn (which in itself makes it sound as if I’m tooting my own horn) but dozens of people who we’ve met throughout our travels have directly complimented both my brother, sister’s, and my own social skills. The only people who have ever actually deemed us as awkward have been internet trolls (I still don’t understand why they’re so mean).
People considering full time travel have directly emailed or asked my mom questions and for some advice in which, some people have directly stated that, “They’re worried their kids might become socially awkward” well yeah they could, but so could keeping them in school.
The fact is, people become socially awkward if they aren’t forced to practice communication. When you travel full time, a teenager definitely could become socially awkward if the parents enabled them to do so just as a teenager in regular school could become socially awkward if they lived inside a bubble and avoided communication at all costs.