I’m what you would call an avid traveller. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed the act of travel. And now that I’m living the life of a traveller, I’m even more excited about travel.
As a child, our parents often took us on family vacations. These vacations were always fond memories for me. And now that I’m a parent, I try and pass on travel experiences to my own children through our worldschooling experiences. Taking our kids on a family gap year is one way that we’re passing on a legacy of travel to them.
This post was updated on May 18, 2020.
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How to raise an avid traveller
When I talk to families who want to travel more with their kids, they often ask how we get our kids to travel so well. The truth is, there isn’t a magic formula. In actuality, our kids are good travellers because we’ve exposed them often to the life of a traveller.
Really, raising an avid traveller involves presenting your kids with an opportunity to experience the world and inspire travel. Doing this often, regardless of whether it’s far away or close to home, will help plant the travel bug in them.
In the past few months, and especially since we’ve been here in Mexico, we’ve had a chance to think about how to encourage kids to be worldwide travellers. Here are a few of our tips, to help your kids become avid travellers.
1. Start encouraging your kids to be an avid traveller when they’re young
I really don’t think you’re ever too young to travel. Even if you’re a little baby! Getting your kids to start travelling at a young age helps them get used to the unpredictability that comes with travel.
Strict nap times go out the window when you travel. As do specific meal time routines or bedtime habits. Having a bit of flexibility in your babies’ daily schedule helps introduce them to the flexibility that comes with the life of a traveller.
2. Start with small and manageable trips
You don’t jump into a big adventure like visiting England with your kids to get your kids to start travelling. We started with a small weekend road trip when our babies were young.
Travel is about being in a place that’s new to you. It can be the town next door, not just a city on the other side of the world. Starting small helps you gauge how your family travels. It allows you to make adjustments to your travel style, so that when you do take a bigger trip, you have a better idea of what works and doesn’t work for your family.
Choose a city nearby to your home town and plan a weekend getaway. Book an Airbnb or a hotel to make it feel like an exciting vacation.
3. Expose your kids to people from different backgrounds
A great way to encourage your children to experience the world is by exposing them to people from different backgrounds. Back in Seattle, some of our daughter’s close friends were Mexican. Coming to Mexico was a treat for my daughter because she could see in person the culture that her friends came from.
Exposing your kids to people from different backgrounds helps build empathy in your kids, a very important skill to have when you travel. If you personally don’t know people from a different culture than yours, research cultural festivals happening in your city. In Seattle, for example, Festal is a year-round event with cultural festivals from cultures around the world.
Curious how to be more responsible as a traveler? Read our responsible travel tips.
4. Step out of your comfort zone from time to time
An avid traveller is one who is willing to step out of their comfort zone from time to time. If you want to raise your kids to love travel, be willing to experience things that are out of your comfort zone.
Try something new that you may not be confident in. Or encourage your kids to try something new. Try visiting an off the beaten path destination like Johannesburg. Or do a once in a lifetime adventure like swimming with whale sharks in Mexico.
Travel often forces you to be in new situations, and getting used to feeling that initial sense of discomfort helps your kids develop the coping mechanism to be able to adjust. It’s also a great family bonding activity to do with your kids!
5. Don’t force your kids to be an avid traveller if they’re not comfortable
At the same time, try not to force anything on your kids. You want your kids to become an avid traveller naturally. Provide your kids with opportunities to try new things, and encourage them to step out of their comfort zone. But also give your kids the option to say no.
Sometimes while we travel, we try and encourage our kids to do small things on their own, like ask our waiter for a glass of water, or buy a pastry on their own at a coffee shop. This gives them a chance to practice their Spanish, French, Indonesian, or whatever language is prevalent in the country we’re visiting. However, our kids can get shy. So we often help them along rather than force them to do things on their own all the time.
6. Encourage your kids to engage with the world
Part of our worldschooling philosophy is about getting our kids engaged in the travels we are doing. When we were visiting Mount St. Helens in the summer of 2018, we read a book about volcanoes beforehand. And when we were in Mexico, we watched videos about Mexico’s history and culture.
This gives the kids an opportunity to make connections between what they see as we walk out and about, and what they are learning. Even if you’re not doing long term travel, getting your kids engaged as they travel is a great way for them to fully experience the world. One resource we really enjoy is Crash Course. Their World History course gives a great overview of the history of the world!
7. Model the behavior you want them to learn
Kids learn so much by watching their parents. If you want your child to be an avid traveller, you need to model that behavior in yourself. Be willing to expose yourself to people of different backgrounds. Be open to stepping out of your comfort zone. Take advantage of small trips and adventures from time to time.
Having your kids see your travelling behavior will help them learn what to do and what not to do. Reading a book about the world with them can be a helpful step towards modeling travelling behavior. We like the Lonely Planet Travel Book because it’s full of interesting facts for every country in the world.
8. Leave some room for reflection
Reflection is such a big part of travel. When we have a new travel experience, we usually spend time as a family reflecting on that experience. Since our kids are young, it’s not usually an in-depth reflection. However, we still give them an opportunity to express what’s different or the same about the place we travel to and home.
We also ask our kids to share how they feel about the places they visit while they’re there. Giving your kids a chance to reflect on their travels, whether big or small, will help them gain an appreciation for travel in the future. And doing the reflection in the moment also helps your kids cope with any dissonance they may feel while travelling.
9. Make travel a priority for your family
The biggest tip to help your child become an avid traveller is to make travel a priority for your family. Rather than spending your money on things, spend it on experiences. There are plenty of ways to make travel affordable. So you don’t have to break the bank to have travel experiences with your family.
Take trips around your city or your state to experience something new. Aim to take at least one family vacation per year. Make the travel mentality part of your family culture. As much as you can, try and live the life of an avid traveller as family.
Learn more about how to raise your kids to be global citizens here.
Giving your child the life of an avid traveller
Raising your child to become an avid traveller doesn’t mean you have to go broke from travelling so much. It just means shifting your mentality so that you see everyday opportunities as a travel opportunity.
Encouraging your kids to be open to new experiences and engaged in the world around them is all part of the mentality of travel. As your kids get older, you will continually have opportunities to encourage them to develop their travel mentality.
For our family, before we even gave them this experience of travelling the world, we were always trying to encourage our kids to explore, wherever they were. Since they were babies, our kids were used to being in new environments and taking small trips around our state. Now that we’re travelling full time, they’re able to adapt to the new places we visit and go with the flow.
Are you raising an avid traveller? What are your tips for encouraging your kids to live a life of a traveller? Share them in the comments!
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