World Schooling: The Benefits of Travelling with your Kids

 
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I never thought I'd be much of a traveller. When I was younger, my family went on (almost) annual road-trips, sometimes far from home, like driving to the Redwood Forests, going to Expo '86 but more often closer to my Edmonton-area home, including camping in Banff and Jasper national parks. 

Before I met my husband I had been on a plane only a couple of times; once to go to Phoenix as a baby and the other to Disneyland in the fifth grade. Growing up and into my late teens, I really didn't have a lot of interest in overseas travelling, virtually no inclination to visit other countries.

My husband, however, loves to travel. He loves exotic foods and unique destinations and he's converted my travel attitude. Our first trip together was a camping trip to Vancouver Island (from Edmonton). Our second, a trip to Cabo San Lucas, and our third a month-long road-trip to Montreal.

We honeymooned in Thailand and met in Greece while he was working overseas. These trips started to give me a profound appreciation for the differences in cultures around the world. It created something in me, a never before felt desire to see countries and cities and towns. It set travelling, and experiencing the uniqueness of our world's locations, as a priority in my life.

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My husband works hard and we are fortunate to be able to take some pretty amazing trips.  And once we had children, we didn't let it stop us. We aim for one great family trip a year.  Camping or flying somewhere, it doesn't matter.

We lived in France for six months with our oldest when he was a baby (my husband had work over there). We drove around France and into Switzerland with our son strapped into the rented carseat in the back. We flew to Ireland and stayed in a stone house with a peat fireplace. 

Travelling with a baby wasn't as difficult as I expected, and I found it just took a little bit of planning (always have diapers and be sure to plan for nap times) and the right gear (strollers don't work in 10th-century cobbled streets or ancient castle ruins). Babies are actually far more portable than they become when they get older.

We've been camping with both of our kids as small infants and we took our two-and-a-half year old to Mexico and played in the sand on the beach and put him in the baby club for a day of adult time by the pool. 

As they got a little older, we took them to Lego Land Florida, and camped our way down to Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks. This past fall we took a long flight to Japan and ate some very authentic sushi. 

Every trip is an opportunity for learning; sometimes about differences in technology (bullet trains are amazing), sometimes about differences in cultures (politeness is almost to the extreme in Japan), and sometimes about lessons in compassion (poverty exists even when travelling).

Our local trips with the kids are just as amazing as the more extravagant ones. We've driven up to Port Hardy and seen a bear up close by the salmon hatchery. We've spent a night in Ucluelet listening to the seals in the bay. We've camped up and down the east coast of the island, enjoying the beauty that is our home. Recently we bought a boat and have overnighted on a nearby island and experienced whales up close.

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Now that the kids are in that pre-teen stage, they are in charge of packing and organizing their own gear. I provide them a general list of clothing and things they might want/need, and we leave it up to them. Ultimately it builds their responsibility, forces them to do some problem-solving (how can six books fit into a small backpack), and encourages them to learn about prioritizing (do I really need six books if it means I can't bring any underwear).

They do complain, and loudly, about the long car rides, but we listen to the radio, we sing songs, play word games, and chat about life. We limit screen time in the car, and embarrassingly pull out the, "I never had a TV in my car as a kid" card. Pit stops are a necessity at all ages, and planning for picnic pit stops means the kids can run around instead of sitting in a restaurant.

All these opportunities add up to a world of learning for our growing humans, and all we can hope is that each trip brings about a little interest in a new culture, a new language, or simply opens their eyes to something they didn't know before. I'm also finding now, that as the kids get older, they want to hide in their rooms more, or bury their faces in their devices. 

A family vacation means we all spend time together, making memories. That's worth the, "Are we there yets?" and then some. 

Amber Regamey Marsh

*EDITOR'S NOTE: Another local mom, Aldea Wood has had many cool adventures travelling with her kiddos and has kindly shared a link to a family travelling blog Papousse that she's the co-creator of. For more on travelling with kiddos please click here. Ashley