I’m fortunate to have grown up in a family that valued travel. From a very young age I learned the importance of seeing and experiencing the world.
As a toddler I swam in the Pacific Ocean. For my 7th birthday, I walked across the golden gate bridge. When I was eight, I ate giant hamburgers on the confluence in Pittsburgh. At 11, I spent the summer driving through the Midwest pretending I was in a covered wagon. When I was 13, it was Fourth of July on the levy in Baton Rouge. At 15, it was Crater Lake in Oregon, and as an adult I have experienced the River Walk in San Antonio, Bourbon Street in New Orleans, ferry rides in Seattle and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
My travels throughout the years created a lot of enjoyment and memories, but they also taught me extraordinarily important lessons I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.
As an educator, I am always looking for fun and creative ways to incorporate learning into our family activities. I am passionate about the role travel can play in the educational development of children. Here are 5 of the many reasons why I believe kids should travel:
1. You’ll learn about other cultures: Whether here in the U.S. or abroad, traveling is the best way to get to know what other cultures are all about. What people wear, how they speak, their customs and cultural norms, hobbies, manners and etiquette.
2. You’ll see historical landmarks: Whether it be Mount Rushmore, the Golden Gate, the Statue of Liberty, or Gettysburg, your children will be able to make real world connections to the things they read about in school.
3. You’ll eat local cuisine: Regional dishes are always more authentic when you are actually in the locale. Think beignets in New Orleans, lobster in Maine, ribs in Kansas City, fish tacos in California, or deep dish pizza in Chicago. Sometimes the food can be just as educational (and memorable) as the landmarks.
4. You’ll broaden your horizons: The more you can travel the more adventurous you’ll become. It will spark curiosity in your children. It will expand their knowledge. As a whole, they will become more worldly.
5. You’ll get to know yourself and each other: Being together as a family – away from your norm – will allow you to get to know each other on a different level. It will bond you in a special way, but maybe, and even more importantly, your kids will get a chance to learn more about themselves. Travel often fosters situations that make us go beyond what we believed we were capable of, and in turn, gives us a self-confidence we wouldn’t have acquired elsewhere.
Travel exposes kids to different ways of living, both here and abroad. They begin to think critically and ask questions – things they never would have imagined to ask if they had not been exposed to the culture, landmarks and cuisine of other locations. Whether it be a day trip to nearby landmarks, a weekend getaway to a neighboring state, or a week-long vacation somewhere, try to give your kids an educational experience they won't forget.
Shea Saladee lives in Papillion with her husband, Brent, and their three children. She works as the Theatre Department Chair at Iowa Western Community College.