It’s almost summer, and that means one special thing in my house — traveling!
I think the best education comes from travel. As a kid, I learned the importance of seeing and experiencing the world around me. I swam in the ocean, walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, ate giant hamburgers in Pittsburgh, drove through the Midwest pretending I was in a covered wagon, spent the 4th of July on the levy in Louisiana, road a ferry in Seattle, saw the beauty of Oregon's Crater Lake and the history of South Dakota's Mount Rushmore. As an adult, I have been fortunate to add many others to that list.
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. That's something I think is imperative for my kids, as well. I am passionate about the role travel can play in the educational development of children. Here are 7 reasons why it’s important for kids to 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. When you visit historic landmarks like Mount Rushmore, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, the Hoover Dam, the Gateway Arch, the Alamo 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. You can experience bagels in New York, lobster in Maine, ribs in Kansas City, gumbo in New Orleans, fish tacos in California or 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 and they will become more worldly. This can even help them with future careers as they enter a global marketplace.
5. You’ll get to know yourself and each other. Being together as a family — away from your norm — will bond you in a special way. Your kids will get a chance to learn more about you and themselves. There is no better quality time.
6. You’ll apply classroom lessons in a real-world setting. Your kids will take classroom lessons in history, geography, math, science, art and even languages and apply them to real world situations and experiences.
7. You’ll improve independence in your kids. When kids travel, they will take more responsibility for themselves. Travel fosters situations that make us go beyond what we believed we were capable of and gives us a self-confidence we wouldn’t have acquired elsewhere.
Whether it's a day trip to nearby landmarks, a weekend getaway to a neighboring state or a week-long vacation somewhere even farther, try to give your kids an educational experience they won’t forget. Go out and travel!
Shea Saladee lives in Papillion with her husband, Brent, and their three children. She works as an instructor at the University of Nebraska Omaha.