If you’re thinking of taking a trip with your family longer than a few weeks, then you and I should have coffee some time. We would have so much fun chatting about all the wonderful benefits of taking your kids on the road.
We are back from our first trip out–to Belize for six months–and getting so excited about planning our next get away from normal life. We’re taking our first-ever Exit Normal Road Trip. Currently, we’re looking for a travel trailer to live in while we see the great big USA and some of Canada!
Why are we doing this, though? Why are we putting so much time, effort, energy, and money into travel when living at home, sending the kids to regular school, and leading a normal life would be so much easier?
Well, grab that cup of coffee–or your beverage of choice–and let me tell you why.
1. GO, TEAM FAMILY!
First, travel has the power to bind your family together in a way that not many other experiences will. When you’re outside of your comfortable home environment, all of you will experience fears, fatigue, hunger, loneliness, homesickness, and all other ways of feeling low. But you’ll take care of each other through these experiences–and your relationships with each other will be strengthened because of it.
Traveling together helps you realize it’s your family vs. the world. It’s a time where so often family members have their own unique lives and go in separate directions. But sharing a common purpose of how to find the right gate at the airport or what to do in the case of a flat tire in a strange town will remind everyone that you all are a team.
2. GIVE YOUR KIDS A PARADIGM LARGER THAN THEIR CORNER OF THE WORLD.
If you never leave your hometown, you’ll never know what other ways of thinking, believing, and behaving exist. And your kids won’t, either.
People who never leave the place they were born run the risk of thinking they have the best way: the best foods, the best religion, the best location, the best culture overall. But the world is a vast and interesting place full of goodness and well worth exploring. And times are changing. Kids who learn from a young age to have a mature appreciation for people who are different from them will be ahead in a world that is becoming smaller every day.
3. EXIT YOUR COMFORT ZONES TO CREATE STRONGER, MORE RESILIENT PEOPLE.
You have such huge potential to live a life of magical abundance, but not if you don’t reach a little. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” If you climb a bit out of your comfort zone on a regular basis, you’ll see true growth in your life. If you live in fear of any kind of change at all, you’ll stagnate. Simple as that.
The same holds true for your children. If you teach them that they can only be satisfied by peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the crusts cut off, they’ll never try the fish with the head still attached. Don’t encourage them to live a life of mind-numbing monotony when you can show them that, by facing their fears, they can reach heights unimaginable during their years on this earth.
Only by facing fears and leaving your comfort zone will you be able to achieve grandness in your life. I don’t know about you, but I want grandness and I want my kids to have lives just as awesome.
4. LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE.
Language is a beautiful thing and, let me remind you, yours is not the only one spoken on this globe. The ability to communicate with people is a special talent and one that gives you instant connection with someone else. Many Americans speak only English, while it’s common in the rest of the world to speak more than one language.
I want my kids to have a range of languages, partly to be able to talk to other people in a real way and partly because the appreciation of another culture begins with an appreciation of how they speak. So far, my kids have picked up a little Spanish and a bit of Creole, but Belize is an English-speaking country so we weren’t under the gun to learn much more than that. My hope for the future is that we all have the opportunity to learn other languages in a hands-on kind of way.
5. STIMULATE CREATIVITY.
If you stare at the same wall every day of your life, it’s possible fresh thoughts won’t pop into your mind very often. But if you search for new vistas, it’s probable your thoughts will soar to heights you never knew existed. In short, if you do what you always did, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. For me, travel has always been a way to break out of Mush Brain Mode and enter into creative, fresh thinking.
But why do you need creativity, you might ask? Why do your kids need to learn how to think creatively? Creativity brings humanity new literature and art, technology and inventions, and new ways of teaching and learning. Creativity is important in problem-solving. It’s imperative in relating to each other. And, once you’ve set your intention on what you want out of your life, creativity is a crucial component in building the world of your dreams.
6. LOSE THE SENSE THAT YOU CAN PLAN EVERYTHING.
Anybody who travels frequently understands you can’t plan everything. After a certain point, you simply have to have faith that the journey will turn out alright. When I first traveled with my children, I would try to have every element of the trip planned in advance: departure time, flight numbers, route, total trip time, phone numbers of all hotels or vacation houses, every stop on the itinerary, etc. Traveling with young kids only felt doable if I was excessively organized.
Lately, however, I don’t plan much in advance. I know where we’re going, yeah, and have a basic idea how to get there. I have my throw-together bag of necessities, which included things like diapers, puzzle books, cups, and snacks. But I don’t obsess about what to pack and try to keep it as light as possible. I even let my older kids pack their own bags so they understand how to do it. They’ve learned they don’t want to carry more than they need and that if they forget something, they have to learn to do without it.
7. PROVIDE A CRITICAL DISTANCE FROM YOUR OWN CULTURE.
Every culture has good points and bad points. If we never leave our own homeland, we might not understand what these points are. This is similar to not being able to see the flaws in your own home, like paint chipping around the door. After awhile, you get used to it. Someone else comes in, however, and immediately notices the chipping paint.
When you take your family out of your culture, you learn to appreciate both what you’ve left and what you are experiencing in the new place.
While in Belize on our six-month family sabbatical, we noticed a distinct lack of fast food establishments. We acknowledged how great it was to eat real food cooked by real people instead of corporate junk food that’s pumped full of chemicals. At home, we hadn’t even considered how obnoxious these restaurants had become. You don’t notice them until they are missing.
We also missed certain aspects of our own culture in the States, like hot running water out of every tap. When we got back home, we were rolling in appreciation every time we took a shower or washed our hands.
Many people believe they need to wait until their kids are grown and gone from the house before they would consider traveling extensively.
They especially wouldn’t consider a trip out of the country, thinking kids wouldn’t appreciate it at a young age or that it might be too expensive with a family.
I’d like to suggest that you DO consider a long trip with your kids. Even one month during summer can benefit your family so so much!
It’s time to drop the fears and leave the excuses behind. Your kids are growing up into a world very different from the ones we did. It would follow that they need to learn in a different way in order to thrive in the new world. And… your kids are growing up fast. It’s time to share experiences with them before they’re grown and gone before your eyes.
So, take a risk. Take a break. And take your kids!
[This list includes only a few of the many reasons I believe a travel sabbatical is an awesome thing for families. To hear more, read my book — Exit Normal: How We Escaped with Our Family and Changed Our Lives.]
Can you see yourself taking a travel break from your regular life with your kids? What benefits do you see coming from an experience like this?