If you had asked me to define my ideas about travel 20 years ago, I would probably not have had an answer for you. I definitely wouldn’t have had any plans to travel with world because, let’s face it, there is a fear of the unknown. When you grow up in a family that only ever visited Port Elizabeth every few years, there is no real temptation to travel more.
If you asked me the same question 10 years ego, I would probably say bucket list travel was my idea of what travel should look like. I would want to visit the Empire State Building, and the Tower of London and the Eiffel Tower. Why? Well, because that’s what everyone does, isn’t it? You don’t really see much else on the internet if you Google those cities.
How family travel changed me
Which is why family travel has changed me. When you travel with children, you have no choice but to slow down. And when you slow down, you notice things. If we hadn’t road tripped around South Africa as a family, we probably wouldn’t have learned so much about our country and it’s rich heritage.
But don’t be fooled. When I slow down, I don’t mean peaceful walks on the beach while you have deep, meaningful chats with your partner. Because even when your kids are 9 and 12, there is no such thing. You have to resign yourself to keeping up with them as they race each other down the beach and then keep an eye on them while they have a sword fight with bits of seaweed.
I don’t know how much our kids learned while we travelled, because it’s too soon to tell, but I do know how much our conversations have changed from a year ago. We know them a bit better now. If the kinds of questions they are coming up with is any indication, there is a maturity there that wasn’t present 18 months ago.
I’ve never been one to believe in the “because I said so” form of reasoning.* If you can’t justify it to yourself, why should your child believe you? I am well aware about how dangerous the world is and yet, I’d still like my kids to teach English as a foreign language for a few years once they complete their schooling. * yes, I know this come back to haunt me at some point.
Fear is a prison and ignorance is dangerous. Knowing how to relate to people from other countries and cultures is powerful.
Understanding that we are all human, no matter our skin tone, language, dress or spiritual belief is what is important. We all have something to learn from one another. No person is better than the other. Imagine how much would change, if only the world believed this.
So, if you had to ask me to define travel now, I would encourage you to embrace slow travel. Hit the road with a full tank of fuel and the bare necessities. Just drive. Give yourself time to stop. Don’t plan too far ahead. Break your trip up into 100km stretches. Spend a few days just getting to know the town.
Travel as a family is essential because you will see a different perspective through the eyes of a child. It will be less about ticking off “must do” items off an endless checklist and more about racing sticks down raging river rapids.
Of course, I’d love to take them to see Victoria Falls and on a hot air balloon flight and watch the sun rise from a pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef but they will only be kids for a short time. And we must make the most of it.