In order to grow up into a well rounded individual, you need to be exposed to as many different situations and experiences as possible. Isn’t that what they teach you in school? Who are the kids who find themselves in leadership positions in their final year of school? The ones that got involved in as many things as possible.
Your prefects or student body presidents didn’t only excel academically, they also played sport, got involved in the arts and made their presence known in the community. Which is great, right? I also have a feeling that they had a very different relationship with their parents than most of us did. But I might be wrong.
But what about the rest of us? Generally speaking, most of us couldn’t be bothered (or we didn’t understand why we should). We were quite happy to go along with the status quo and coast through life. As a result, the only thing we knew was getting by at school, finding a way to entertain ourselves (when we weren’t at school) and longing for the holidays.
If you were very lucky, you might go on some sort of a holiday with your parents, whether it was camping, glamping or being lucky enough to stay in accommodation with actual beds and plumbing. Even then, chances are, you went to the same places over and over again. For the majority, this wasn’t even an option due due to budget constraints or work commitments on the part of our parents. (Why are long school holidays still a thing while parents have to make do with 20 days of annual leave?)
So, let’s skip down the timeline a bit to where your child has left school and has been fortunate enough to secure a job. Let’s imagine that this child has maybe had 5 holiday experiences in their lives and non of them included a hotel buffet. What do you think will happen on their first business trip. Well, for one thing, they will lose sleep the night before their first flight. You can Google as much as you like but there is still so much they don’t know. And what is worse, they probably don’t know what they don’t know.
Let’s assume everything goes well and they wake up after their first night away from home and they head down to breakfast. Well, chance are, they are going to overwhelmed by what they see and have absolutely no idea whether they need to order their coffee or whether the coffee station is situated off in some little grotto from the breakfast buffet. If they happen to be travelling with colleagues who are also inexperienced, they will probably end up going a little crazy and have the rest of the dining room, shaking their heads as they mutter under their breath, “gewoond aan niks (not used to anything)”.
It is our duty as parents to encourage new experiences with our kids. They should never be too scared to ask questions and always be up for a challenge. This will stand them in good stead for when they are let loose on the real world.
While travel should be a subject at school, it isn’t. Kids should be taught how to make a booking, how to make contingency plans, how to find their way around a new city. There should be a lot more emphasis on learning new languages and how to ask for directions. But even the most intensive life skills course doesn’t touch on this. And yet, that is exactly what travel is – a life skill.
The travel community seems to avoid family travel at all costs. There are simply too many variables. Of course you could encourage kids to come and stay at your hotel, but what if they are little terrors who come to seek and destroy. You know, the ones who run up and down the corridors, shouting at one another.
Actually, I find that those children are easier to come to terms with than the government employees who do the same thing, 20 years later. You see, when kids are only ever exposed to “family restaurant” chains, they will never understand why the same behaviour they are allowed to indulge in there, isn’t the same at more up market establishments. It’s not their fault, they simply haven’t been given the opportunity to experience anything else.
Just because you grew up in a poor community, doesn’t mean that you won’t ever have to represent your employer or your own company later on in life. This is why the cost of travel frustrates me so much. The cost of travel in South Africa is very oppressive when it comes to encouraging locals to get to know their own country. Anyone who has tried to fly from one major city to another knows that this is the case. And let’s not even get started on how much it costs to rent a car!
It’s time that we shifted our focus. Travel will always teach you more than the latest gadget or electronic device. If we buy less “stuff” we might find that we there actually is a little money left over to see a little more than just the norm.
But the tourism community needs to come to the party, too. Our South African ID document should entitle us to access discounts within our own country. It’s very easy for international travellers to pay R2000/person when it’s actually $200 for them. Not many locals would be able to pay the same price. Why are we punishing our own people!?
If you feel like I should check my privilege, you need to know that I was the person mentioned in the beginning of this post. We stayed with friends in Port Elizabeth every, single year. The extent of my travel experience was a caravan and the house of this family friend. The first time I flew on my own (after my first and only flight when I was 7 years old) was when I started working for government in 2004.
And yes, I was luckier than most to at least have a little travel experience. There are loads of people who never leave the town they were born in. I am not under any illusion that I understand everything and that “travel is possible for everyone”.
It’s time that travel did become possible for everyone though. Any travel is better than no travel and when you take your kids along, you share your experience with them. Make a commitment to find a new place to go once a month. Pack a picnic and head out in a direction you’ve never explored before. Then let’s chat again this time next year and tell me if it was worth it.