After almost two years on the road, I have to say that if I’d known how much children learn from travel, I’d have started travelling sooner. Here’s nine key lessons travel teaches children.
1. To Keep an Open Mind
Spending time in different cultures teaches you how very much is relative. From the small things — places where it’s rude to put your feet up, but normal to spit — to the apparent absolutes of religion, politics and life values, travel opens minds.
2. To Learn From What’s Around You
Children are born curious, and new environments bring out that natural curiosity. Whether that’s learning about genocide from someone who’s lived through it, discovering how volcanoes work by climbing a live one, watching coffee being made on a coffee farm, or teaching yourself a new skill just because you can, children learn constantly through travel.
3. To Understand Others
Travel brings you into contact with people whose lives are vastly different from your own. If an urban, Western child can interact with nomadic hunter-gatherers, Buddhist monks, Asian politicians and the rural poor, sometimes without even a common language, they can understand and interact with *anyone*.
4: To Have Confidence In Themselves
Travel gives children confidence. Whether it’s achieving a climb that adults fail at, diving 40 feet below the sea, making their way alone across a big, new city, or making new friends when you arrive in town, the confidence that comes with these gains lasts a lifetime.
5: To See The World Globally
Every country teaches the world and its history from its own perspective. Often (though not always), we present our own countries as the best. Learning the stories of other nations, in other nations, gives children a rounded perspective on the world — its present, its past and its future.
6: To Keep A Sense of Proportion
Witnessing the hard lives that 99% of the world lead — and how many maintain happiness throughout — provides a sense of perspective on your own life. Small challenges feel just that — small.
7: To Be Resilient
Longterm travel is an amazing lifestyle, but it isn’t always easy. Whether it’s emotional challenges, like meeting suffering children, physical challenges, like extreme cold or long, long hikes, or frustrations like being stuck on a broken down bus for 28 hours in searing heat, travel teaches you patience and strength.
8: To Try New Things
From eating insects, flowers or wild spices through to surfing or crafting silver, travel brings children new experiences to try — often, every single day. This reduces any fear of the new and builds a bank of life experiences some adults will never acquire.
9: To Be Wise
To understand the needs and sensitivities of different people, the history and beliefs of different cultures, and the elaborate workings of a big and complex world is, I think, wisdom. And travel brings kids that in spades.