It was amazing, and for more reasons than I can list here. But below are the five reasons we are so glad we made the decision that we did.
Kids are tougher than we think
We had planned the trip to be much less intense than if we were planning a trip for 5 adults. We knew we would need some time built in to rest, a greater margin to help kids recover from jet lag, less of an attention span at museums, etc. So we thought we would spend 7-8 days doing one touristy thing a day, and then coming back to our hotel to rest and eat and play at the pool. Instead we were shocked by how tough our kids were. The first day of touring, after one museum they were still doing great. So we went on another tour. Then we saw another monument, and then another. Two more activities and one more museum later, our kids were still relatively well behaved and engaged with what we were seeing and learning. We went back to our hotel and thought: we don’t need 7 more days to see all the things we wanted…so where else should we go? We ended up having 3 days of touristy things in Cairo, 2 full days of rest at our hotel (our first and last day overseas) and 4.5 days touring and playing on Cyprus. The Cyprus excursion was such a happy surprise, and the absolute highlight of our trip.
Language, money, and food exposure is so cool for kids
It was such a blessing to our family to be afforded the opportunity to hear Arabic and Greek, to see the languages written and notice how different they look to our eyes. To be able to hand our kids some bills and tell them to count the money they held, and to tell them how much it was worth in dollars. To eat Turkish, Greek, Egyptian, Armenian, Italian, and an assortment of Mediterranean foods was incredible. We loved noticing how some things are quite similar to things we enjoy at home (Foul Medamas in Egypt was not so different than Tex Mex refried beans with pico de gallo!) and how many things were quite different. We loved noticing the difference between alphabets, and particularly the overlap between the English and Greek alphabets.
Because your husband has good ideas, and it’s good to be reminded of that fact, like for instance when he suggested a backup shirt for the two international flights where you would be sitting next to your kids, and you thought it was overkill…
You shouldn’t think it’s overkill, because if you think that, and he packs an extra shirt for himself but you decline to do the same, Murphy’s Law of Parenting — (named for the purposes of this article, but absolutely a Real Thing confirmed in a study run by Me and also by My Friends) – says you will end up covered in carrot juice (?) at 6am and wearing your husband’s shirt, with him taking your picture with a subtle air of mockery. Rude. (But good lesson and legitimate reason to travel).
Experiencing other cultures can shape your child’s worldview
There were some interesting things about Egyptian that my kids noticed were very different from our own. A great example is the way they seemed to love children. People on the street would touch the heads of, oogle over, and coo at children beyond the age to receive such attention in Dallas. And it wasn’t just “American” children – we watched strangers on the street admiring children everywhere. We noticed the huge amount of stray pets in Cairo, and my son compared the way strangers swoon over our dogs in America to the way adults admired children in Egypt. When we go for a walk with our dogs, it is the dogs who receive the most praise and attention these days (although when our kids were littler, some swooning occurred for their sake as well). Often now people don’t talk to or acknowledge the kids. It doesn’t hurt our feelings, but we didn’t know differently. It was amazing to see another culture respond in an opposite way.
For the blessing it is to hear your children value travel
You will count hearing your kids say “this is the best day of my life” (after you have planned and worked and pined for a particular trip) among the highest blessings. It is the direct and exact opposite of spending a fortune on your child’s birthday and then hearing them say on the way home “I never get anything I want.” It will make your heart want to explode and also make you want to spend one million hypothetical dollars showing them how amazing our world is.
I know not all kids are the same, but mine are not exceptionally obedient/quiet. Our experience would cause us to encourage anyone who has the itch to go abroad with their kids not to wait for a magical age, but just to do it.
We hope we get to do it ourselves again soon!