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How to Get Up the Guts to Travel Internationally with Kids

Part Two of this article is forthcoming, when we get home from our first as-a-family international trip, and I’ll let you know then which of my two working titles I went with for Part Two.

My options at the moment are: How to Successfully Travel Internationally With Your Kids or Why I am a Fool and you should Ignore Your Urge To Travel with Your Kids and Just Stay Home and Maybe go To Great Wolf Lodge or Something

We have taken my kids to a few places for trips in the states, but have yet to travel with my kids in the way I have longed to, experiencing new cultures, different languages, and exotic foods. But soon my husband and kids and I all leave for Cairo, and by the time this publishes we should be home and able to tell you if it was life changing or an absolute disaster. Have I mentioned my kids are 8, 6 and 4? Most people we meet here in Dallas tend to act like we are crazy. Wish us luck.

Find your Motivation

Mine is humiliation. I spent my formative years living in a Chicago suburb with academic and well-traveled parents. We did vacations but it wasn’t until I was 18 that I went overseas…and my mind was blown.

I tell people now that I was raised with accidental ethnocentrism. Somehow I had caught a notion that was never explicitly told to me, that America is the best/only place to live in the world. I sort of pitied everyone else who lived in a less-than-best country and was shocked that when I went to Italy, to France, to Switzerland, and to England after graduating High School and saw that people were so happy in all those places. They did some things better than we did back home!

I am by no means ungrateful: I love the many blessings that accompany living in the United States, and there are just a million reasons to love Texas as well. It’s just that I look back and hate that it was a surprise to learn that so late in life.

Decide they need to travel

This past summer my husband and I went on a trip without our kids with a group of friends to tour ancient Biblical sites, and one family brought their young kids. The three kids were 10-14 and were amazing travelers. They listened to tour guides respectfully, they wandered around the sites taking pictures, and withstood a tour bus with broken A/C without complaint for several hours (I was not as successful at withholding my dissatisfaction with our hot bus).

Some friends and I asked the sweet mom to these kids do you have them on Benadryl? Are they currently hypnotized? How is it that they travel so well? And her reply was that they had practiced traveling with them since they were young. It makes sense — surely the first time you take them somewhere is going to be hard no matter their ages. And if they get used to travel when they are younger, they will be pros when they get older.  {Right?} 

Get Kinda Contrary

In the states, people commonly insist that to travel with your kids, they need to be old enough to remember everything. Luckily getting contrary isn’t really a problem for me {#justaskmyhusband} so here are my reasons that is ridiculous: We don’t skip celebrating a birthday when a baby turns one just because we know they won’t remember. We serve them cake and take a picture and trust that in every experience we are helping form these little hearts and brains of theirs. Travel is formative. Even older kids won’t remember everything.

Choose a Destination

I read aloud to my kids from a history book, A Child’s History of the World, by V.M. Hillyer, which is a storyteller style, chronological, clear history of the world. Reading this book aloud began to connect some dots for me in terms of chronology of history that I had not understood before, and I liked the idea of beginning our exploration of history and faith through travel with the beginning – one of the Ancient Civilizations. So we chose Egypt. Also we chose Egypt because we are thinking that even my 4 year old won’t forget riding a camel and seeing the pyramids. TBD. 

Buy All the Books

In addition to the Child’s History (above), we have an excellent book called Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids by Jamie C. Martin by that contains many book lists that we work through by checking books out from the library. We have books of maps (and use my iphone regularly as well) to look up where certain cities or countries are. We own the audible version of  The Story of The World by Susan Wise Bauer, which honestly still bores them at their ages but maybe someday they’ll remember what they heard. 😉

When I knew we were planning to go to Egypt I bought every book at Half Price Books on Egypt, Pharaohs, and Pyramids for us to read. (In case I am making myself sound like supermom, their books are more common than their baths by a grand degree.) Knowing we are actually going has also increased each of my three kids’ interest in Egyptian civilization tenfold, to my delight.

On Christmas morning, the kids opened a box that had a bunch of books and a note that said “Let’s Go to Egypt.” They have been thrilled. Their interest and curiosity has piqued now that they know they are going. They are studying the maps, reading the books, asking about the foods and the dress and the weather in a way that is no longer driven by me. It has become their own. They are so stoked. 

Our hope is that seeing a part of the world that is so different will begin to form little hearts that are on fire for the world, and for all the people in it. We also hope they will see some things that make them really thankful for where they live and the safety and protection this country afford us. We pray they will see another culture with its food, language, money, government, and traditions and be able to better understand history as concrete. We hope we are not fools… pray for us 🙂

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3 Responses to How to Get Up the Guts to Travel Internationally with Kids

  1. Cassie February 9, 2017 at 1:27 pm #

    We leave in a month for Italy, and my son will be 23 months old. People have told me that I’m crazy and some have told me that I’m brave. We’ll see which proves to be correct!

  2. Stephany February 10, 2017 at 12:10 am #

    We are planning a trip to Estonia in the fall with our 2 kids. They will be 2 1/2 yoand 12.5 months. I’m nervous but know my parent traveled with 3 kids 5 and under from Germany so I know it can be done. Plus, they will have pictures and like you say, hopefully it will shape them in some way! I’m looking forward to seeing how your trip goes!!

  3. Callie February 13, 2017 at 4:59 pm #

    I love this! My parents have invested in a villa in Italy, and the thing they are most excited about is to build a road around the house for the kids to bike around! My daughter went when she was 9 months old, and I was always in the vain of ‘wait until they remember’, but I have to admit your article has me thinking! I LOVE THIS. You are amazing. 🙂

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