For better or worse (especially in this political climate) people of the world have formed opinions of US citizens. Some perceptions are positive (think sun-kissed movie-star people driving convertibles with surf boards hanging out the back), and some are less endearing (think big booming fanny-pack wearing American telling a restaurant owner how quaint and ‘totally cute’ their restaurant is, whilst on the cell phone loudly ordering his assistant to get the tires on the Tesla fixed!)
Our message to our children is simple when we travel. They are global children and ambassadors of the United States. They must behave in a way that makes our country proud, dispel negative rumors about bratty US children, and be polite, respectful, and extra courteous.
Avoid discussing politics. I know I know, it’s super hard sometime, but political views are so subjective… (we’ve all had Thanksgiving dinner take a political turn and all of a sudden cousin Michael has stormed home!) We visit communist countries, developing countries and places where often there are many social restrictions, and suggest they not get into personal political discussions whenever possible.
Do not limit travel to the same destination each year, and travel to places outside of your comfort zone. Refuse to live in fear of terrorist attacks, illness, or being eaten by crocodiles, because once you venture outside of your norm you’ll feel more confident and connected to the world as human beings. Balancing reasonable safety concerns and calculated risk, teaches critical reasoning skills and inspires children to be curious about the world – not afraid of it.
Encourage random acts of kindness and generosity. You can’t help everyone, but try to help someone. We give each of our children ‘donation money’ in local currency when we travel, and they get to choose how to donate it. There was the time Sebastian played soccer with a child in India who didn’t have shoes, and he put rupees in his hand afterwards. I watched the child first look shocked, and then run in shock to his mom who gave Sebastian the biggest big hug. Or the time Julian really loved a waiter in Nepal, learned he had a 3yr old son, and as the waiter proudly showed us pictures, we saw their humble home. As we were leaving, Julian gave the waiter extra money to buy his son a toy from his ‘American friend’ (my heart seriously grew two sizes).
It was luck my children were born into a wealthy western country. All children and people matter, regardless of where they live. Research humanitarian opportunities in the area you plan to visit, and schedule time to make it happen. These children are in need of educational tools and other material items, but most of all they’re in need of smiles, friendship and compassion.
When traveling with children, they experience customs, culture, religion and foods first hand. Hold family meetings to discuss places to visit. Conversation and curiosity breaks down fear and cultural barriers. As they visit more places, they’ll become more curious and comfortable, and hopefully find themselves trekking the globe on their own one day!
You can’t stop time and people seem busier than ever. There’s a constant tasklist taking our time and money… clothes, cars, mortgage, bathroom remodel, insurance, sports dues… the list is endless. Prioritize travel over everything else (except perhaps the mortgage, insurance, toilet paper, milk… ok not everything but you get my point). List travel as a priority and actively think about other purchases. Actively thinking about your priorities will encourage you to reduce monthly expenses and save more funds for your next trip!
I’m a travel and health writer, digital and brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two active boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising teenage boys, family life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.