As I crammed what I hoped were the last of my things into my car to hit the road with my family, my kids waited~ semi patient, and refraining from rolling eyes and sighing.
They'd already loaded their stuff and were ready for whatever was ahead in our journey.
As per usual, that started with waiting for me.
This scene has played out a million times with my pack, and in every one of them, I realize just how grateful I am to have adventurous offspring.
They can pack their bags, deal with whatever they forgot to bring, and roll with the unexpected, whether it’s food choices or places to sleep.
Of course at their ages, I’d seriously question my parenting if I still needed to pack their bags or they threw fits about not liking what was for lunch.
What I’m actually happy about here is not just that they're competent, but that they’re also curious and open to learning from whatever new and different things they experience along the journey.
They’re ready to check out the world.
They are explorers.
To me, having children who know how to travel was definitely one of the most important lessons from our homeschooling years. I actually think it’s up there with reading as a basic part of a well rounded education.
Of course, I think reading is really, really, REALLY important, and I’m not diminishing it at all, or suggesting any kind of "We don't need no fancy book learnin" mentality.
Obviously, reading is fundamental and a basic understanding of how to do it is pretty well required to get by in modern American society. I love books and we've read a bazillion of them as a family, okay?
The thing is, that not everyone is going to actually enjoy reading, nor will everyone be particularly skilled with it. Still, we make (or encourage, depending on your school of thought) kids learn to read because we know they will benefit throughout their lives.
Hopefully, the lessons will be fun, but either way, we know it will come in handy and we focus on helping them figure it out.
The more important we think something is, the more we work to incorporate it into our lives, and as a culture, we seem to have deemed reading as pretty important.
That said, to me, knowing how to travel is pretty important too.
I guess I should specify, I mean that learning how to travel without being a whiner, complaining, self absorbed butthead or high maintenance joy sucker is what I think is really important.
In any case, the lessons that come with travel are life changing~ and you really can't get them any other way.
Like reading, travel can open doors and show you new things. It’s an incomparable hands-on way to get an education that you could never get from the pages of a book, or a movie or even the interweb.
I've learned a lot through all of those other mediums as well, and so have my kids.
But, whenever possible, actually doing something beats reading or watching or listening to what someone else says and does any day.
Travel gives us first hand experiences with different world views and new ways of doing things. Whether it be food or language or just what’s outside your window, things look different when you leave your space that you already know.
It gives you practice in doing things that can be a little uncomfortable or are maybe even a little scary (not legitimately scary where you need to trust your gut, but the kind of scary that keeps you from growing)
Travel helps you to grow.
Often people associate travel with resorts or cruise ships, and immediately find reasons why they “can’t”~ often involving money.
Yes, adventure can certainly be pricey, but it really doesn’t have to be at all.
I’ve been a seriously low budget traveler for most of my life and when I chose to make homeschooling my primary gig for a decade, and putting money schemes on the back burner to simmer in small quantities, well...that didn’t exactly put my family and I in the First Class section of any airplanes.
But I loved homeschooling and the time learning with my kids was worth more to me than the money I could have made.
Thanks to my own mom, I learned at a young age how to hustle with whatever money I did have and make it work towards the kinds of experiences and things I've wanted in my life.
I certainly wasn’t going to give up adventuring just because my income was in the minuscule range.
So instead of pricey tourist traps, I watched TravelZoo for hotel bargains~ or more often, we just used a tent or slept on couches of friends and relatives.
That practice alone helped my kids so much with flexibility and going with the flow.
Sometimes it rains and your tent leaks, or you drive a few hours and the campground is closed. Sometimes your friend has a smelly dog that drools next to you on the couch or they get up crazy early, clanking dishes and talking loudly.
Sometimes you have to make a whole new plan b on the fly, and sometimes you just laugh and laugh about the absurd situation you’re in.
Sometimes, your adventures make you more grateful than ever for your home life.
In any case, you learn to roll with things.
When you’re not at home, you kind of have to learn to be open to new food and be ok with the fact that not everyone makes dishes the same way your mom does.
You learn that some things taste better than they look, and some don’t, and you learn that because you actually tried them.
Eating foods that you’re not used to helps you realize that it’s not that big of a deal if what’s on the menu isn’t your favorite, because you’re probably going to eat again in a few hours.
You learn to consider other people and appreciate what they offer and realize that you really don’t need to complain about what’s different because it’s not always about you.
You also learn that bringing plenty of your own snacks is a good idea.
Self reliance, gratitude, empathy and acceptance are all a built in part of the curriculum.
And then there’s the ability to find entertainment for oneself. A lot of people seem to think that if they don’t have the extra cash to buy everyone tickets to Disneyland, they might as well just stay home and watch Netflix.
I find that sad and untrue.
In almost every place we’ve lived or visited, there have usually been all kinds of things to check out and do for free or on the cheap.
You just have to do a little research, which is absurdly easy in this day and age and most importantly~ be open.
Check out Atlas Obscura or just Google “Free fun with Kids” and whatever city and time frame and viola~ just like magic you’ll come up with things you never knew existed.
We’ve found giant trolls under bridges and huge walls covered in chewing gum this way, not to mention a museum dedicated to the existence of Bigfoot.
Just like everything else in life, some of these things are cheezy and some are awesome~ and many are a mixture of both.
I never found it all that hard to find something interesting for us to check out, and my kids seem to have gotten the idea that all kinds of things in life and the world have potential to hold some interest~ not just their current passions or the latest fad or the most expensive theme parks that are advertised all over.
What I love about this is that they are open, and much more likely to say “sure” when it comes to trying something different than to just write it off as a no because it’s unfamiliar.
They don’t necessarily have the same love for all the same things I do, and they may want to spend more or less time in a place than me, but they're open to learning, and that’s huge.
There are times when you really want to do the popular touristy things that come with the hefty price tag, and that’s where you have to learn to be creative.
We got Disneyland passes for our whole family by volunteering to help at a local soup kitchen. We used the reciprocal privileges from our membership to the local science museum to visit tons of museums in other towns~ some for an hour and some for a day, but all for free.
Most of the touristy things we did were off season and on sale. That was another of my favorite perks of homeschooling was the freedom from a school calendar and the flexibility to go places off season when the crowds were gone.
I miss that so much now that they are taking college classes!
In their younger years, distance travel was harder, but when we could, we went for it, visiting my father in Costa Rica (thanks Dad!) and family and friends in neighboring states.
Much more often, we just took frequent little day trips to explore what was closest by, and hopefully free or cheap~
the kind of thing that most people can pull off if they actually want to.
Instead of buying fast food or Starbucks, I would put the money in my gas tank and pack a basket of snacks and we would hit the road to explore our own backyard.
The main thing was they went places and they saw things and did things and got used to the idea that it’s a big, beautiful and most of all, a wildly different world.
And with an open mind and some creative planning, there’s a whole lot to see, even without much cash.
It's been noted that traveling with kids can be a bit of a pain in the arse. This can be true, and helping them learn can be a lot of work for you.
But really~ life with kids can be a pain in the arse. Teaching them to do chores or wipe their own butts can also be a lotta work, but if they never learn, it's not going to get any easier.
You've just gotta figure out how to do what's important to you in the big picture, and point towards the easiest and most fun ways to make it happen.
If you're at all a wanderer or have a nomadic spirit, and you tether yourself down because it might be "hard to take your kids"~ well, you're gonna miss out on a lotta fun memories and you might end up bitter and resentful, which nobody wants.
These days, not all of my trips are with my kids, and I’m not along for all of their travels anymore either. They are bigger and have ideas and adventures of their own, which are really exciting for a parent to watch.
The skills of planning ahead and being flexible were planted as seeds when they were tiny, and have been nurtured their whole lives, and I can see them paying off now.
Each time any of us heads out, whether together or separately, I count my blessings, knowing that we’re all explorers at heart, and we know how to find our adventures.
Just like reading, not everyone will end up loving to travel, but knowing HOW to do it will sure come in handy.
Let us know what creative adventures you're planning with your family this summer in the comments below.
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Writer, Artist, Empowered Living Advocate, Wanna-be Organic Gardening Foodie, Travel Loving Life Explorer, FunSchooling Facilitator / Former Goat-Herding HeadMistress for our Mostly Happy Homeschool, Semi-Crazy Chicken Lady and Mamacita Extraordinaire to a couple of Cage Free Kids.