I have heard it all. Seriously, I have heard every single excuse people have for not traveling with their children. The children are too young. There are too many of them. They're just not good travelers. How about, you don't have enough money or too few vacation days. Well, I have a secret. Not one of these is a good reason to not to teach your children to become world citizens and travelers.
If there is a will, there is always a way. Trust me, I know.
1) Travel with young children
The most ridiculous thing that people say is that you should wait to travel until your children are older. We've been told that it is easy for us to urge people to travel with young kids because our children are now 12, 13, and 15 years old and they are wonderful travel companions. But the reason our children are easy to travel with is because they've been traveling with us since they were babies, not because how old they are today! Our children were all born in different countries (yes, all in the space of three years), and every one of them traveled to another country before the age of two months. Boy, were those first trips tough! They really were! But imagine traveling somewhere with a teenager who has never been anywhere -- now, I don't know if I could do that!
Blue Lagoon in Iceland. Photo by Katja Presnal
2) Travel even if you think you don't have the money
We were not born with silver spoons in our mouths, and we don't have trust funds to help us pay for our travels. We are a middle class family and my husband has had full time jobs with limited vacation days. Yet we find ways to make family travel a priority for us. Our children have swum in the Blue Lagoon spa in Iceland and eaten lobster in Halifax, Nova Scotia. They learned to cook pasta dishes in Italy and to make ceramics in Finland.
We made it happen because we wanted to raise global citizens and give the world to our children. If we've found ways to give this gift to our children, so can you.
But just how did we actually do it? Our way might not be the way everyone can do it, but I serve it up as proof that if you want to be a global family badly enough, you can find a way to make it happen.
Ceramics class in Finland. Photo by Katja Presnal
3) Find a way, anyway to fit travel into your lives
We have been fortunate in the sense that my husband's career has allowed us to live in other countries, but it wasn't coincidental. He has changed jobs multiple times in the past 17 years in order to be able to do this. In fact, our wanderlust has equally helped and hindered our careers. I realized over 10 years ago that if we wanted to keep traveling, I had to look for work that I could do anywhere in the world. I have been an online entrepreneur since 2004. I started an online company called Skimbaco in 2006, and I still have it today. Each in our own ways we created a life that always allowed for travel. Now we are working on making a living with a network marketing business to enable my husband to quit his job one day (in the far future) so we can travel even more.
4) Think of travel as a broad term
Some of our travels have been more long term than others. When I started my company we lived in Colorado, which is where our children learned to ski. For two years we lived the life of "ski bums," my husband flying a rescue helicopter in the mountains, and me working on my online business, while the kids learned to embrace a mountain lifestyle. And then we moved on, and settled just outside of New York City. Three years of living that close to a city was enough for us, so we moved to the countryside in Sweden. Over the three years we lived in Sweden our children visited over 10 countries, became fluent in Swedish, and got closer to their Scandinavian roots.
Photo by Katja Presnal
5) Rethink the travel part of Family Travel
Having a Family Travel mindset is different than planning that one "big trip" during summer vacation or spring break. It means thinking about travel constantly. For instance, in our family, we travel via food when we can't actually fly away. I wrote about culinary travels last month because food is a wonderful way to teach children about global cultures.
It also means taking every little advantage to travel. Family trips don't always have to be long! In fact, sometimes weekend trips are best. Everyone stays excited, you don't have enough time to get on each other's nerves, and it is always better to leave each trip with the desire to travel and see more. So much better than ending travels on a sour note and a feeling of relief that the trip is finally over and you are on your way home! Shorter trips tend to be cheaper too. We have seen quite a bit of the world just on short weekend trips.
Photo by Katja Presnal
6) Rethink the family part of Family Travel
Here's another secret. Family travel doesn't always have to mean the entire family travels together. We have a tradition in our family that says that each child receives a special day trip for their 10th birthday and an even more special trip for their 13th birthday. Of course we prefer to travel with the entire family, but by doing it this way we are able to offer special trips for each child. I took our daughter to Bali this winter for her 13th birthday, and our older daughter got a trip to Paris for hers. I already know that next is a daddy/son trip to go skiing in Canada this winter. Trips like these are an amazing bonding experience and something I am pretty sure our children will never forget.
7) Decide what travel is worth to you
Our travel experiences have not come without a price tag and many sacrifices. Some of them are easy, like not owning a TV or having cable TV. We also don't go to the movies or spend Saturdays shopping at the mall. Our kids don't play soccer or play the piano. It's not that we think those are not important, but we chose to teach our children about the world instead.
How you can get started today? Don't worry, you don't have to move to Sweden. Start by taking simple day trips close by and by deciding how you can create a lifestyle that includes travels. And take advantage of the Internet! One of the reasons I love social media, and using apps like Findery, is because it helps me to find new places to visit with my family and discover tips on how they actually did it. It helps to feed our wanderlust between trips and adventures!