Travel is a concept that evokes adventure and excitement.
Most of us dream of travel, whether it be a working holiday around Australia or backpacking around Europe. Or perhaps a luxurious getaway in the Maldives is more your style.
Whatever the dream, it is the lure of the unfamiliar, the deviation from the norm, that mostly drives our desire to travel.
Our exposure to the concept of travel and adventure starts at an early age. It features in childhood books, fairytales and movies, usually with an unlikely hero who discovers the big wide world, and themselves in the process.
However, not everyone wants to experience adventure. Some prefer their comfort zone and don’t want to step out of it.
My 11 year old son is on the fence. He loves the idea of adventure but is reluctant to try new things, experiencing anxiety regarding changes and the unknown. He doesn’t like being away from me or from close family.
Despite this fact, when the opportunity arose for him to travel to Japan for 9 days with a school group I jumped at it. To say he’s anxious is an understatement.
Some may think this isn’t a good idea or even that I’m been cruel pushing him to do this trip. However, I know my boy and I know how good this trip will be for him. It’s an opportunity that won’t come along again anytime soon.
Here is what I think he will get out of this trip and why travel in general is so good for kids (with or without parents):
- Independence – Leaving the country is a big thing for a kid, but going without a parent is pretty huge. I know his teachers are super organised and have the trip planned down to the minute, however he will still need to be responsible for his belongings, keeping up with the group etc. I won’t be there to hold his hand! Even if a child is travelling with their family there is more opportunity for developing independence and being self-aware.
- Confidence – With independence comes confidence. An attribute that is great for kids at any age, developing confidence is especially important for my boy as he prepares to go to high school next year. Once he conquers this trip, I’m sure he’ll be ready to take on anything!
- Exposure to a different culture – Reading or watching documentaries about other cultures is completely different from experiencing them first hand. Fully appreciating the fact that people live, eat and talk differently to you helps build traits such as empathy, as well as an appreciation for different views and belief systems.
- Resilience – There is no doubt being in a different country can be challenging and without me to reassure him, I’m sure my boy will struggle at times. But I also have every confidence in the teachers that are going with him and the fact that he himself has an inner strength that will get him through.
- Build connections and make memories – Travelling with peers, both ones he knows well and some he doesn’t, will provide a unique travel experience different from travelling with family. I’m sure lifelong friendships will be forged and some amazing memories made.
- Problem solving, critical thinking, conflict resolution skills – Studies have shown that travel helps develop these cognitive skills. Being placed in a unique and unfamiliar situation at such an important developmental stage will undoubtedly have this benefit for my son, all while being supported by skilled educators.
- Instil a love of travel and adventure – Already a family holiday lover, I hope this encourages my son to spread his wings and broaden his horizons when he’s older.
Putting my 11 year old on a plane and sending to a non-english speaking country 7000km away is not going to be easy. I’m probably even more anxious about it than he is (not that I would tell him that).
But I know this will be an amazing, life-changing experience for an already remarkable young man, and I can’t wait to hear about his adventures on his return.