New Friend in Colombia

9 Ways to Educate Children Through Travel (and see the world through their eyes)

When you educate children through travel, you’ll be able to experience the world through their eyes!

My first travel adventure was taken at the ripe old age of 19.  I was young and free, and decided, much to my parents dismay, to book a solo trip to SE Asia.  I met some college exchange friends there and stayed for a month, mostly in Malaysia.  After growing up in a Missouri town of only 200 people and having parents who had never been on a plane, most of my family thought I was nuts.

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Learning to write your name in the sand – great travel game #23974397. :-)

That trip was fun, and stressful.  I visited college buddies, learned a lot, tried a variety of new foods, and honestly, was very, very homesick.  Nothing in my life had prepared me for the trials and tribulations that come with new environments, cultures, languages, or people.  After putting a few more trips under my belt, however, I vowed that I would educate children, especially my future children, through travel.

Now we can fast forward through my 20s and into my 30s.  I’m finally pregnant with my first child, a boy, and all I can think about is how much more open and global his life will be.  His passport was secured at only 2 months of age, and the adventure began.  Traveling with mommy became his norm and an excellent form of education.  He was able to learn naturally, and in a way that his preschool and future elementary school (excellent though they may be) would not be able to teach him.  And the best, unexpected part?  My enjoyment of travel intensified, as I was able to explore and conquer new experiences through my little boy’s eyes.

Here are a handful of ways to educate children through travel:

  1. Geography / Sites - When my son was very young, I was travel coordinator numero uno.    Now, however, we plan trips together, around what we’re both interested in seeing.  We take land travel as much as possible (busses, trains, cars) so we can enjoy the local topography and, when he is interested in something, we will make a side trip, if possible.  For example – when we were in Colombia earlier this year, he ask me if we were close to Machu Picchu.  We had recently read a chapter book about two kids who went to Machu Picchu The Mystery Across the Secret Bridge (Greetings from Somewhere) and, though he had yet to see the inside of a kindergarten classroom, he wanted to see Machu Picchu.  Since Colombia was much closer to Peru than the USA is, we took a side trip to see Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu… and learned a lot!  Staying on one of the floating ‘Uros’ islands with a local family in Lake Titicaca and befriending the alpacas at Machu Picchu is something that we’ll both never forget. My son still tells people to be careful of llamas and alpacas because… they spit! lol

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    He wants to visit Machu Picchu again one day, so I said it can be his high school graduation gift.

  2. Language - One of the best things about traveling with kids is that they start to learn that everyone is different, and that’s ok.  Fear of non-English speaking countries is one of the top reasons that I hear, when people are telling me why they don’t travel.  If kids are raised in new environments with multiple languages, however, they’ll be used to it and already understand what a non-issue it is.

    Study Spanish in Salento

    Studying Spanish in Colombia will help your child (and you) learn much faster!.. especially when it’s at the awesome Museo de Oro in Armenia.

    For example – my friend’s son started kindergarten at a dual-lingual school.  For the first week, he talked about how funny his 2nd teacher was. Then, it took him a whole week more to start clarifying that she was funny because she talked funny.  He had no idea that she was speaking Spanish, and just thought she was really strange. While this is a cute, harmless story and the boy handled it well (and is now fluent in Spanish, though only in the 3rd grade!!!  awesome!) this type of misunderstanding obviously won’t happen if your children are introduced to a variety of languages at an early age.

  3. History - The USA is a relatively new country, when compared to others in the world.  While we can embrace our incredibly important Native American history and American settlement history, to get into truly ancient world history, we must look outside our own borders, into the world beyond. Nothing beats visiting the Colosseum in Rome and explaining age-appropriate Roman gladiator stories to your lil one.

  4. Socialization - While routine is very healthy for children, socialization outside of their comfort zone is incredibly important, as well. When you educate children outside of their hometown area, they will play, eat and learn with children who have different experiences than they do.  They will quickly learn how to make friends on any playground, at any time.  This translates well into adulthood, especially when entering new work environments or social settings.

  5. Budgeting - Travel expenses can get out of hand if not watched and kept under control.  If you have a job that allows you to work remotely, however, spending time abroad can actually be less expensive than living in some areas in the USA.  And… many countries in the world offer a much lower daily expense, even after living quarters are secured (just get places with a kitchen so you can cook at home sometimes)!  A gentle introduction to budgeting can be a fun exercise when you’re using money that ‘looks cool’.  Now that my son is 5-years old, I’ll give him some of the local currency and let him manage it, buying things and receiving change.  It’s a great life lesson and fun, as we get to examine every unique coin and bill that’s handed back to him.

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    My budding botonist thinks beach plant roots are much different than the ones in our yard.

    Time Management & Routine - Travel requires time management skills that are above and beyond what you experience daily at home.  When you’ve got busses, planes and trains to catch, you and your children quickly learn to arrive on time… scratch that, 10  minutes early.  Missing a train has much bigger consequences than being late for circle time at preschool!
    You never know what curve balls life will throw you, and this is especially true when traveling abroad. However, no matter where you are, your daily routines can still be followed and timed appropriately.  Books are still read before bed and morning routines still involve the silly tooth brushing songs but… your daily lessons can be scattered in whenever.  My son mastered the alphabet in Spain, was potty trained in Nicaragua, and started his fascination with the solar system in Ireland.  All of these impromptu educational opportunities were woven around our base daily routine, the one that has rarely changed, since he was born.

  7. Food Appreciation - One of my son and my favorite parts of travel is found when it’s dinnertime.  Many kids I know won’t touch something that’s not a hotdog or macaroni and cheese dish.  This just isn’t an option when you’re traveling to remote, 3rd world, or very different areas of the world.  We’ve been in many situations where you eat what they have, and you’re happy with it.  This, and my meal management throughout childhood, has created an appreciation for most all food in our life, even veggies.  To this day, my lil guy eats what I fix for him… well, aside from the one time his dad, aunt, uncles and I tried to convince him to eat bugs with us. He was NOT having that… I must have waited to late to introduce it to him. lol

  8. Adapting to Change - No matter what else happens in my sons life, I know that traveling has given him the ability to adapt to change, and whatever situation he finds himself in.  He can sit 10 hours on a plane with few complaints and hike mountains for hours without thinking much of it.  This has translated in a pleasant, laid back attitude at home, and anywhere we happen to find ourselves.  Of course, everyone gets cranky when they are tired, hurt, or hungry so, regardless of if you’re at home or off on an adventure, always make sure you’ve got snacks, cool band aids, and water with you! Your experience in traveling will give your kids the ability to sleep anywhere.

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    Where can you find wild horses and donkeys on the beach? Nowhere near our hometown!

    Global Understanding - Even though my son may not remember most of his early year traveling, I know that he has aready gained a deep understanding of the global community and world around him.  Though he is a privileged child, he does not expect the things to be easy or catered to his exact needs.  This is… invaluable.  It’s my goal in life to educate my son through traditional lessons and travel, while making sure that he knows how lucky he is and how beautiful life can be.

My #1 piece of advice to most parents is, get out and travel with your kids, even if you have to split it to keep sane, with your partner taking one child and you taking the other (to totally different destinations).  There’s nothing like staying in the same spot on the beach, just because you’ve found and are investigating a little pool of rocks and snails there.  Yes, there will be hard times, yes, you will be exhausted but… it’s all worth it, because when you educate children with travel, you will end up enjoying yourself more than you can imagine, and most importantly, you’ll open them up to a lifetime of adventure and happiness.

Do you believe we can educate children through travel?  I’d love to hear your experiences and stories, in the comments below!

About Susan D

Curious Mind, Adventurer Heart... Susan D is a frequent traveler and the mother of an (amazing) toddler boy, Ian. They often travel together, just the two of them, (daddy doesn't have the travel bug as often) and hope to inspire others to travel more with their kids.
At the age of 3, Ian has been to 18 countries with mommy, and on over 30 airplane rides. They love to visit family, friends and interesting places all over the globe and are excited to share their great adventures, mishaps, and tips for traveling with kids with you! Traveling with children is rewarding and an education that should not be missed.

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