Why extended travel with kids is good for your soul!!
Six months ago, in September, I arrived with my family in Ecuador – a long awaited trip and dream come true to travel with my husband and our two youngest children to a country that was new to all of us. Our teenager stayed at home in Canada to complete her last year of high school.
Since much time has passed, it’s difficult for me to write this and remember my exact feelings prior to, and at the start of, our adventure in this foreign country, but I’m sure it’ll all come back to me…
I guess there was a bit of excitement. There was definitely a lot of stress associated with moving out of our home in British Columbia, and packing just 3 small bags for travel — seriously, what to do you bring on an 8-month journey?! There was a bit of anxiety – Ecuador is Spanish speaking country, so for a non-Spanish speaking person, this can be intimidating. And maybe there was some fear of the unknown. Travel advisory websites seem to want to freak you out about just any destination besides your own country.
We had a bit of a plan as to where we were going to travel in the Ecuador, but details were to be decided en-route — so not my style (I’m a massive planner) — but I quickly adapted.
It’s now the start of March, and Ecuador feels a lot like home. We’re very comfortable with our surroundings and our community. We’ve settled into a beautiful city called Cuenca and we are more or less finished the “exploration” part of our trip.
As planned, we travelled around the Northern part of Ecuador, down the Pacific Coast, and ended up in the Southern part of Ecuador, closer to Peru. We now know how things “work” and we’ve become accustomed to some of the things that just aren’t how we would do them back home. Just because things are different, it doesn’t mean it isn’t right, right?!
There’s something about extended travel with a young family that’s so great for the soul. Firstly, not many people have the courage to do it, so you do feel kinda special. I feel so eternally grateful to be able to share this experience with my kids, and I’m sure it’s not one that they will forget.
Secondly, I know that I’ve pushed a lot of my personal boundaries, or former blueprints. With my first child, I had the mindset of: kids need stability; it’s challenging to travel with kids; travel should be restricted to short trips; or worse yet, until you retire (not!!). All these perceived rules about “how” and “when” things should be done.
But now that I’ve done it, I actually feel quite knowledgeable about it — a veteran — so to speak, and I highly recommend it to those considering talking the plunge. You might even want to call me an advocate for it.
Kids are amazingly adaptable. Since we’ve been here, we have stayed in 3 new homes and have visited countless new cities and small beach towns. Our kids have been dragged around on planes, buses, taxis, cars and on foot to new destinations. I think our longest travel day, besides the plane trip here, was 12-hours.
Our kids, ages 4 and 10, have been to two sets of schools, including their regular home schooling. We have exposed ourselves to a new culture, new language, new food and many new experiences. And most importantly we have learned better how to tackle feelings of anxiety, fear and uncertainty. I know I’m more confident, open and able to go with the flow, trusting that we will get to where we need to be in due time, and so are they.
At first, they asked a lot of questions — “Where are we going? When are we going? How are we going? When are we coming back?” — but eventually they stopped, or perhaps they just gave up, because we didn’t seem to have the answers when they wanted them.
Likewise, my kids have become more confident, flexible and open, while being aware and appreciative of the differences in culture and lifestyle in their new temporary home.
As much as I would love to stay in Ecuador, we do have plans to return to Canada. When we are back home, we will have many stories and experiences of a lifetime to share. We also have many new friendships that will extend past our travels.
If you are thinking about travelling with your kids, my urge to you is to do it. The experience is irreplaceable and there is no better gift (in my opinion) that you can give to them that creates such wonderful and fulfilling memories, education and growth.
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