Considering traveling abroad with children? If you are, then I’m sure you have a million questions jetting around inside your mind: is it safe to travel with children? Do you children adapt well to new cultures? Should I travel with my child? Most importantly, why should I travel with children?

Let me give you a quick answer to the penultimate question: absolutely, you should. There are always things you can do beforehand to prepare, so, prepare.

Now, let me tell you why you should travel with them. First, I’ll hopefully ease your fears, then give you two more important reasons to take your children traveling abroad.

Safety Concerns

Like any parent who is asking themselves the question if they should travel with their child, I have been concerned about my daughter’s safety abroad. More importantly, I am more concerned about her safety in the United States. It seems that every week there is a massacre of one type or another, a horrific act of violence, or a ‘mistake’ that ends in the death of a child.

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Auburn playing safely in Hong Kong, safety equipment and all

So if you’re worried about your child’s safety abroad, I can assure you, they are as safe as anywhere you would take them in the United States. Obviously, travel with caution and diligence; it’s probably not a good idea to take your child to Syria, Somalia, or Iraq, at the moment.

However, don’t be afraid to take your child somewhere that has historically been belittled by American/Western media. Auburn and I have been to Colombia and Vietnam, places I had heard from other Americans (who’d never been there) that I shouldn’t go there because it’s ‘dangerous!’ Now I just laugh when I hear this because I’ve never been to a place outside of the USA that felt more dangerous than living in the USA itself.

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Auburn playing with her new-found friends in Ho Tram, Vietnam. I’m pretty sure this sand pile was for construction purposes so likely not the best example of traveling safely 🙂

Learning Opportunities

Can your child get a solid education in the United States? Sure, if you send them to a private school you know and trust. I may sound like a hater in this regard, but the American education system sucks, it sucks big ol’ donkey hooves.

So you think I’m a hater? Not true, I love the United States, but I also love and respect other places for knocking us around in the education department. Take for example that American education ranks just 14th in reading, 25th in maths, and a sad 17th in science.

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Auburn enjoying her birthday in Ho Chi Minh City, summer camp 2016!

Now I’ll hand you over to my personal experience in public education: donkey hooves. I grew up being taught the letter ‘w’ could sometimes be used as a vowel, that Christopher Columbus was a class-act, and that the USA had never lost a war. Let me scribble that out for you: (1) is B.S., (2) is vomit-inducing, and (3) is utter nonsense. A university-education and the internet have taught me heaps more than what I could have ever hoped to learn (unlearn) from the over-lavished, sub-standard, American public education system.

Now take for example that if you travel with your child, they’ll have the opportunity to learn in a different culture (avoiding common mistakes), see things from a new perspective, and pick up on languages that you probably won’t be able to speak. Get them to put down the new iPhone, the latest gadget, and get outdoors and meet some new people! The new language alone is the best investment you can give your child. Aside from the fact that it might cost $10,000 in the future to learn a new language from a university and you can save that by simply immersing them in the language and culture, but learning a new language also changes your brain, makes you more open, and helps you understand things that monoglots cannot.

Memories Increase Your Lifespan

So maybe you don’t care about your child’s education that much or learning a new language isn’t really on your radar of things you want your child to achieve. Fair enough.

Then, for a moment, imagine a life without memories. Or, more common, a life with the same memory over and over again. How short is that life? Painfully, in my experience.

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Me, my daughter, and my sunburn, all together. Koh Tao, Thailand

I can remember spending each day waking up at the same time to go to the same job at the same place through the same amount of traffic. In my memories, months can pass without any significant change, and that’s where your life gets lost: when you’re not making new memories.

I don’t want to pretend like every day will be different traveling and you’ll remember everything, no, that’s not true. You can fall into routine traveling or living abroad as well. But the move itself, the plethora of new sounds, sights, smells, tastes, textures, people, all add ages to your memory. A year will no longer feel like it flies by when you live or travel abroad, a year can actually feel like a proper year, imagine that?

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Auburn sleeping on my head in Hong Kong, a memory I won’t forget and she won’t remember 🙂

Travel, Travel Now

So your child will learn more than your standard American B.S., will pick up a new language, will be as safe as ‘back home,’ and you’ll expand your lifetime through an increased diversity of memories? That’s right; if you do it right.

Give me a shout out if you have any questions: do you agree? Disagree? Leave a comment 🙂 And don’t forget to sign up for reminders of future posts through the submission form at the bottom of the page 🙂

Traveling with children to U.P. Michigan
We didn’t have to travel far for this one, just a few hours north of home. Kitch-iti-kipi, Michigan. Simply gorgeous, though it’s better in color, to be honest.

By: Julie Morris 

If you’re a single parent, you may think that single parent travel is out of the realm of possibility. There are always commitments and reasons to put yourself on the back burner, but the truth is, taking time to travel by yourself can be extremely helpful in getting to a place of self-discovery. There’s no reason to feel like you need to be forgiven for this.

It’s difficult to be our best selves when we’re faced with daily stresses and a schedule that never eases up, so in taking time for yourself, you’ll be doing something to help your relationship with your children… and yourself. So do some single parent travel and be a better person for it. 

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Get out and enjoy yourself!

The key to traveling solo is planning. Safety is always a concern, especially when you’re in a new country, so being prepared is essential. Packing the right items and knowing how to get around once you’re at your destination can help your trip go smoothly, as well.
Here are some of the best tips on traveling solo and staying safe while having fun.

Single Parent Travel, Plan Well

Do some research on your destination to find out local customs, such as how they handle tipping or shaking hands, and find out what the local scene is like. Is it customary to wear certain items of clothing?

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Get lost if you have to, but stay safe

If so, come prepared so you won’t have to go shopping once you get there. It’s important to be able to blend in when you’re in an unfamiliar place, as tourists are often targets for theft or are taken advantage of because they don’t know any better. The more educated you are on where you are traveling to, the better off you will be.

Work out a budget

Solo traveling doesn’t have to break the bank, but you don’t want to find yourself in a tough position in a strange place, so work out a budget ahead of time and stick to it. If you’re in a foreign country and exchanged currency when you arrived, try not to carry too much of it when you go out. Ask the hotel manager if you can keep some things in their safe, including any expensive jewelry (though it’s best to leave these items at home if possible), and your ID and passport, which you can make copies of to carry with you. That way, if you lose your bag or wallet, you’ll still have the originals.

Focus on yourself

When you’re a single parent, your focus is likely almost always on your children: making sure they’re well fed and rested, taking care of anything related to school and childcare, dealing with illnesses. There’s very little time to focus on yourself, so make that a priority on your trip. Book activities that you’ve always wanted to try, and explore areas you’ve always wanted to visit. Bring a camera and journal to document everything and solidify your memories.

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Find yourself by putting yourself in perspective

This experience is especially helpful if you’re going through recovery. Substance abuse, grief, and anxiety can take a toll on our bodies, minds, and emotions. Focusing on yourself during a solo vacation can help you get back to a healthy place and can lead to some self-discovery, which is an important part of recovery. Spending time in a new place can really help you see what areas you want to work on and eliminate from your life when you return.

For more information on how traveling can help during recovery, read on here.

Improving Yourself Improves Your Family

Remember that this trip is all about you, but that doesn’t you reap all the benefits. Find the best ways to enjoy yourself and relax, but remember to make your safety a priority at the same time so you can return safely to your children. Stay connected to someone back home and let them know where you’ll be at all times, especially if you’re going exploring.

 

 

 

Super People, Super Problems

In this era of super kids, it’s easy to want to your child to be superstar, a famous athlete, musical prodigy, or whatever kind of top-level person you want them to be. Our news feeds are flooded with examples of three-year-old skateboarders, 5-year-old piano masters, or 9-year-olds with the pipes of Aretha Franklin, and this gives us the idea that our own children should be up to that level. What is being forgotten is that most of us are average, our children included, and being average is exactly what our children should be. We all make mistakes and have a chance at forgiveness, but driving our kids to be outliers shouldn’t be their inherited mistake.

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Average kids do average things, like paint their nails with watercolor

With the massive increase in levels of depression and anxiety in American adults since 2010, is it possible we are priming our children for the same? Social media has driven us all to believe that being an exception is normal. That having millions of followers, or making six figures on Instagram and Youtube, is thought of as realistic is downright insane. There is a reason that these people are the exception to the rule: being average is the best that most of us will attain. If it wasn’t, then the average would be exceptional and the exceptional would be average. Can you see why this causes problems? The current idea is that if you aren’t special, then you aren’t loved.

Comparing Ourselves to Outliers

We’ve already set the goal posts for ourselves in relation to the freaks we see on social media. We think that we aren’t good enough, don’t have enough friends or enough likes, or that we always must be happy and prove it by posting pictures of us having an amazing day, every day. Please, hold my beer while I vomit.

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An average yoga session, with below average posture

Be honest with yourself, most of your days are average. You get up, you commute for hours to work, you work, you commute back, then maybe you get to have a pleasant Saturday where your child gets you full-time (pending your face isn’t buried into your phone). So why are you expecting your child to be a professional baseball player when they have the exact same child-care schedule as every other kid on your block?

The Ugliness of American Ideals

I’m a lucky S.O.B. and have spent the last four years since graduating college traveling and working on three different continents. This is partly because I love to travel, but also because I completely reject the American ideals of getting a ‘good’ job, working your life away, and having no time to yourself and your family while burying yourself in debt to fill your life with material. Instead, my 3-year-old daughter has gone to school and made friends in 5 different countries and has picked up at least a few words in as many languages. She isn’t going to be a superstar or high-earning athlete, as much as I’d like her to be, because she, like me, is average. And frankly, that’s when she is at her best.

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She didn’t find a single egg this Easter, but her below-average performance didn’t affect her fun at all

I’ve been teaching her to swim and snorkel recently because it’s something I enjoy. One of her most recent challenges is floating on her back and it’s been a true pain in the ass to get her to keep her ears in the water for longer than a few seconds. I push, she resists. I see 2-year-olds on Youtube diving and snorkeling easily, and I get frustrated that Auburn isn’t progressing more rapidly. We’re all prone to this type of behavior because American ideals tell us we are all special. Again, hold my beer, more vomit coming up.

Toddlers Are Excellent Teachers

So why am I ranting about this? Because my daughter recently taught me a valuable lesson. I’ve been showing her videos of other kids snorkeling and swimming, tempting her to try it more and more, and even getting angry at myself when we go a whole session without her dipping her head in the water. So what lesson did she teach me? To just let her float.

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Just your average chocolate cake-eater

I had given up. We were headed to the pool and I had zero intention of trying to get her to do anything with her snorkel or mask on. I just wanted to swim, let her swim, and enjoy the sunshine in one of our last days in Thailand. A few minutes into the pool and I was floating on my back, staring up at a half-moon in a blue sky circled by palm trees. I could hear the muffled sounds of people chatting and others splashing. After a few minutes, I picked my head up out of the water and saw my daughter doing exactly the same thing I was. Floating on her back, ears in the water. I hadn’t once asked her, pushed her, or even insinuated that she needs to practice any skills that day.

Let Them Float

Instead of pushing your children to learn how to swing a bat or sing like Aretha or float on their back, I’ve discovered the best thing you can do is just let them float. Show them what they can do, then let them do it. Drilling and repeating can have a positive impact on your child’s physical abilities, but take a moment to consider what telling a 3-year-old that they will be a professional athlete will do to their psyche. What happens to that psyche when they don’t become a professional athlete? Unfortunately, this type of social media-driven behavior hasn’t been around long enough to give us a clear indication of what happens, but we can look at what is happening to us adults as a clue.

If you’ve ever felt pressured that you have to post something that gets your opinion across in a flashy way, or that an Instagram photo with the perfect filter must be shown each day, imagine what that mentality does to a toddler’s brain. Imagine what kind of influence your toddler is undergoing when you are propping them up as a ‘future Chicago Bulls’ star’ in your Facebook feed. Imagine having the standards set so high for you that you constantly feel inadequate. I’m sure you don’t need to imagine, all you have to do is see how you feel when you look at all the social media icons and compare yourself to them. You’re average. Just floating.

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My average little Easter bunny

But there isn’t anything wrong with just floating, just being average. My daughter is at her best when I let her do what she can do on her own. I can show her a few times how to do it, but no amount of pressure from her father is going to make her love to snorkel with me or want to improve her off-foot striking skills in soccer.

Letting her be average, letting her float on her own, is the best thing I can do for her. It’s when she improves her quickest and enjoys her activities the most. My daughter likely won’t grow up to be a pro soccer player and possibly won’t ever enjoy snorkeling with me, but that isn’t my goal. My goal is to raise a healthy, well-rounded, competent individual who knows that she can do her best, fail, and still be loved. I can’t see a reason to have any other goals than that.