My sixteen year old daughter has been given the opportunity of flying to China, with her boyfriend, to stay for a week with her boyfriend’s parents. My instant response, when my ex-wife phoned me to ask my opinion, was of course she should go, it’s a fantastic opportunity. I then had to listen to all my ex’s objections that ranged from the possibility that my daughter would get lost at the airport, all the way through to white slavery and international terrorism! I understand that every parent has their concerns when their children first spread their wings, but international travel is a part of life today, so the sooner kids get the chance to do it the better. That’s my opinion anyway. Here are ten more reasons why I think it is so important that kids get travel as soon as they old enough, and sensible enough to.
1. It teaches them to plan and to organise
Depending on their age, kids probably will be dropped off at the airport and picked at the other end and, no, I wouldn’t want my sixteen year old having to find a taxi at Shanghai airport. However, travelling will still teach kids to get organised, pack everything they need and make sure they get to the right a departure gate on time for their flight.
2. It prepares them for the future
It’s a global economy now and, whatever career they choose, the chances are that, in the future, it will include some travelling at some time in their lives. Travelling long distances is stressful, especially the first few times you do it. So, why not let kids get some practice in now, while they do still have the support of parents and airline staff to help them?
3. It makes them more tolerant of other cultures
Even as an adult, my extensive travelling made me think totally differently about people from other cultures and other countries. When you meet people from other countries, you appreciate that, despite the outward differences, we really are all the same underneath the skin. The more people that realise that; the better it will be for us all.
4. It teaches them to appreciate what they have
Kids may well be shocked by what they see from their coach or taxi window as they pass through a foreign land but that too wouldn’t be a bad thing. It is one thing to see people who have very little to call their own, or who do not have enough food to eat, on the TV news broadcasts, It’s quite another to see those people for real.
5. It makes them more independent
Quite obviously, the first time travelling without parents to guide your every move, even if they are going to be met by someone when they get to their destination, is going to be a bit scary, but it will also help to stand on their own two feet. Going out in an unfamiliar country, so long as it’s safe enough to do so in that country, will also teach them to be a bit more street wise and it will make them more confident about being on their own and fending for themselves.
6. They will learn how to be more patient and adaptable
Let’s face it; anyone who has travelled will know the need for patience! Airplanes don’t always fly on time, if they fly at all, and travel plans do go wrong. That’s when you need to learn to be patient and to adapt your plans when you need to. Stamping your feet and having a tantrum certainly won’t get you there any quicker, so you learn to make the best of what does go right.
7. They will learn that languages are more important than they thought
When you learn languages at school, it can all seem a pointless exercise, but when you travel, you soon find that even a few words of the local language can get you a long way. Even if all you know is how to say please and thank you, the local people will respect you for at least trying. That’s far better than arrogantly expecting that the whole world should understand English and thinking that, if you shout loud enough, they will.
8. It teaches them to ask for help when they need it
Kids grow up being taught not to speak to strangers, for perfectly valid reasons, but it can give them the impression that all strangers are dangerous. Once they start to get a bit older and they travel, they will need to know that, actually, most people aren’t mass murderers and lunatics! With their new found confidence they will learn to ask people for directions and for help when they need it.
9. It will make them more interesting people
Part of my ex-wife’s issues about my daughter travelling stem from the fact that her own family have rarely travelled beyond the borders of their own town, let alone outside of the UK. I sincerely hope that, when she gets older, my daughter has more to talk about in a conversation than just the goings on in her own town.
10. It might give them the travel bug
I do hope that my daughter does get to go to China, although that is now in doubt for other reason than my ex-wife’s travel phobias. Having had the opportunity to visit many different countries in my time has been one of the highlights of my life and, given half the chance, I will be off again as soon as I can. I got the travel bug years ago; I hope my kids catch it too.
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