Q/A With The Sechels... How Travel Impacts Children

When Daniel was 14 months old we got on a plane and moved to Hyderabad, India for 2 years… that was Daniel’s first flight! While in India, we traveled a ton… so much that Daniel needed more passport pages before he was 3. Following our repatriation to the US, we continued to travel near and far and Daniel has now been to over 20 countries and all over the US.

Watching Daniel grow up experiencing the world has been fascinating… we have always been passionate about growth and transformation through travel, and traveling as a family has taken this to a whole new level. We get asked a ton of questions about how all of this traveling has affected Daniel… what follows are the questions we get asked the most and our answers…

Does Daniel remember the places we visited when he was really young?

We don’t think Daniel remembers any specific events, people, or places before he was about 4. However, he does remember strong feelings. For example, when we lived in India he enjoyed visiting with his family in the US on vacations, on trips home, and on Skype every week. He knew that his family lived far away and the separation was something that he thought a lot about. When we moved back to the US Daniel felt a very strong bond to his family and has a great appreciation for living close to his grandparents, aunt, and uncle.

Does Daniel speak any other languages?

No, none of us speak any languages other than English. This is something that we want to change and are looking for ways to learn Spanish as a family at some point.

One of the most interesting things we’ve observed is Daniel playing on playgrounds in foreign countries where none of the kids speak English. It is amazing to watch children communicate through body language, laughter, yelling, crying, and acting. They all have a great time and figure out how to play together regardless of language.

How has the travel impacted how Daniel interacts with people?

When Daniel was ages 1 – 3 we lived in a place where we were different than almost everyone, which was a complete contrast to Todd’s and my early childhood experiences. Though Todd and I were totally aware, Daniel was oblivious. Years later Daniel is unaffected by how people are different from him. Though he notices how things appear and observes that people look different, dress different, speak different languages or with different accents, etc., these differences don’t affect how he interacts with people. He views differences more as interesting learning experiences.

Daniel has been in lots of situations where he’s needed to communicate with and read people in different ways… sometimes he doesn’t speak the language… sometimes only a person’s eyes are visible… These experiences required him to develop his emotional intelligence so he could sense how to proceed. We’ve observed that Daniel’s emotional intelligence and ability to sense situations are quite advanced and he naturally uses both of these tools when he communicates in any situation, even when the more typical communication channels are available.

Are we concerned about Daniel seeing extreme poverty? How do we handle these types of experiences?

No, we aren’t concerned about Daniel seeing extreme poverty. Traveling offers amazing learning experiences for all of us regardless of age, but if we put our blinders on to what goes on in the areas we visit we’re missing huge opportunities for growth. Compassion, empathy, gratitude, connection, and service are just some of the bi-products of embracing the places we visit fully.

We talk about everything that we see and feel... the good and the bad. We’ve found that Daniel sometimes has much purer views of the situations and very interesting insights... Daniel is more likely to connect and empathize immediately with a person/people/situation because he doesn’t have the beliefs/judgements/conditioning that we adult have (i.e. adults may say a person lives in poverty because ____ so it doesn’t seem as bad, but a child will just see another person and their need). In many ways Todd and I have learned more from Daniel than he’s learned from us…

How does Daniel react to being in so many different types of situations?

Daniel is thrilled with travel and when we haven’t gone anywhere for a while he asks us when we’re going on our next trip. When we arrive at new places Daniel immerses himself and loves the thrill of the new experience. That being said, we believe that it’s important for both children and adults to retain something familiar when traveling. For a child it could be a stuffed toy, favorite book, etc. For an adult it could be a meditation practice, a favorite snack, etc. Having something familiar can help us feel safe, secure, and connected when we’re experiencing something that is completely unfamiliar to us. Rather than retreat, we can embrace the unknown and really take in the experiences we’re meant to have.

Do we take Daniel out of school to travel? What is our philosophy on missing school to travel?

Yes, we do take Daniel out of school to travel. We communicate his absence ahead of time and always make sure we keep up with homework and other assignments.

We believe that the education children receive from traveling is invaluable and if a child has the opportunity to travel he/she should absolutely do it. That being said, at some point it might make sense for a family to consider a distance learning program or home schooling for a period of time if the travel will take much of the school year.

Are there any trips that we won’t take with Daniel?

Yes, generally there are places that we won’t take Daniel without very unusual circumstances, none of which have ever presented themselves. There are so many great places in the world to experience and we don’t see a compelling reason to take Daniel to places that are known to be extremely dangerous. For example, countries at war.

There are also places that we don’t feel we or Daniel could experience fully at Daniel’s age. We don’t want to spend time and money going to a place where we aren’t able to take part in key activities. A great example is an African safari. We all want to go on an African safari, but from the US it’s expensive and time consuming. We’d rather spend the money and time when Daniel is older and able to fully participate.

So… we’ve talked a lot about Todd’s and my observations about Daniel… are you wondering what Daniel thinks? I did a little interview with him…

Daniel… do you like traveling? What do you like the most?

I like to travel and I’ve gone to lots of places! I really like going to different places and seeing different things.

Daniel… what have you learned from traveling and what interests you the most?

The biggest thing I’ve learned from traveling is that there are so many different people in the world. I really like seeing new people… what they look like and what their religions are because it’s very interesting to me.

Daniel… what types of places do you like visiting the most? Where do you want to go to next?

I love places with beaches and places with mountains. Sometimes I like the forest too. I like these places because they have very fun things to do.

I’m really excited to go to Costa Rica because there are so many things to do and see, like a volcano! I also want to see different animals… there are sloths, crocodiles, and lots of other animals!

Wrapping it up

Though this post is focused on our observations as Daniel's parents, we've had the opportunity to get to know lots of other children who travel extensively and talk to their parents about their observations. We find more consistencies than differences and that the majority of children experience amazing growth through travel. (And so do adults!!)

Keep in mind that travel does not have to be expensive or far away. There are opportunities for amazing experiences everywhere... the key is to expose ourselves to situations/people/activities that aren't typical of our everyday lives.  

Are there questions we didn’t answer? Please let us know… we love to hear from you! Also, what’s your experience? Please share observations you’ve had traveling with kids so we can learn from our collective experiences!

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