Here are 6 ways:
1. The space between Point A and Point B is rich.
Before having kids, I focused mainly on my destination. I considered airplane rides, subways, boats, and car rides a mere means to an end. But with kids, the space between home and the hotel is an engrossing part of the journey. They notice everything from the intricate workings of the wings of an airplane to the colorful graffiti on a city wall. I’ve learned to look out windows and take in smells and sounds. It’s helped me learn to be present in the moment, wherever I am.
2. You discover new places.
As a family, we like to visit places that are engaging both for adults and kids. The process of discovery has actually been fun. For example, when we go to a hot springs for the weekend, we choose one that has both adults and kids sections. Hanging out in the family area, watching my kids relax into the warm water and learn to swim has been one of the greatest joys of parenting–– bringing me back to my own childhood.
3. Playfulness rules.
At what age do people lose their ability to be silly and un-self-conscious? For me, it was somewhere during my adolescence. Traveling with kids practically requires silliness, especially when things get stressful, such as waiting for late planes or trying to entertain a child who’s overtired. We always travel with a ball and Frisbee on hand, plus a cadre of games and giggly songs, and often when I’m playing, I notice I don’t even look around to see what people might be thinking.
4. Slow is refreshing.
Travel is super stimulating for kids, and they get easily exhausted and out of sorts. So, naps and rest breaks are essential. When we travel as a family, we find that we do less, and that’s okay. It’s refreshing, actually, not to have a jam-packed itinerary, kind of in line with the “slow travel” movement. Parenting is already tiring enough, and it feels good to embrace a much-needed slow down.
5. People around the world love kids.
It’s amazing how people in all cultures adore children. Right now my family is living in rural Mexico, and when I walk down the street with my children, people stop and talk, and I feel an instant trust, warmth, and common ground that I don’t experience when I’m alone or just with my husband. Kids create a bridge to immersing in a new culture that is very rich and deep.
6. You can learn together.
When visiting a new place, whether in the U.S. or abroad, everything is foreign, no matter the age of the person. The whole family is on the same playing field, trying to integrate. Which means you can discover as a family. This presents an opportunity to learn a new language together, or try a new food. It’s a pretty amazing experience to grow in this way as a family, fostering tight bonds.