Why do I travel with my young children?
“It’s too troublesome and stressful,” many parents would say, “It’s work and not a holiday.” They shook their heads thinking of the children’s demands, schedules, crankiness and truckload of items. I agree. Without children in the tow, the luggage is lighter, the peace is more, and the itinerary is easier.
Thankfully (or not), we are used to taking care of the girls without much help (domestic helper or parents). Hence, it’s a similar grind when we are in another country, but with the added benefit of a change in scenery. Personally, I needed a break. Post-natal during Covid times was no joke. Grace commented I scolded them much less when we were in France. Lol.
Of course, taking care of them overseas compared to being at home means more logistics and adjustments to a new land. Well, at least my girls and I don’t have to suffer from separation anxiety, which is especially pronounced if we are going to be in different countries.
“It’s a waste of money. Children will forget, so there’s no point,” some parents reasoned. I have very vague childhood memories. Thus I understand this argument, but don’t quite agree with it. My childhood shapes who I am even when memories are forgotten. Experiences and learning are wired into children or people in general. Why read books to babies if they are going to forget the stories? Why sing nursery rhymes or recite poems to them? Why shower them with hugs and kisses when they will forget? Just kiss and read when they can remember.
Even if they absorb nothing, parents or caregivers get to build relationships with their children from these activities, same goes for travelling. Family memories created. Happy feelings remembered. Quality time spent together (with a more physically present parent who is now removed from work, provided laptop and mobile are not intruding).
Even then, I caved into doubts at times. Why am I “suffering” unnecessarily by travelling with the children? So whenever my girls mentioned moments from our travels, I get surprised. They do remember! Sometimes, I don’t even recall those moments until they brought them up. Self-justification pride sets in.
“Plane, plane!” Joy stretched her finger to the plane flying in the pastel blue sky. “Who wants to sit in an aeroplane?” “Meimei!” she yelped, her finger pointing back to herself.
“Mummy, see see! The Eiffel tower, we went there right? That’s Mona Lisa!” Grace pointed me to the advertisement playing in the crowded big brand clothing shop. We walked a few more steps, and she tugged my arm. “Mummy look, we took photos with this one!” The Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Louvre museum came into view.
Many parents sign their children up for enrichment classes to get a headstart in life. Well, travelling is one of my ways for my children. Travelling pack life experiences in a short period of time.
Flowing with hiccups and disruptions trained flexibility.
Speaking repeatedly to people who look and speak (accents) differently from us builds confidence and self-esteem.
Taking in the divergent sights, sounds and scents opens their eyes and minds.
Moving around in unfamiliar modes of transportation such as railway trains, streetcars, and horses opens them up to possibilities.
Eating different cuisines widens the palate (although my girls and I are not natural talents in this).
Strolling in the museums and streets of architecture encourages curiosity.
Enjoying God’s creation of majestic mountains and expansive grasslands invokes reverence for something bigger than us.
There probably are other reasons why parents bring children to travel. I will just end the list with this, travelling is a good way to develop respect for culture and diversity. Learning about other people’s way of life and religions promotes tolerance because what you don’t know can instil fear and irrationality.
I always thought our multi-racial society in Singapore is diverse until I travelled to Europe and came across many other races and ethnicities. Travel is also an eye-opening experience for me. One thing I love about travel is learning new things, and I wish to bring my children along my learning journey too.
Disclaimer: Other than travelling, there are many other ways for children to learn the above. Travelling is just my preferred way of educating my children.
You might say, “Good points, but I can bring the children when they’re older. It’ll be much easier and that’s when they truly learn.” I do wonder the same too.
That goes back to the point about young children not remembering. Like parents who sent their children to ballet classes at 2 years old, my bet, belief or faith is that my children will absorb like a sponge when they are young. I also think younger children engage more through experiential and hands-on learning than by reading facts from a book. It must be fun for the children to see things in books come to life, like getting up close with a real-life aeroplane and sitting in one!
I also want to instil in them a love of travelling, but perhaps this is more nature than nurture. Well, at least they might adapt better to travelling if they start young. Travelling can be hard for the children too as they adapt to a different bedroom, a change in schedule, and an unfamiliar environment.
So strong is my personal belief about travelling, we took a calculated risk to travel with the children during Covid times. When we brought the girls along with us to Paris on a VTL flight in Nov 2021, whisperings of our irresponsible parenting could be heard.
Just go overseas yourselves, why risk the children to Covid?
The risk was assessed and calculated. There’s an illusion that it’s safer in Singapore. I read and heard of people who didn’t step out of the house unnecessarily, and yet were tested positive. To me, the probability of Covid and quarantine was the same in Singapore as overseas – 0% if you don’t get it, 100% if you get it. What’s more, our government must have assessed VTL countries as relatively safe before they opened that route.
Of course, the costs would snowball if we are positive overseas. Hence, we prayed real hard for negative results. We also had some money saved from Joy’s “free” airfare. There’s also the insurance. Speaking of which, take a look at the list on your old travel insurance policies. Dangers of travel existed during pre-covid times too — car accidents, viruses, terrorist attacks, and many others. The possibility of such mishaps is the same as Covid positive. Covid just made danger starker and thus instilling an overblown fear in people.
Moreover, we didn’t know when travel would open up and if the gates shut again from a second wave. Joy had not been overseas since birth while Grace went 3 times before she turned two. So we got out as soon as we could. I had to get a much-needed breather too. I was suffocating in Singapore — the past two years were not easy and I needed my dose of overseas air. Suffering mental health is also a cost too.
I could have just flown out alone, but the girls’ were not used to other caregivers, so I didn’t want them to suffer from a sense of abandonment and adjustment. My parents flew to Bangkok without me when I was young, that gnawing memory. Joy would have it especially tough because she’s like my extension for the past two years. She only went to school after we came back from our trip. On the other hand, I would have separation anxiety from the girls too! Still, I’m looking forward to the day when the girls are older and I could slip away on a lovers’ trip with my hubby. 💕
Most importantly, I travelled because I didn’t want fear to stump the girls’ learning. Certain windows of learning only open when they are young. One of them was, albeit sounding inconsequential, I needed them to see other people talk without masks for their speech and social skills. They have already been impeded and confined much by Covid. One article that was originally published in Straits Times explains my stand further, “More young children diagnosed with developmental delays“.
So expensive. So rich ah.
Like above, costs can snowball in positive cases. And yes, travelling is an expensive education. We did stretch our budget a bit for this big trip to France. Should we have? Like my hubby said, take it as an accumulative travel expenditure from the past two years. In addition, a bonus for my two years of hard work.
Some spent on expensive bikes, some on costly enrichments, some on luxury bags, we just chose to spend money on travelling. Money can be earned back, but mental health cannot be compromised, and learning starts early. In our opinion, we needed to bear some short term costs or risks to make sure we get to reap long term benefits.
What about you – why do you travel or not travel with your children? Leave a comment below, love to hear from you! Be kind, and write with love. :)
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