Why you shouldn’t feel guilty if you don’t travel the world with your children
The list of things that parents/guardians feel guilty about is endless. Guilt about screen time, not being patient enough, not playing enough, not providing enough emotional support. Guilt for taking time for self-care, guilt for juggling work/home/study/kids and it never feeling balanced and the list continues.
But one thing you should never feel guilty about is not travelling overseas with children.
When I was younger, holidays consisted of camping trips or stays at caravan parks which I have very fond memories of. By the time I was 18, I knew of only a few people that had been overseas and thought Fiji was on the other side of the World from Australia! But now, many children in Australia are spending school holidays at resorts in Fiji, Bali and Thailand and taking multiple overseas trips by the age of 18. How quickly times have changed!
Whilst I LOVE travelling and believe it has huge benefits for children, I don’t think it is essential.
Published 06.09.2020. Any post on this site may contain affiliate links which could result in Many Journeys Blog receiving a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Why are more families travelling overseas?
One major drawcard for Australians choosing overseas locations is the cost and ease of the holiday. Hotel costs in places such as Bali and Thailand are far more enticing than costs in Australia. Food is cheaper which means no cooking (yay!) and no dishes (double yay!). Being able to afford the low cost for laundry, massages and transport makes the holiday far more enjoyable.
Whilst many people holiday overseas primarily for value, culture is also a drawcard. Exploring temples, visiting different museums, soaking in the street scenes and enjoying different food and drink all add to the experience. Travel can definitely help children (and adults!!) become more culturally aware and understanding of others.
Why don’t some families travel overseas?
There is a long list of reasons for not wanting to travel locally or overseas. Financial constraints, time limitations due to shared parenting, fear of the unknown, lack of leave entitlements at work, fear of flying, fear of natural disasters/pandemics and being overwhelmed just thinking about travel can all lead to people staying in the comfort of their homes.
Travel can also place strain on relationships between parents and children, and between partners. Being stuck together on a flight, then in a hotel room and being around each other ALL THE TIME isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time! I find we get along better when we travel, but I know others struggle with this.
Why you shouldn’t feel guilty
Do kids really care about culture?
In all honesty, I don’t think that exposing our son (now 9 years old) to overseas travel has really made him appreciate foreign culture. He didn’t care about the amazing temples in Cambodia, or the history of Vietnam, he just wanted the ice-cream reward for being dragged around!
If he had to pick between camping or an overseas trip – he would pick the camping without a moment of hesitation! His only hesitation might be to ask if we will be camping up the bush, or near the beach – because these are big decisions!
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely think that being exposed to different cultures is beneficial to everyone, I just don’t think you HAVE to travel overseas to have a better cultural understanding of the World.
The rubbish bins were far more exciting than Angkor Wat!
Travel won’t make smaller children more grateful if they see poverty
Hearing people say “I want my kids to see poverty to make them grateful” makes me cringe (I feel a future rant post coming on!). Firstly, poverty is NOT a tourist attraction. These are real people, with real lives, and real hardship and they don’t deserve to be used as an ‘image’ to push gratitude onto a more privileged child.
We have seen poverty on our travels, and had to answer questions of “why are those children collecting rubbish” “why is that person asking for money”. We always speak honestly and openly about the difference in peoples lives and how lucky we are to afford a good life. But this hasn’t made him more grateful at this stage of life. Memories and gratitude might come later in life, but this isn’t why we travel.
There is also a fine-line between teaching children to be grateful, or just making them feel guilty for what they have.
They will still eat pizza and other food from home
Travelling the World won’t magically open your child’s culinary World (although if your child is an amazing eater please let me know your secrets!!). We still have to look for pizza, pasta, chips and a limited range of noodles. He essentially eats a different version of what he would at home!
Picking out the noodles from a Vietnamese dish.
Amazing food in Bali – Not shown the bowl of fries the child ate!
Bring the World to your child
If you want to open your child’s mind to the World then there are plenty of ways to do this without collecting stamps in a passport. But you should do this because your child is interested, not because you feel it is “required” for development or personal growth.
Explore your own backyard
You really don’t have to travel the World to give your children an enriching childhood. Buy or borrow camping gear and go WILD! Look out for cheap local holiday deals and travel off-peak to save money. Visit the local wetland/park/reserve that you keep putting off until “one-day”. Grab the picnic basket and a frisbee and enjoy the outdoors. Whilst these activities might not teach about other cultures, they still get you out of the house and exploring! Nature is the greatest teacher!
There are also plenty of indoor activities to expand a child’s World such as Art Galleries and Museums. Why not take a tour of a local historical building/area or enrol in a cooking class for a food you haven’t tried?
Read and learn
Books and documentaries are also a brilliant way of bring the World to your home. Join-up with your local library, borrow books from friends, browse a local bookstore or jump online. Watch documentaries and other thought-provoking shows.
Virtual tours are becoming more popular and there are some great websites such as Lonely Plant Kids.
Look for local cultural events to attend such as street food nights, markets, festivals and shows. Cultural events are generally very child friendly and offer a great opportunity to casually learn about other cultures.
Events can be found on websites such as Tourism Australia, local/regional websites, newspapers and social media.
Drop the guilt
Personal mindsets can vary from being obsessive about travel, to not even considering it. Others want to travel but just can’t get past the fear, or are limited by finances, or shared parenting limiting the time with their children. For some people, travel will never be an option due to their circumstances and I am forever grateful that I have the privilege to travel.
But is this travel essential for children? No, I don’t believe so.
Seriously, if anyone ever acts as though you HAVE to travel with your children to give them an enriching life, give them a high five…in the face…with karate chops. I really hope I never give off this vibe to people and I do try not to be that person who starts every sentence with “When we were in…”
Image from Fowl Language Comics