When I pause to reflect on the year that was 2015, I can only come up with one word: grateful. We are grateful for the adventures we enjoy, the friends and family that support us from near and far, and the ordinary times and moments that make life extraordinary. We have learned a lot about ourselves both at home and on the road and want to share the valuable life lessons travel taught us this year, hoping you might be inspired to apply a few to your own lives.
15 Valuable Life Lessons Travel Taught Us in 2015
Lesson 1: Don’t be afraid to try something new.
There were many firsts this year, and many new adventures. We went zip lining in Puerto Rico (which I can’t wait to do again), snorkeling and paddle boarding in Cabo (which I failed miserably), and I even traveled internationally with one child by myself (we both returned home alive so that’s a success). I never would have tried these things without the encouragement of my children and my husband, but I’m learning to embrace whatever life throws my way.
Lesson 2: Learn how to follow your passion and ask for what you want.
As your kids get older they will want to have a say in where you go and what you do. Give them the opportunity. Since I am following my passion, I encourage them to follow along and take a role. Show them the destinations, explore places through books, the internet, and videos ahead of time and let them help. One of our children even went as far as writing his own post about one of our trips to Cabo and started his own Instagram to share about our travels, Kid On A Trip. Let them get involved and see where it takes them.
Lesson 3: Appreciate your elders and embrace the lessons they want to teach you.
Whether its grandparents, teachers, or people you meet on the street, everyone comes into our lives for a reason. Listen to their stories, learn from their lessons. We have taken several trips with the grandparents and each time we enjoyed their company. The kids love having special moments and memories with them and we enjoy the extra set of hands and treasure our time together.
Lesson 4: Help children learn the importance of budgeting and a good work ethic.
We believe travel is enlightening and educational, but it can also be expensive. We try to save money, but children don’t always see what goes on behind the scenes. Our children have no idea what travel costs and assume once they leave the nest, the travel will continue. Today’s youth have a lack of understanding regarding budgeting, finances, and investing. As a substitute teacher, I see it not only in my children, but others as well. We as parents and educators need to do a better job of teaching kids about the value of money and a good work ethic.
Lesson 5: It’s ok to admit terrorism has changed how we think and the way we travel.
I hate writing these words. We visited Europe five days after the Paris terror attacks and everyone was on edge. Everyone in the world is still on edge. Our kids saw soldiers with machine guns marching next to them in Strasbourg. This was something they had never seen on our five previous trips to Europe. Sadly, terrorism is a part of our lives whether we want it to be or not.
Lesson 6: Everyone needs to practice random acts of kindness every day.
This is something we always say, but need to do more often. Our youngest has such a kind heart. When we were in Germany, he found Euro coins in various places (the train station, the middle of the street, you name it, he was always looking) and decided to give them to people he would see begging. He was never told to do this, but he knew it was the right thing to do. It reminds us all to be kind to someone each and every day.
Lesson 7: Don’t be afraid to ask others for help.
As I look back at photos from past trips, I’m amazed at how few family photos exist. There are plenty of one parent with the kids or the kids by themselves, but relatively few of the whole clan. There were many missed opportunities where we could have asked someone to help us out. This year we had a wonderful photo session with Localgrapher in Munich and I would highly recommend doing something like this. Also, we need to ask more people to take our photo, just pick the one you can outrun if they try to steal your camera! LOL
Lesson 8: Love one another, but know how to give each other space.
We travel so we can be away from the routine of our daily lives, enjoy each other’s company, and learn about the world. We realize however, vacations can be VERY long and we aren’t used to being with each other 24/7. Everyone needs a break and we need to find moments to go off in small groups or even alone so we don’t kill each other!
Lesson 9: Technology is everywhere, but it doesn’t mean you need to be plugged in at all times.
As a travel writer, I have to be plugged in quite a bit, but it’s also nice when I am off the grid. It gives me a chance to enjoy the experience and be in the moment instead of working. That being said, we discovered a great device this year that we took on our Germany trip, a TEP WiFi device. It was extremely handy after a day of exploring when there was nothing on television for the kids to watch except for German shows. We used the device with my laptop and logged into Netflix. Technology continues to amaze me!
On the flip side, when we travel internationally, the kids leave devices at home and mom and dad try to limit screen time too. It makes such a difference! We talk during meals and really enjoy the moments where everyone is emotionally present. Sometimes life can be better without technology too.
Lesson 10: Be open to other cultures and lifestyles.
Our kids see anything and everything you could imagine when we travel. We tell them that even though others are different, we are all humans who can learn from one another.
Lesson 11: Know when to complain and how to gracefully accept the things you cannot change.
Our kids have seen some of the best customer service arguments ever, but unfortunately they think that means everything is negotiable. We’re teaching them when to stand up for themselves (ie. when a taxi driver tries to rip you off) and when to walk away. It’s a work in progress.
Lesson 12. Let it go.
When you travel, you can reinvent yourself. You can try to speak a foreign language. Others will appreciate it your efforts. You can try on masks and silly hats in a store, take pictures, and laugh about it. You can even hug your mom and dad when you’re a teenager because no one you know is watching. Be free, let your guard down, and just let it go.
Lesson 13: NOBODY is perfect.
Not even mom. Especially when she loses the Eurail passes, blames dad, has him buy new train tickets, and then finds the passes less than a minute later buried in the luggage. Enough said.
Lesson 14: We are SO fortunate.
It goes without saying we are incredibly blessed. Not only do we enjoy fantastic vacations with our children, we have happy, healthy children, loving friends and family, a roof over our head, and food in our bellies. The same cannot be said for many in the world. We are grateful for our blessings.
Lesson 15: Life is too short.
There are so many experiences we want to have with our children, our parents, and with each other, but the clock is ticking. Our children only have one childhood and we’re doing our best to make it memorable. We must seize each and every moment, live each day to the fullest, and tell everyone we cherish them every chance we get.
Thank you for being part of our adventure. We wish you and yours a wonderful 2016!