September 1, 2012

The Unexpected Benefits of World Travel with Kids

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Caren and her family traveled to Kenya this summer for a service trip. Caren is the President and Co-founder of The Kilgoris Project, a non-profit that runs schools, medical programs and economic development efforts in rural Kenya. We outfitted Caren’s family with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part one of their adventure.

Travel with Kids

Non-profit work in Kenya makes world travel a regular part of my life. The office is in California; the groundwork happens half a world away.

Unlike some working moms, I often get to take my children with me on business trips. Since my work is service, there are great lessons for them to learn from my efforts.

Yes, I want my daughters to know about a big world beyond suburbia. And I want them to care about the less fortunate in it. But there are some unexpected perks that delight me every time we haul ourselves around the globe.

Here a few benefits I noticed on this trip:

Free play—There’s a freedom to rural childhood that my kids get to taste for a few weeks at a time. Maasai kids don’t have playdates; they just play.

Travel with Kids

They wander in fields with cows and sheep. They build houses for stick dolls under palm trees. They play catch outside after dark. My kids easily fall into this rhythm, and I love the creative play that ensues.

Family bonding—My two sisters-in-law also happen to be colleagues. They bring their children on our longer business trips, too. So the cousins, who live across the U.S. from each other, get more time together abroad than at home.

Travel with Kids

The younger girls all sleep in the same room. The older ones give piggyback rides and help tuck in mosquito nets at night. They giggle and fight, sing and annoy each other, tell inside jokes and make rabbit ears above each other’s heads. I’d like to think these growing bonds will keep them well connected when they’re older.

Cultural comfort—The more we travel, the more I see my kids at home anywhere. They’re learning to take language barriers and different customs in stride. They played peek-a-boo with a Pakistani toddler on the plane. They remembered to cover their arms in Dubai. They offered their heads for Kenyan elders to pat.

Travel with Kids

In years past, not understanding a local language or being presented with unfamiliar food would have thrown them more. But now they’re rising to new occasions.

On this trip, we visited a possible new school site, so remote that many local children had never seen Caucasians.  They took the curious touching of their skin and hair in stride. Soon they were jumping rope with new friends. I love when my kids inspire me like this.

Travel with Kids

World travel with children can be stressful, but I’m blessed to be able to do it. The great surprises outweigh any obstacles.