We love to inspire travel in our kids. But sometimes travel is not feasible for our family. Sometimes it’s for financial reasons, and sometimes it’s a scheduling conflict.
As much as we love to travel, I would say that we spend about eighty percent of our time at home in one place. But despite not always being able to travel, we still try to experience the world as much as we can. There are many ways to adopt a mindset of travel, without having to leave your home city!
Note: This post was recently updated on November 28, 2019
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Finding opportunities to inspire travel
The key to experiencing other cultures without even leaving your town is actively seek out opportunities. Find things in your home town that will encourage your kids to learn more about the world.
If you’re a home-bound family like us, here are twenty ways to inspire travel in your kids without going anywhere:
1) Eat at a foreign restaurant
If you live in a city with a lot of global restaurants, then you’re in luck. From Vietnamese to Afghan, Ethiopian to Senegalese, you can go on a culinary journey without having to leave town. Check out what dining options your city has to offer and spend a night out exploring the cuisine from another culture.
2) Watch a foreign film that will inspire travel
With services like Netflix or Amazon Prime, the world of foreign cinema is just a click away. Want to see what India is like? Watch a Bollywood film. Want to visit Italy? Watch Pane e Tulipani. If you’re not subscribed to any of these services, you can always check out a foreign film from your local library.
3) Read a book about another country
Speaking of libraries, another way to expose your kids to other countries is to read books about those countries. The DK Eyewitness Travel series are great travel guides for older kids. Lonely Planet also has kid-specific travel guides for cities like Paris or London. And if you’re looking for travel stories, Bradt Travel guides recently released a book full of stories of families traveling in the world.
4) Read a story or fairy tale from another country
If your kids are more into fiction, then read some stories or fairy tales from other countries. Again, the library, and in particular a librarian, would be a great resource for helping you find stories from a particular country.
5) Inspire travel through music
There are some great music series that offer music from other countries. Putamayo has several compilation CDs geared towards kids that feature music from other countries. Rough Guide also puts out some compilation CDs featuring world music.
6) Practice greetings in another language
There are several apps that you can download to learn another language. My favorite is DuoLingo. Their lessons are interactive and fun, and even easy for kids to pick up.
7) Get a world map or globe
A few years ago, we bought a wall map of the world at Costco that was specifically geared towards kids. Each country had one or two pictures that were specific to that country. My kids love looking at the map, and before a trip, we talk about where we are going, and point out the place on the map.
8) Get a book of world facts
For older kids, a world almanac or a book of world facts is also helpful to give your kids more information about other countries. The Travel Book by Lonely Planet is a great book that has photos from every country in the world, as well as some fun facts about each country. Another photo-based book we love is What the World Eats, which shows what families around the world eat for a week.
9) Experience international festivals
Most major cities have a variety of international festivals that you and your kids can attend. In my city of Seattle, we like to go to the Northwest Folklife Festival to see folk dance and music from other countries, and we also like to go to the Dragon Fest to learn about Asian cultures.
10) Download travel apps and games
Several apps exist to introduce kids to the world. Apps are great because the kids can play while they’re learning about other places and cultures. My favorite app for young kids is the Khan Academy Kids app.
11) Visit an embassy or cultural center
Many cities also have cultural centers, and if you live in a major metropolitan city, you have access to a variety of embassies. Check the program of these places to see what kinds of events they offer to families. In Washington, DC, almost all the embassies participate in Passport DC, which allows visitors to tour the embassies along Embassy Row.
12) Watch a dance or music show
Local ethnic community groups often put on events for other people to learn about their culture. Look in your local newspaper or weekly community publications for cultural dance or music shows happening in your area.
13) Watch YouTube videos to inspire travel
The advent of the Internet has made seeing the world as easy as clicking a mouse. Pick a country to learn about and watch YouTube videos made by people from that country or that cover topics relevant to that country. Be sure to screen the video ahead of time before showing your kids, to make sure the content is appropriate.
14) Go to an art museum
Art museums often have sections that focus on art from particular regions of the world. This is a great way to introduce your kids to world culture. Many cities also have museums featuring art specific to a particular region in the world, like Asian art or African art.
15) Volunteer with refugee or immigrant families
Volunteering helps kids learn the importance of service. To incorporate world learning and cultural exchange into your kids’ volunteer experience, volunteer at an organization that works with refugee or immigrant families.
16) Inspire travel by watching a soccer game
Soccer is an international sport, and understanding and enjoying the sport will help your kids connect with people all over the world. Many cities have professional or semi-professional teams that often play teams from other countries.
17) Cook a dish from another country
Have your kids help you make a dish from another country. Talk about the unique ingredients in the dish and the different techniques used to cook it. Exposing your kids to unique flavors will help prepare them for the flavors they’ll taste during travel.
18) Visit an ethnic market or grocery store
A great way to expose your kids to the sights and smells of another region is to visit an ethnic grocery store from that region. You can talk with your kids about the various items and ingredients you see in the store, and buy new ingredients to experiment with at home.
19) Take a dance lesson
Dancing is a fun way for kids to actively participate in another culture. In my city, I have taken African dance lessons, salsa lessons, and even Argentine tango lessons. Dancing exposes your kids to the music of the culture, and also gives a hint of what the personality of the culture is like.
20) Play dress up to inspire travel and imagination
Costume play is a great way for kids to experience another culture. They are literally putting themselves in someone else’s shoes. Try and find clothes or costumes that authentically represent another country, rather than ones that show an approximate representation.
Finding creative ways to inspire travel in your kids
Even if physical travel may not be feasible for your family, there are plenty of ways to inspire travel without leaving your home town. These activities are a fun way to inspire travel in your kids. We’ve tried all of them, and continue to do them even as the kids get older.
In my opinion, encouraging a mindset of travel in your kids is one of the most important things you can do. Not only does it help them be comfortable with new things, it also helps them grow up to become global citizens.
Do you have ways to inspire travel in your kids and family? Share them in the comments!
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