Someone asked me recently if we’ve had any transformational family travel memories so far since we’ve been on the road. After over 12 weeks on the road, it was honestly difficult for me to pinpoint just one.
We’ve had several moments throughout this trip that have felt significant and transformational. One that sticks out in my mind, though, was when we visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC as part of our DC exploration with the kids.
The exhibits were presented to us in a way so as to tell the story of America’s fight for freedom juxtaposed with the spread of slavery and racism throughout the United States. Although much of the nuanced content of the museum went over my kids’ head, it really struck home to me how important it was for us to show our kids that America’s history isn’t perfect. There are many ugly and dark sides of our history that we need to acknowledge and understand.
This, in a sense, is an example of how transformational family travel can be. Visiting that museum was an “Ah ha!” moment for me. It made me realize that part of the importance of this trip for our family is to show our kids that the world is not only a beautiful place, it can also be harsh and complicated. We shouldn’t shy away from showing that part of the world to our kids, because it will only serve to make them wiser.
Focusing on quality over quantity
As we continue to share our family travels with the world, I want to make sure that we look for more ways to make transformational family travel memories. One way to do this is to focus on the quality of our travels rather than the quantity.
We know some families who are traveling around the world fast. They are checking new countries off their list every couple of weeks. Some families have visited over thirty countries in less than a year! For us, though, we are choosing to do the opposite.
Rather than traveling fast, we’re trying to take a more slow approach to travel, spending at least a month in each place we visit. What this means is that we’re not going to be able to visit every country in the world. But the countries that we do visit, we’re hoping we’ll be able to take the time to dive deeper into those cultures, to experience the places more fully.
Doing our research
One of the great things we’ve enjoyed doing is reading up on the places that we’ve visited so far. Since we’re members of the Seattle Public Library, we are able to access a large selection of ebooks, and that has helped us learn more about the destinations that we travel to.
Our kids have read biographies of George Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr. through the I Am biographies series by Brad Meltzer. We learned about the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, the Revolutionary War, and life on the prairie during pioneer days, all by reading the Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne.
Part of what makes our travel experiences so much more memorable is that we are learning as we are traveling. We are seeing with our eyes what we have just read about in books. That kind of transformational family travel is so valuable, especially to our kids.
Traveling with humility
As we make our way around the world, we are also reminding ourselves to travel with humility. As I mentioned before, we are learning as we travel. We are not experts. We don’t claim to know everything there is to know about a culture and a place.
Travel also makes us humble. The more places we go, the more we realize how amazing this world is. Even as we travel throughout the United States, we are realizing how vast and diverse the American experience truly is.
After our time in DC, we ended last week with a couple of nights stay in Philadelphia. During our time in Philadelphia, we walked around the historic part of the city, visiting the Liberty Bell and checking out the site where Presidents George Washington and John Adams lived as the White House was being built.
While we were in Philadelphia, we visited the National Constitution Center, and learned a little more about how the laws of the United States were initially created. Again, I was struck by how contradictory many of our Founding Fathers were, demanding the right to independence for themselves, while denying those rights to the enslaved Africans that they owned.
As we go through the world, we will undoubtedly have many more transformational family travel moments like this. Moments where we realize that the world is complex, that the triumphs of our histories most certainly come with some grave costs.
Our kids deserve the opportunity to experience all that the world has to offer. As parents, we must not shy away from introducing them to the realities of the world.
Do you have a story of transformational family travel? Share it with me in the comments!
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