The Benefits of Extended Travel as a Family

I was asked to write about the benefits of extended travel as a family for the Australian Camper / Campervan magazine, Time to Roam (February/March 2014 issue), so without further ado…

Young children are often the most flexible travelers, and it’s easy to coach kids through elementary level learning experiences if you’re taking time out from school. On the other hand, older kids are better able to make sense of what they experience and directly apply it in and outside of school. Either way, the benefits of an extended family trip can be enormous.

1. Perspective

As a teacher, I can always tell which of my students have had more life experiences through travel. They have their own interests and viewpoints and can balance different sides of an issue. Kids who travel are more likely to seek connections between subjects. They want to understand things, not just memorize. Schools today put a growing emphasis on developing well-rounded, critical thinkers who can adapt to the challenges of a rapidly changing world. What better way to develop this than through family travel?

2. The magic of family time

Travel allows families to deepen a truly special bond. Taking a time out allowed my overworked husband to re-establish his relationship with our son; they had time for fun and conversation every single day. Priceless! Similarly, siblings learn to depend on one another. In normal life, everyone goes their separate ways; when traveling, you’re a unit.

3. Appreciating limited resources

Power, water, fuel, money, and even food have to stocked and monitored carefully when you’re on the road. Children learn to appreciate resources when they’re not connected to the usual lifelines.

4. Exhaling

Extended travel lets all family members step out of the fast lane. It’s a beautiful day that doesn’t begin with herding the children out of bed and off to school - beautiful for them and for you. Living life at a pace you can dictate – it’s not only healthy, it’s magic.

5. Learning to schedule free time

Being independent of school structures means that children learn to schedule their own time and be creative. For some, this can be a challenge, but they’ll soon come to appreciate the freedom. Extended periods of travel have shaped my son into a self-starter with a long attention span, because he can pursue his interests and complete projects without outside pressure.

Turning Experience into Education

Rich educational opportunities arise everywhere – but valuable, transferable learning won’t just happen on its own. If your children are to gain a new body of knowledge that can be applied to future endeavors in school and in life, you will have to design explicit, focused, and relevant educational experiences. That’s where school materials or books like Lesson Plans To Go come in handy.

Schedule an appointment with your child’s school to discuss your trip. Ideally, you’ll find parallel opportunities: does the upcoming science unit cover ecosystems? Substitute an ecosystem in your destination while meeting the same unit criteria. Does the curriculum call for story writing? Use your travels as inspiration. Your children can stay connected to classmates through a weekly blog. To make the most of your trip, assign each child an area of responsibility and include them in all decisions. Make them team members, not passengers.

Above all, experience, experiment, and enjoy!