Jason Rehm, a fellow blogger, recently posted a comment about his family’s travel adventures. (Read about them at http://bodeswell.org) What I found fascinating is that he and his wife have been living and working in Mexico, Central America, and South America since August 2009, with their 5-year old son Bode.
One of the goals of this blog is to refute the “ready-made” arguments for not making that trip of a lifetime–exactly what my wife did for me when I began spewing excuses why we should not go to England. (Those fears and doubts are described in “My London Epiphany.”) I have already shot down a number of cop-outs such as “I don’t have the resume or the reputation.” (in “Negative Vibes”), “How will I ever find a place to live?”, (in “It Really Wasn’t All That Difficult”) or, most recently, “I don’t know anyone over there.” (in “Making Friends, Meeting Locals.”) I now would like to counter another all-too-common argument for postponing, or even forgoing, your dream trip–”Excuse me, Michael, I have young kids. What would you propose I do with them!” My answer is simple: “Take them along, just as my wife and I did many times!”
In the last post, “The $64 Question: Why?”, I gave three reasons for working vacations, including the joy and excitement of becoming part of a new culture. These joys are certainly not limited to adults; in fact, the personal growth and maturity that accrues from living overseas can be even more pronounced in young children. Just as we know that youngsters are far more adept at learning a foreign language or mastering a musical instrument, they are like living sponges soaking up the lessons and experiences of overseas life. Being part of another culture, even for a few months, is not only an exhilarating experience for parents, it can be a truly transformative experience for parents and children alike. So, let me now add reason number four for working vacations: 4) Do It For The Kids!
Some parents may fret about pulling children out of school during the academic year. Personally, I think travel is a fabulous learning experience, as valuable as anything presented in a classroom. However, if that argument does not hold sway, then I suggest taking your short-term working vacation during the Northern Hemisphere summer–June, July, August–when school is not in session, exactly what we did on our first three trips. There are other options including 1) home schooling, especially appropriate if one of the parents is a teacher, 2) attending private school in the host country (although a potentially expensive option), and 3) sending them to the local public school.
Whichever option you choose, though, please don’t use your children’s education as the cover story for not getting off your duff and seeing the world. My own kids, 10 and 7 years old when we started traveling, are now 40 and 37 and long removed from the experiences described in my blog. However, they still remember and relish their living, learning, and playing time in England, Israel, and elsewhere, and they hope to provide their own children with similar adventures. So please remember that fourth reason for planning and taking working vacations: Do it for the kids!