The benefits of travel for children


There’s light at the end of the tunnel, it won’t be long now until we can resume one of our favourite pastimes. When the final shakedown comes I guess we’ll see who in the holiday industry is left standing. There are almost certainly going to be some companies and organisations that go to the wall. For me, I’m doing ok and will probably survive. Winter bookings are starting to pick up but at the same time it’s fragile and people are understandably still nervous.

Long before I ever dreamt of being in the travel industry the seeds were sown for the potential to realise that outcome. I’m thinking about my first ever foreign holiday. I was around about 11 years old when my parents chose to go to Hendaye, a lovely little seaside resort on the French/Spanish border, not far from San Sabastian. It was a cheap and cheerful camping holiday. We went by coach from Sheffield Pond Street bus station, across the Channel to Calais and then across France to our destination in San Sebastian and from there a taxi to our camp site. Well, that is to say, my brother Sam and my mum joined me on the journey, my dad had other ideas, he cycled there and had his own adventure, while we had ours.

I loved the excitement of the journey, the novelty of the ferry crossing, and the feeling of elation that we were going to be spending two weeks in a foreign country. A new and exciting adventure beckoned. The sights, the sounds the smells, they filled up my senses. The sense of adventure and freedom was quite heady. I was hooked. I loved camping and the ad hoc nature of sleeping in a tent and cooking things on a camping stove. I even enjoyed taking the cooking utensils and dirty dishes to the communal sinks/washing area. The adults were friendly and inclusive even though I couldn’t speak the language. I have to chuckle at myself in hindsight. I’d attempt French, ‘Allo Allo’ style, with a raised voice and expect them to understand. It made sense to me.

There were other kids of different nationalities on the camp site and it was easy to make friends with them. We had out own little gang. I didn’t realise it at the time but I was in the midst of a massive learning curve that shaped my personality and my outlook on life.

I think travel is extremely beneficial for young people. Travel helps kids to become more adaptable and flexible, encourages and teaches responsibility. It can ignite a child’s sense of curiosity, imagination and sense of adventure. It’s time out from the day to day routine back home and enables them to try something new. And, importantly it teaches them that we may look and sound different, but in actual fact we are all pretty much the same.

Taking kids travelling also brings benefits on a much deeper level. They’ll be exposed to new experiences and adventures and as parents we have considerable say over how they deal with it and whether they choose to become open-minded, tolerant, global citizens.

Maybe above all, kids will learn about the importance of resilience. Even when they come across difficulties, it helps them to see the positive. It’s been shown that adults that took educational trips and foreign travel as children not only got better grades in school, but were more likely to have a college degree and a higher income compared to those that didn’t travel. Simply put, travel encourages learning, opens the mind and makes kids interested about things beyond their social environment.

I honestly think it was the making of me. Those exciting adventures with my parents opened my eyes to the world beyond. I was lucky enough to travel the world as late teen and into my early 20s. Those experiences cemented my desire to experience more and led me to a career in travel. I’m a lucky man.

Danny Frith is Director at SkiBoutique. SkiBoutique is a luxury ski chalet agency based in Switzerland.

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Comments (11)

  1. Lori says:

    I absolutely love this! Totally reinforces the same sentiment around being an expat kid – but that you don’t have to be an expat to travel and be open to new adventures – no matter how far, near, or even the adventure type. Thank you for this!

  2. Elaine D. says:

    I myself know this for a fact. Growing up in a country with relatively conservative views and upbringing, I was aware that going for a swim meant having a shirt and shorts over my swimsuit. As a teenager, I would be conscious of how my “flabs” were going to be all visible in a tight-fitting dress or shirt. Until I was able to travel to a country with liberal views and “devil may care” attitude. I learned to be less conscious, to be more accepting, to widen my views, and to see that in many ways, I am lucky. Traveling has taught me many things even in my adult life. I know I would be thinking differently if I wasn’t given the chance and the means to explore the world.

    • Dan Frith says:

      Elaine,

      Thanks for your comment. You have perfectly reinforced several of the points I made. Glad you got the chance to travel and open your mind. Priceless!

  3. Bethany Jones says:

    It’s sweet to hear of your travels with your parents as a child. I missed out on a lot of that as we didn’t get to go anywhere, but in a way I think that may me even more keen and appreciative of travel when I was older, knowing what a novice I was to it and how special it all felt, and still feels. Part of me does feel that I missed out. I think travelling can have huge benefits for all ages, but especially children as they’re growing up so they can get a sense of the world at a younger age. Expose them to new cultures and ways of life, show them responsibility and learning, all the good stuff. You’ve made some great points, especially about helping to nurture the next generation to be more “open-minded, tolerant, global citizens”. That in itself would be a huge plus.

    • Dan Frith says:

      Bethany,

      Thanks for your comment. The magical aspect of travelling never ceases to inspire. The world is a playground and we’re lucky to be able to experience it’s abundant beauty.

  4. Brian Murphy says:

    I think camping is a great way to introduce children to their first travel experience. It’s a really bonding way for families to spend time together also, away from the distractions of TV, etc. I enjoyed many a family camping holiday as I grew up.

    • Ben says:

      Yeah, that’s true, camping is a great way to avoid the modern distractions of the world. I’m sitting out at a cafe right now, and I can see that even when people come here to read or something, they are still glued to their cell phones. Camping is the best way to detox from modern technology, especially for kids.

  5. April says:

    You touch on some really good points in this post. You’re totally right about coming across challenges while traveling. Kids will have to get out of their comfort zones. And that’s really great to do when you are young, to realize that you can grow when you face a challenge rather than just running away from it. So many lessons to be learned while traveling.

  6. Gerald says:

    I utterly agree with the benefits of travel for children on so many levels. At a practical level it teaches them to be organised, thinking ahead to what they will need. Once they are old enough to travel alone or on a school trip they will soon learn not to pack their passport away.

    On a higher level, travel is brilliant for opening people’s minds and making them more appreciative of other people’s cultures. Though if you are travelling as part of an organised group, say a coach tour, with little real contact with the outside world then I have my doubts about how useful that is.

    Educationally, travel has its benefits too. If you’ve visited Athens or Rome then you’ll probably have a deeper understanding of their empires when you study them st school. Then there are all the benefits of learning a language in situ.

  7. James says:

    We try and get away with the kids as much as possible for exactly these reasons. It’s something that I really valued when I was growing up and I think it can help develop that ‘international mindset’.

    Even if it’s just camping, it can totally open the kids up to interacting with nature and understanding how lucky they are.

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