This year, our summer holiday was split into two travel destinations. Both equally fun, but completely different in nature. For the first part of our holidays, we travelled to Africa and immersed ourselves in African culture, folklore and wildlife. And the second part was spent in Goa with friends and family at a beach resort, lounging by the pool. Watching the children in both these environments got me thinking about the choices we make and what they mean for them. Even something as innocuous as a vacation can have subtle, hidden messages for your child. Your choices allow your child a glimpse into your world, your personality. When you are cut away from your daily routine, you allow yourself to be who you want to be and your likes and preferences come to the fore.
Ask yourself these questions: Do you like nature? Does the peace and quiet of a remote destination with crickets chirping in the background beckon you? Are you an outdoors person? Do you like adventure activities like trekking and hiking? Or do you like the relaxed beach vibe with the sun, sand and the waves? Do you prefer to take holidays with a large group of friends and family or do you prefer smaller ones with just your immediate family? Do you like to immerse yourself in the culture of the place you travel to, attempting to eat the local food while learning a few phrases in the local language? Do you ask questions to understand and appreciate the differences in their culture and yours? Do you visit museums? Do you sit at a park or a cafe and watch people as they go about their daily routines? Do you spend your whole day in a theme park outside the city? Do you travel to large cities or small towns? Do you use private vehicles or public transportation? Do you stay in a hotel with all amenities or do you stay in an BnB apartment where you need to figure things out for yourself? Does a missed flight or lost baggage stress you out or do you take it in your stride?
Each individual choice you make tells your child a little something about you as a person. When these choices are made repetitively over a period of time, they will start to influence your child’s personality as well. It will form a base for his interests, hobbies and pursuits. It will help determine his view and approach to life.
So, choose carefully. Expose your child to a variety of situations. Encourage him to try new things, to wander off the beaten path. Cast a wide net and provide your child with myriad experiences that instill a sense of curiosity and adventure. Teach him to appreciate creature comforts while also learning to rough it out. Show him how to travel within a budget. Model empathy and inclusivity by celebrating different cultures while learning to appreciate his own. Provide opportunities for him to have an activity filled holiday but also, sometimes slow it down enough for him to take some time off to observe and daydream.
The next time you plan a vacation, think about the hidden message for your child. Is it in sync with how you intend to raise him, the attributes and values that you would like him to imbue? Whatever you choose, keep in mind that your choices have a larger impact than you might have imagined. As Pamela Chandler said, “When you travel with children, you are giving something that can never be taken away…experience, exposure and a way of life.”