What kind of legacy do you want to leave to your children?
As parents, when we talk about the qualities and values that we would like our daughter to have, besides the basics (honesty, respect, love, generosity, compassion, humility, confidence, etc…), one of the first attribute that often comes to our mind is this one: resilience.
For those who have watched the French Canadian movie “Les Boys”, there is this famous and funny expression (“la dureté du mental”) that is used to talk about strength of character… or mental toughness! What is mental toughness? It’s the ability to adapt to any situation and remain happy even if everything is not perfect. It means resilience.
Why do I want it so bad for her? I want my daughter to know that she is capable of anything by herself! I’d rather prefer that her priority, when she’ll be an adult, won’t be to look for security in a relationship. I have absolutely nothing against someone who finds true love at a young age (I know too many happy couples who have met each other quite young), but I would prefer that, when she will be looking for love, it won’t be because she doesn’t feel confident enough in herself. I always believed that we should be happy with ourselves before we can be with someone else. That being said, developing a strong character in our daughter will be an important asset to her, for the rest of her life!
In the world we live in, it is so easy to be affected and shaken by a plethora of things over which we have absolutely no control over. To me, traveling is the best way to develop this beautiful quality that is resilience. In the comfort of our home, everything is relatively easy and never requires much effort. When traveling around the world and experiencing a lot of different adventures, we are constantly placed in situations that require a good deal of adaptability! In this context, a child will also experience situations that she is not used to and where she will have to adapt.
Adventure and independent travel (the way we like to travel) makes things even more interesting, since the two greatest factors that may affect our temper (hunger and fatigue) are not always fully satisfied right at the moment and in the way that we are normally accustomed to.
Adventure traveling is also very far from the “all inclusive resort”, where everything comes to you without almost any effort. On the other hand, with independent traveling, everything you want and need requires finding it by yourself or finding a way to get it. For many people, this way of traveling is not within their definition of a “vacation”, and I can understand why. I personally have nothing against other ways to travel (all inclusive vacations, cruises, guided tours, etc…), but I’m just saying that these ways of traveling don’t fulfill our thirst for adventure and exploration! For example, on our last trip, we changed our itinerary three times, at the very last minute, because something more interesting came up. This would not have been possible if we were traveling in another way.
This is what I like the most about adventure or independent traveling: we can go wherever and whenever we want to go! But these trips are everything but a vacation to rest! We do have some time to recharge every now and then, but we don’t travel to rest (we go to my parents-in-law’s for that!). For us, a full day laying on the beach is a wasted day. We do go to the beach, but after a few hours, it’s time to move on!
When the local language is unknown, the place is unknown, people are unknown to us, everything is more difficult. For example, just finding a good place to eat is an activity by itself! I know people who have such a hard time deciding where to eat dinner in their hometown, I can’t imagine the process when they don’t even speak the language and are used to the food. So here again, it’s a challenge for Emma-Kate: she can only eat what’s on the menu! Since we are not staying very long at each destination, it requires a lot of resilience. We can’t complain here: even though Emma-Kate’s menu came down to only the following 5 foods in our recent trip to Sri Lanka (and I barely exaggerate): fries, bread, rice, ice cream and peanut butter! Traveling with a toddler means choosing our battles!
For an adult, all these changes might not be too much, but for a child, it is a lot. When we are traveling to 4 different countries in 1 single trip, the food changes, everything changes. During our last journey, she slept in over 15 different beds! Every 3 days, she had to adjust to new surroundings, a new bedtime routine, and more. Everything is constantly changing! This means she had to already be resilient and adapt to a whole new world.
There’s also the friends! Every time we changed places, she made new friends. Only to leave them again, and again.
I strongly believe that even though children are extremely resilient, putting her intentionally in ever changing situation forces her to get out of her comfort zone. These perpetual changes build her character and she gets tougher and tougher!
It is also proven that the more a child is exposed to new stimuli, the more connections are made in her brain. So it is logical to say that traveling makes our little girl smarter! Win-win!
What got us really impressed is how every morning, Emma-Kate woke up in a good mood, ready for the next adventure, even though she had no idea what to expect! She is so bubbly! She is always up for anything, want to try lots of activities, and for that (and so much more), we are very proud parents!
Over a short period of time, she developed that mental resilience that allows her to be happy and feel good no matter what may happen. Of course, some elements in her environment never change, as anchors, and make her feel safe: first, both her parents (us!) are constantly with her and always ready to reassure her, and second, her favourite stroller (the BOB Stroller Strides Fitness, the best stroller for active and independent travellers, by the way 😉 ) that serves as a small protective bubble, her private place where nothing can happen to her!
What I am trying to say is that traveling is a kind of school, it is part of the school of life, and I think it is one of the best ways to shape our child’s character and personality. Of course, not all people can travel all around the world, but there are other ways to achieve the same goal.
The benefits we get from independent and adventurous traveling is that our child is automatically immersed in a new environment that puts her to the test and forces her to adapt and get more and more resilient. That’s the best gift that we can give her, the best legacy: to give her all the tools to face this beautiful, but tough world.