Often people are shocked to find out how much the kids and I travel alone. They question why I wouldn’t wait for my husband to be able to go with us or if the money we spend travelling without him takes away from our family vacations. The reality of the situation is that there will never be a perfect time to travel but, even with the obstacles you may face, it is smart to travel young.
On this day 10 years ago, my 57 year old mother passed away. Until this time, I did not appreciate how quickly an illness could take your life or how young an otherwise healthy person could simply die. Not long after my father was diagnosed with early on set Alzheimer’s and passed away a few years ago now.
What struck me the most about both these situations was that my parents still had plans to travel. They dreamt of seeing the Great Wall of China and relaxing in spas across the world once their children were grown. My mom always spoke of going on a great African safari and my dad wanted to walk the Great Wall with his only son. In the end, they simply waited too long for these dreams to be accomplished.
When you consider how fleeting life can be, it can be a real gamble to wait to travel. An accident or illness can simply take away your ability to walk before you are able to climb any mountain and with travel it often makes sense to live in the moment. You may dream of scaling Everest in your twenties and simply find by the time you begin to arrange the trip, you are forty with two kids and different priorities.
My advice for those of you are still relatively young and able is simply to do it now. Financially it may seem impossible but with a little planning and a lot of Internet research, most trips are doable. Often I hear people say that they simply can’t afford to travel but in reality there are hostels across the world that would be glad to have you. Seat sales are easy to find and travel is getting less expensive with advances in technology.
For those of you with young children it can be overwhelming to try and plan a trip. Costs for family vacations are high and in reality once you have the money it is usually because you have a job that doesn’t allow for a lot of vacation time. My advice is to find a way to take the time off. Your children are only young once and my greatest moments with mine have been spent away from electronics and our busy lives in Toronto. The conversations you can have with even young children when you shut everything else off are incredible and its an excellent way to regroup as a family and to find out what is going on inside those tiny adorable heads.
Another benefit to travelling while your kids are still young is that they have so little negative experiences in their lives, they can truly experience places for what they are. When they meet young children from wherever you are visiting, they see them as friends and are keen to learn about their lives. Having taken my children to a track meet in Jamaica last year, I can attest that I first noticed the condition of the school while Will who was 4 at the time noticed how much fun the kids were having and asked to join in.
The benefits of taking young kids on vacation can also be seen in the more commercialised trips we have taken to places like Disneyland. Up to a certain age, children simply believe in the magic of Disney and don’t question if a princess is the real one or how Lightning McQueen talks to them. They simply trust that these things are real and its a gift they are blessed with for only so long. When I hear people say they are waiting to take their kids to Disney when they are 10 or 12, I always advise that it will be too late for them to really experience the magic of it all.
If I could go back to when my mother was 55, I would change a lot of things. I wouldn’t go directly to university and I would convince her to take a gap year with me and to see the world. I never took the time to travel before university or before taking my first full-time adult job and its an opportunity I wouldn’t throw away again. Once you own a house, have children, and have a job or a working spouse, everything changes. Priorities shift and your schedules are chocked full of activities. Still, it is so important to take the time while you are still living to see the world and create memories that will live on through your children.
You only get one shot on this planet, might as well explore it while you can.