Home Exchange Member, Joy Orr, shares her thoughts on the important lessons travel teaches our children.
I’d spent my whole life travelling across Europe and around the world, but alas, it had only been in books. I’d experienced the beauty of Tuscany, the magic of Paris, the drama of London. But for more than 40 years, it was only in my imagination through the power of great writing.
As my daughter was getting older and experiencing her own adventures through reading, and she began to long to see the places she read about, I realized how much I wanted her not just to imagine the great places in the world, but to actually be there.
In the spring of 2014, when my daughter was 9, we dove into the world of home exchanging. Determined to take an extended trip to Europe without breaking the bank, we began the process of stringing together multiple home exchanges in France, Italy, Denmark and Ireland. Three glorious months. And in 2015 we did it again. This time it was 7 weeks in the UK and northern France.
My daughter has watched the ballet at Tivoli Gardens, felt the gratitude of the people of Normandy for the sacrifice made by her Canadian forebears, and spent countless hours at the British Museum. She’s gathered eggs from backyard chickens, rode a bike through the cobbled streets of Firenze, and learned of the terrible story of the Troubles in the streets of Derry.
But she has also relished the discovery of an entire bedroom full of new toys. The trampoline in the backyard. The scooter she’s determined to master. The pleasure of taking care of cats, gerbils, and a goldfish.
These are just some of the immediate benefits of home exchange. And we all know the adage: Happy kid. Happy parents.
But the benefits of travel live on. I just love those delicious moments when I hear my daughter say to a friend “When I was in Amsterdam, we rode our bikes everywhere.” Or while watching Dr. Who she’ll say “Look Dad, I recognize that place.” Or she asks “Mom, was Van Gogh the only artist who painted sunflowers?”
Or at dinner tonight when I said that we had received a request to do an exchange in Germany this summer. Her immediate response was YES!
So maybe that’s the real reason that every kid should travel. It’s not just about ‘I’ve been there’. It’s about showing our kids how to respond to new opportunities with something akin to ‘Just let me grab my backpack!’
From my perspective, that’s a gift of a lifetime.
Joy Orr lives in Golden British Columbia, with her husband and 11-year old daughter, when they are not all living in someone else’s home somewhere else in the world. Smallfamilybigjourney.tumblr.com is home to more musings about the sharing economy, travelling with kids, active transportation, community development, and whatever else strikes her fancy.