Our kids, now aged 16 and 13, have been fortunate enough to travel to over 35 countries, predominantly developing nations throughout Asia and the Middle East. With backpacks on and our desire to really engage with the locals, the children have seen a simplicity in lifestyle far removed from their usual home comforts. At times they came face-to-face with poverty, sickness and corruption; but this was almost always offset by unbelievable human resilience, care and kindness.
As they grow older we are seeing these encounters contributing to their personalities; how they have literally and figuratively widened their view of the world. In our opinion (though we are almost certainly biased!) these experiences have given them a great foundation for being compassionate, empathetic and basically, nice human beings.
And we’re not the only ones who feel travelling with kids can be beneficial to their development.
In addition to compassion and empathy, cross-cultural experiences have the potential to pull people out of their cultural bubbles, and in doing so, can increase their sense of connection with people from backgrounds different than their own.
“We found that when people had experiences travelling to other countries it increased what’s called generalized trust, or their general faith in humanity,” Galinsky says. “When we engage in other cultures, we start to have experience with different people and recognize that most people treat you in similar ways. That produces an increase in trust.”
Not that just visiting a country and staring at the locals is going to be like waving a magic wand over your kids and, hey-presto, a golden future for them is guaranteed.
You have to teach them to engage with the local culture they are travelling in, see not only the good but also the bad about each culture so they can start forming opinions about how they want to be in this world and help keep life in perspective for them when you get back to the ‘normality’ of home.