Diversity Square
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Diversity Square

Bless your Children with the Gift of Travel

Bridging gaps in understanding through listening and reflecting

One of the most sacred trusts is raising a child. Even without that responsibility, you may, in your role as a trusted adult, have a huge impact on a child — as a relative, teacher, or mentor.

All of us have blind spots. One of the greatest gifts a parent or trusted adult can give a child is to help make their blind spots just a wee bit smaller. As someone with more experience of the world, you have the ability to share with them new knowledge and experiences that will improve their ability to navigate the world.

One special way to do this is through travel. Nothing beats leaving your cocoon and comfort zone (geographically, linguistically, and culturally) to help you recalibrate your notions of how the world “should” be. I have no research to share on this point, but I feel confident in saying the more “should’s” a person fanatically holds onto, the more difficult and struggle-filled their life becomes. It’s funny how it works that way. This is especially true when their “should” does not line up with reality or at least reality outside of their cocoon.

I’m by no means a jet-setting world traveler, but I have had some amazing opportunities to travel personally and professionally. There were many moments along the way where my perspective was recalibrated.

These were generally not big shockers like being disabused of the notion that the world is flat or ulcers are caused by stress and spicy food. More often they were corrections of tiny assumptions, which in hindsight seem almost silly, but without the context of being in a different place, I never would have realized.

A few examples:

  • Wait, NBC is not on Channel 4 in every state? Why Channel 29?
  • Nearly getting run over by looking left instead of right as I crossed the road.
  • Melon-flavored Fanta vanilla ice cream float! Where have you been all my life?
  • And my all-time favorite. Whoa, everybody in this country looks like me. Here, I am the majority!

Each of these can be seen as trivial experiences (except almost becoming roadkill), but they all made me realize my current view of the world was not the only one. It wasn’t even the one I necessarily wanted to hold onto. I lost quite a few “shoulds” along the way and in the process, my blind spots dimished.

As a bonus, I met wonderful people, heard new sounds, and experienced cultures that did not exist in the township of East Hanover, NJ I grew up in.

Not everyone can take a trip with their kids, but that needn’t stop you from sharing with them the benefits of travel. You can have them spend time with others who do travel. If you travel for business and can’t bring them, instead of buying familiar chocolate at the Duty Free Americas shop at the airport, you can buy them a local toy, snack, or souvenir. Okay, no reason you can’t do both!

And last, but not least, you can share with them stories in books and movies that will transport them to faraway lands. One excellent example I recently enjoyed with my son is The Academy-award nominated movie, The Breadwinner, which is based on Deborah Ellis’ best-selling novel.

It’s a beautifully rendered animated movie centered around Parvana — an 11-year old girl growing up in Afghanistan under the Taliban. It chronicles her family’s struggle to survive amidst poverty, lack of women’s rights, and the constant threat of war and violence. The music, acting, and local storytelling are all interwoven beautifully. I’ve included the official movie trailer below and at the time of this writing, it is available on Netflix.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

~St. Augustine

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