By Matthew Erickson, Age 13 —
The world is a big place and people of all ages want to explore it. If you parents are thinking about taking your clan on a crazy, worldwide adventure here are some things you need to know:
FOOD – Teenagers love to eat!
We even like to eat new foods. The world has so much great food to offer if you just give us a chance to try it. Give us a few bucks, or baht, or tala, or euro, and send us out to buy food on our own. Without you hovering over us. It’s how we learn about food. I have learned street food is often the best food. It’s cheap, tasty and exposes me to local flavors. Sometimes the flavors are great, sometimes super gross. And don’t be so worried about us getting sick if we eat from a dirty food cart. We might, or might not.
When you have to play parents, do encourage us to try chicken feet soup, squid on a stick, mystery hash, and other weird stuff you don’t make at home. I like to take a bite of a new dish, not have one ordered for me and then forced to eat it because it will be “good for me.”
Also, please remember sometimes we teens just need an old fashion hamburger, french fries and a cold Coke. We get homesick and stressed and overloaded just like you parents do. This can be cured with a juicy double bacon cheeseburger dripping with ketchup, mayo and mustard. Parents – make your kids try new foods! But, also remember, a hamburger is a slice of heaven.
FRIENDS – One big worry for parents considering taking their children on an exploratory mission of the world is that their kids will be lonely and have no friends. I speak from experience when I say your worry is a reality of long-term travel.
Kids are social. We like our friends. When you take us away from what and who we know, we get lonely.
But so do you parents! Dealing with these feelings and challenges is also part of the experience.
Most of the time I am completely fine with hanging out with my family – they are cool and fun. But, if your kids need other people in their wandering life, and if you are staying in one place for a few months, then consider enrolling them in an international school for a term, finding a local youth group, Boy Scout troop, homeschool co-op, chess club, a sports team, whatever. Yeah, your kid won’t be there forever, and the first several meetings are weird and awkward, but great friends can be made fast so make them go!
If your family is traveling fast, then social media can help your kids feel less lonely. Use Skype, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. to post pictures and messages to friends back home. We like sharing what we are doing and we like knowing what is going on back home. Also, playing a video game with a friend is really comforting.
FUN – My parents often have trouble during our adventures deciding what we should do on our daily outings because they want us to be happy. So one thing they decided was to have us kids help research and choose hotels, attractions, restaurants, transportation options and where to go next. They say we have more buy in and I think that’s true.
When the hotel we kids pick is gross we can’t complain because we picked it. Or if the outing is lame, we can’t complain because it was our idea. By getting involved in the decision making process we feel informed, in control and sympathetic for other family member’s efforts to move the adventure along.
Here are some examples of what I am talking about:
When my family took a visa run to Malaysia my older brother Bennett had to chose our hotel and several of the activities and attractions we did. He spent hours researching, reading and hoping his choices were “good ones.” He did a great job and we had a great trip.
My little Brother and I look up movie times, scout out new parks, and hunt for hotels with a pool or free breakfast. We know if we want to do something we better speak up or we end up spending another long day in looking at cathedrals, wats and “beautiful scenery”.
Parents, let your kids help choose what they spend their time doing. It makes them happy and then you are happy. And really, finding the cheapest hotel without it being gross is way more important that learning slope intercept form!
Whether you have infants, toddlers, or teenagers, these three simple tips can help your family enjoy world travel. We have met dozens of families from all over the globe who are out and about seeing the world. Most of them use these tips and their travels are great. Good luck, parents!