Grace Lower | Jul 13, 2020
The sun was bright, the water was clear ... and I stood petrified at the edge of a cliff.
My parents and sister swam in the lagoon below, cheering me on as I peered down at them. To wrap up my family’s afternoon hike, our local guide had led us to a “natural diving board,” where we could take a plunge into the swimming hole below. At 11 years old, I wasn’t much of a risk-taker, so the 20-foot drop was a tough sell.
From the lagoon, my family yelled every encouragement they could think of. The drop wasn’t so bad, they said; the water was great, they said; I’d regret not jumping, they said; I was so brave; they said. Finally, I’d had enough. I plucked up whatever courage I could muster, took a deep breath, and stepped off the ledge with a scream.
When I surfaced, I was met with cheers and congratulations. As I gazed up at the cliff looming above, I knew I wouldn’t have taken the leap if my family hadn’t been there to
pressure me cheer me on. That little moment from my family’s
trip to the Caribbean would become one of my favorite childhood memories. And the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve come to recognize the value a family vacation can offer.
A Break from the Ordinary
While your family’s day-to-day rhythm may feel comfortable and familiar, a vacation can shake up your routine and add a needed dose of adventure. Whether you’re traveling locally or internationally, you and your loved ones will share plenty of exciting—and sometimes hilarious—experiences along the way.
Depending on how you travel, your family might sample local food, stop by an obscure roadside attraction, or explore a new neighborhood. What matters is that you’re doing it together. All this novelty isn’t just fodder for lasting memories; it can spark meaningful conversations about the location you’re visiting and how it compares to home.
A New Set of Roles
From transportation to accommodations, a simple vacation can easily become a logistical nightmare. But when you’re on a trip with your family, you can divide these responsibilities among everyone. Travelers of any age can try their hand at navigating (with the help of Google Maps), playing DJ during long drives, researching things to do, and blazing the trail during outdoor excursions.
An even distribution of responsibilities is a great way to give your loved ones—especially kids and teens—a sense of confidence and autonomy. And while the grown-ups will likely call the shots for major decisions, travel can instill a sense of teamwork into an existing family dynamic.
Creative Problem Solving
I’ve blogged about this before, but it’s worth mentioning again: travel seldom goes according to plan. Flights are cancelled, lines get long, and tensions can run high as a result.
When plans go awry, your family will have the chance to regroup and find solutions that make the most sense for everyone. Clear communication, creativity, and sound decision-making are all valuable skills in resolving these bumps in the road. When parents model these traits for young travelers, an unexpected obstacle can become a valuable learning experience for everyone involved.
The Chance to Unplug
While I’m certainly not opposed to technology (I love my iPhone as much as any other self-respecting millennial), I do love the occasional “digital detox.” Travel creates the perfect excuse to put those phones, laptops, and tablets away.
While some families like to create hard-and-fast rules about technology usage, you may find that turning your data off and chatting with your family is an easy way to cut back on screen-time. On any given trip, you can find time to tell stories, engage in lively debates, and jam out to any radio station that isn’t completely overridden by static. While that may not prevent you from scouting out Wi-Fi at every rest stop, even a few minutes of screen-free time can help you reconnect with the people who really matter.
Travel teaches families the basics of safety and self-awareness. While exploring a new environment, kids and grown-ups alike can learn to navigate unfamiliar areas, understand when and how to ask for help, and discover what to do if things don’t go according to plan.
In a broader sense, travel offers the chance to experience new cultures and ideas with a spirit of curiosity rather than skepticism. Simple questions like “why is he wearing that?” or “what’s that building for?” can lead to more nuanced conversations about social, historical, and economic realities. Travelers of any age can learn to imagine the world with compassion and complexity—and a family vacation is a great way to spark that process.
No matter where you adventure, make sure you and your loved ones are protected.
Grace Lower is a recent college graduate with a love for writing and an incurable case of wanderlust. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.