I began traveling with my parents domestically when I was 3 months old and internationally when I was 8 years old. Now at 26 (say it isn’t so?!) I can look back at my years of travel to see how my experiences transformed, molded, and educated me in countless ways.
In this blog, I want to talk through some of the ways the outdoors and travel can impact your children and grandchildren for the better by sharing with you some of the lessons and character traits I have learned over the years.
Here are a few of the character traits/skills that I have developed during my years of travel:
I have seen more hardship and success throughout the world than most people will in a lifetime. Developing relationships in communities with different cultures, races, and economic standings from me around the world has opened my eyes to opinions, realities, and facts that I would have never considered, thought of, or believed had I not seen and heard them myself.
During my days at Ole Miss, I wrote the foreword for the book Adventures in Africa published by the School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss. This book was a collection of articles written by students who went on a photojournalism trip with me to southern Africa to research conservation and hunting. I am going to quote part of the foreword because it touches on some of the ways my worldview has been broadened through my travels, specifically in Africa.
“[The people of Africa] have opened my eyes to circumstances I could never have imagined. I have seen graveyards filled with thousands upon thousands of makeshift tombstones of AIDS victims. I have been in one-room, tin huts that many are proud to call home. I have walked with children who have no shoes and barely any clothing in freezing weather on their 4-mile journey to school. The vast continent has opened my eyes to see that the world is bigger than myself. There are more important things than missing class or getting a flat tire or going to another shopping mall…
What if we didn’t see what separates us, but what joins us? If we lived like we are all humans, all equal… If so, then I may have red hair and white skin, but African blood runs through my veins. I am related to tribal men and women who cover themselves in red clay and live off what they grow. Maybe that is what draws us to Africa, a realization that we are all brothers and sisters. That in the end, we all bleed red, not black or white or any color in between.”
Adaptability to change:
Travel and the outdoors teach you to roll with the punches when plans do not go the way you wanted them to. Flight delays?
There is nothing I can do about that. Weather makes it impossible to go out for the day? Nothing I can do about that either.
I have learned so much about adapting to the situation and letting go of the details (which is a great thing because I tend to love control!) to enjoy the moment I am in. I have learned to identify the main problem – I didn’t get my way – and address and adjust my attitude to one of gratitude for what is going right and grace for what is going wrong. Through a few too many trials and errors where I ruined my own experiences, I have figured out that having a sour attitude only hurts me and makes my experience more miserable; it does not solve the problem. So why not learn to be flexible and be thankful?
I could go on and on and on about this one. The confidence I have built through travel has changed everything about who I am and how I perceive myself.
Through travel, I have developed the navigation and communication skills needed to operate around an airport or city from point A to point B without feeling helpless. I have found the determination inside myself to not give up when the stalk seems like it is too far and has too many obstacles, when the fish is so heavy that it will for sure take me overboard, or the shotgun has become way too heavy for me to hold for a moment longer. But most importantly, I have learned how to think for myself and defend what I believe because I have seen firsthand the evidence to support my beliefs from people and experiences around the world which have educated me. All of these victories have grown my confidence in who I am and what I am capable of.
Built confidence then translates into newfound independence and individuality. I have learned through my years of travel who I am and to be proud of that. I do not need to conform to anyone else’s version of who I am supposed to be or bend my beliefs or convictions for others. Not in a prideful way, in a humble but strong way. I have learned that in a world continuously pushing us to “swim downstream” and conform with everyone else, I can be the fish who swims upstream with her head held high and no fear.
Hunting is a fabulous example of this. I realize not everyone who travels with Family Expeditions is a hunter, but that has made up most of my travel experience and is a passion of mine. Hunting is a topic with many negative connotations, so to believe and participate in it makes you a “fish swimming upstream”. I am confident in my enjoyment of hunting because I have experienced and learned the positive impact hunting has around the world. This education has built my confidence in defending hunting and confidence in being who I authentically am.
When confidence-inspired independence is merged with a broader worldview, the result is a person who knows their place in the world and how blessed they are. Travel has allowed me to learn and become confident in my strengths and weakness as well as how I can use them to help others.
Travel teaches you the “dos” and don’ts” of how to speak to people with respect. As it most likely was for you (and definitely was for me), this is a lesson children learn from trial and error. Being around people from all backgrounds and languages gives children opportunities to learn how to communicate in a kind and effective manner no matter where they go or what language barriers stand in the way.
There is little room to be a quiet mouse when traveling. So, for quiet children, they must learn to express their needs, goals, and preferences.
What helps them to do this is the sense of adventure and excitement a new environment can evoke. This overwhelming fun cannot be contained and usually leads to even the quietest of children speaking their minds and opening up!
As my worldview has broadened by experiencing communities around the world, I have become infinitely more grateful for what I have. I have also been humbled by the joy and gratitude of those with so much less than me.
I am going to again take an excerpt from my writing in Adventures in Africa because I summarized some of my thoughts on this topic of appreciation.
“Time and time again, I am welcomed into people’s homes, fed, given a place to sleep, and loved. These people have almost nothing but are willing to give me everything. The honest, open, and joyful spirits of these people, most of whom are barely surviving, have taught me to be thankful for what I have, to take nothing for granted, and mostly, that money doesn’t bring joy…
Going to Africa is always a culture shock because I go from having an excess of everything to just the bare minimum. But I find that is all I need. I find it to be the time I am the most thankful. This is the most important and magical part of Africa. The thankfulness. They may get one meal a day, yet they are still the most joyful, welcoming, and generous people. The smiles on their faces, missing teeth and all, melt your heart. They understand what is most important in life: family, faith, and helping others. They are communities that build one another up and share unreservedly. What would the world be like if we all lived this way?”
Nothing has made me say “YOLO” (you only live once) quite like my time in the outdoors/traveling. I have learned to be up for anything (except eating strange bugs – I won’t do that!) because I do not want to miss out on a unique experience. Traveling and the outdoors have always brought out my inner child no matter how old I am. It pushes your adventurous side in a healthy way – which usually leads to a strengthened character or at least a lot of laughs!
You do not learn all the things I have learned during my years of travel by opening your mouth at every chance. My experiences with both the locals of whichever country I am in and other guests, have shown me the beauty of asking questions and listening to the responses. There is often much more joy and wisdom to be gained from absorbing someone else’s thoughts and experiences than sharing your own.
I think focusing on others is a lost art in a world where many of the loudest messages seem to tell us that we should be the center of attention. Traveling helps you to see that the world is not all about you and learn the joy of appreciating others’ words.
During my many years of hunting, I have had to listen closely to those who were instructing me (and then follow those instructions) to pull off a successful hunt, land the fish I was reeling in, or navigate a city correctly. I remember my dad
always telling me, “Do exactly what your guide says, he knows what he is doing, and he will help you succeed.” I had to learn that someone else knew more than me (say it isn’t so?!) and respect that.
My parents and I always say that travel/time in the outdoors is the best form of education. These are just a few of the skills/characteristics I have
developed through my time traveling. Many of these things have not been learned from a single experience but from a multitude of intangible moments that molded me into the young lady that I am.
I know that as your family travels together that your children will benefit greatly from learning these skills at every age and stage, especially when you start traveling while they are young.
Be on the lookout for the continuation of this series with topics such as:
Why should you start introducing your children to the outdoors and travel when they are young?
How can your relationship with your children improve by spending time with them in the outdoors?
Are you wanting to start traveling internationally with your children? Here are some of our top recommendations for first trips with your kids: