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I’m so tired of yelling. So.Tired. Y’all. I feel like I yell all the time. It’s not healthy. It can’t be. But it’s a fact of life. Nowadays, we have so much going on that family often takes a backseat. That’s got to change. I know that it’s not just us.
With many parents working full time, television, tablets, homework (in first grade!), and after school activities (let’s not forget the endless parade of birthday parties and playdates) it’s so easy to become overscheduled and lose sight of what’s really important.
I was actually talking to a fellow friend and blogger and we realized that this isn’t just our problem. Instead, it’s a huge problem that affects nearly every family out there. Thankfully, she has a pretty awesome solution that will help bring your family together in ways you never thought possible.
Today, I am so excited to introduce my dear friend Melissa of The Family Voyage! She travels the world with her family of four and she has some awesome tips to help you make the most out of your next family trip:
Families today often struggle to stay connected through the pressures of modern life. We’re busy, tired and distracted and the emotional health of our families takes a back seat.
Travel (even if it’s just a trip down the coast or to the local forest or mountains) can help ground your family and strengthen relationships
Shake Up Your Routine
So often, we’re stuck in the daily grind of a long day at the office, school pick-up, activity drop off, scrounge some food for dinner, evening meeting. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Even on the weekend we rush to get everyone out the door for birthday parties, swim lessons, and worship services. But when your family travels together, every day is a new day.
Every day is an adventure.
It’s easier to get your kids motivated to go when they know they’ll get to do something cool and different.
When you’re traveling, you’re far less distracted by outside forces – everything from groceries to social media. As adults, we don’t feel the same pressures of responsibility that we do at home as when we’re away.
When we are having fun, we are more relaxed and it shows in how we relate to each other and our children.
Family Team Building
Our family frequently travels to countries where our command of the local language is on-par with a toddler. Most of the time, none of us has ever visited to our destination and we have no contacts there. In some places, our access to technology and the internet is limited. This forces us to work as a team, and you can do the same for your family.
When we’re alone in a brand new place, all we’ve got is ‘Team Conn’ (yes, we do hands-in cheers sometimes). There’s something remarkable about having to rely on one another.
My husband and I have to rely on each other for everything kid-related (since you probably won’t be hiring a sitter while you travel).
Similarly, when you’re away from home, your kids won’t get to pack their friends in their suitcases, so they are playmates and pint-sized travel companions, each urging each other on (and sharing complaints about strange foods or their need for a nap).
An Exercise in Flexibility
Everyone gets stuck in their ways and their own expectations, and it’s easy to stay that way. On the road, you have to learn to cope when things go awry. For your kids, that might mean learning to try some new foods they’ve never seen or heard of before (even if they don’t love everything).
On a recent trip, our almost-2-year-old daughter unexpectedly had her first night in a “big girl” bed when a well-meaning Airbnb host provided a Moses basket instead of a pack n play. We could have thrown our hands up, but we didn’t. While the experience wasn’t easy for any of us, we made it work.
When obstacles are thrown into your path during a trip, you figure it out. I’ve learned how to program a brand new washing machine and my husband figured out how to drive on the left-hand side of the road.
Each of these experiences force us out of our comfort zones and we arrive on the other side of the challenge with a new tool under our belts and a greater appreciation for our family’s ability to problem solve.
Your Family’s Narrative
Family trips are not just fun right then in that moment, you get to keep re-living them through conversations about the mishaps or the awe-inspiring things you have seen.
Our kids talk about the time that we walked through the cowshed on a kibbutz in Israel and it smelled terrible. Or the time we watched Gwenna the sheep dog herding her flock in Ireland. Or the time my son (at age two!) jumped off the back of a boat in Puerto Rico to meet me in the water while I snorkeled.
These are the stories of their childhoods.
We also use our travels to talk about our own childhoods and about their grandparents’ lives.
We do this as part of an effort to develop a strong family narrative that we hope will keep them grounded and resilient in the face of future challenges. These memories will help to shape the adults that our babies grow into, and will help them know that they can overcome scary things (like jumping into the ocean!).
Of course, we know that you have fun when you’re home. But there’s something almost magical about travel.
And while there are some aspects of traveling with young kids that can be stressful at times, overall, we all feel so unburdened when we’re off on a family trip that we’re really able to enjoy each other and our surroundings so much more deeply.
Even just playing at our rental apartments is fun – with limited toys, our kids are forced to use their imaginations to find new ways to play.
My husband and I have fun together, which is critical for maintaining a strong relationship. We also get to spend more time outside breathing the fresh air and tackling new physical challenges, which are great for our all-around wellness as individuals too.
The Best Part?
For our family, the benefits persist long after we come home. You’ll find that you feel better and work together more effectively after even just a weekend of hiking through your local park.
Every trip we take, no matter how close or how long or how far, reminds us to cut back on the mundane aspect of life that cause stress on our family.
Every trip teaches you how to work as a better team and reminds you of the importance of flexibility.
Every new trip (even if it’s just a day trip) will create more memories to talk about over family dinners.
And every trip is an opportunity to have fun together and truly enjoy each other. For us, that’s what it’s all about.
Melissa writes at The Family Voyage, where she shares trip reports, tips for traveling with kids and gear recommendation to make your voyage with kids easier. When they’re not on the road, Melissa, her amazingly patient husband, and their two comedian children live in sunny Los Angeles. You can follow her family’s exploits on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.
When did you last travel with your family?