By Crooked Trails Co-founder Christine Mackay
I lead a crazy life. I know it, and I drag my kid along with me. She is 9 years old and has been to Peru 4 times, New Zealand, Mexico, and Hawaii at least 6 times. She has visited the home of her father – Scotland – twice, and countless National Parks. She has seen more hotel time than your average salesman. She is currently asking to visit Kenya to see the animals and meet the Maasai people I have told her so much about. What I have come to realize is that all the travel, visiting other countries, people and places has made her an incredibly adaptive child.
She is not afraid of planes, trains, buses or boats. She is not nervous around people whose language she does not understand. She is willing to try food unfamiliar to her. On our second visit to Peru, she discovered quinoa- a popular grain in that country. She fell in love with it and asks for quinoa chicken soup every day now. She looks at maps and globes with a keen eye on where she has been and where she would like to go.
So when I hear nervous families tell me they are bit trepid about taking their child to another country, I want to tell them it’s the best possible thing they could do. Trinity has milked cows in the high Andes, met with fisherman on a Mexican beach, played along the shores of the cold Scottish coast. I can hardly wait to take her to Nepal where she can run around with the village kids and discover new games.
Even local trips in the US have broadened her horizons. She has spent plenty of time in Glacier National Park as well as Yellowstone, watching animals and learning about habitats. Throughout all of this, she has become a better person. I see it all the time in the way she approaches situations with more patience and understanding, sympathy and interest. When the Newtown massacre happened, I had asked Trinity if she wanted to pray for the families affected. She looked at me, paused and said thoughtfully, “Mom, I think we should pray for the shooter.”
It could be that I just have an amazing kid, but I can’t help believe that through all our travels and my constant reminders that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have – whether it be a rural farmer in Peru, a street person in Seattle or a ranger in a park – she has been affected in a subtle yet deeply positive way. She seems to judge less, and accept things more easily.
The funny thing is, kids experience travel differently than us adults. For example, when in Peru, I was interested in the history, archeology, and spirituality of the place and the people. Trinity wanted to play with guinea pigs and llamas, or look for condors. She was interested in shucking peas, messing around with potatoes and finding out how they manage to cook over fires. She thought Machu Picchu was the best place in the world for hide and seek. (She was right.) Kids see the world through their own funny kid lenses and it makes the adults chaperoning them see things differently too.
When I first started taking Trinity traveling I thought I had to try to work the itinerary around her, but I quickly discovered that is not necessary. Kids eat when they are hungry and they sleep when they are tired. She slept on buses and planes and leaned against me when she felt she needed it. I think letting the trip unfold and just adapting to it is the best way to teach kids to be adaptive and to accept change in everyday life.
It’s important to trust the country, the people, and the travel process to take care of you and your family. It always seems to. When Trinity was 6, I brought her into the Amazon jungle for a week of exploration at the award-winning eco-lodge Posadas Amazonas. Trinity was equally fascinated and repulsed by the bugs, amazed that there were jaguars out there and loved seeing the giant river otters. She was proud of herself when climbing to the top of the canopy tower to see the macaws, and I was proud of her. I realized that as Trinity approached new situations with curiosity and strength I saw her differently. She felt that pride and fed on it like a bee on nectar. Every time I told her how proud I was, her little chest puffed up and she would beam a wide closed-mouth grin. It was an incredible bonding experience for us, discovering new things together.
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