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Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Exploring Beyond the Classroom: Nurturing Healthy Minds Through Travel

Mar 29, 2024 08:23AM ● By Megy Karydes
Happy Asian kid playing with a paper airplane.


When Desiree Miller and her daughter visited Rome, they met a couple from Ukraine celebrating their honeymoon. There was talk of a possible war, so they chatted about what that might mean for the newlyweds. Later that day, her daughter asked their Italian driver his thoughts about the impending conflict in Ukraine with Russia, and he said he didn’t like it because it was going to raise gas prices.

“Traveling feels like it shrinks the world,” says Miller, an Atlanta-based travel writer, vlogger, digital streaming producer, co-host of the “Time to Talk Travel” podcast and mother of four. “So many children these days only know what’s in their backyard or their general neighborhood or community, the school they go to, and that’s the extent of their communication with other people. But when I take my daughter to other countries, she gets to experience people from those countries and beyond.” 

According to the 2023 U.S. Family Travel Survey released by the Family Travel Association, 80 percent of the respondents indicated that travel helps children see the world from a broader perspective, and 67 percent said their children have become more interested in other cultures because of their travel experiences.

Nasreen Stump agrees that travel expands a child’s worldview. “I want my kids to be curious, because curiosity leads to lifelong learning,” says the mother of four, a content creator and co-host of the “Time to Talk Travel” podcast. “When you're in different places, and you see something that’s different, you think, ‘Oh, what's that?’ and want to learn more about it. It’s the same with similarities.”


Managing Expenses

Families need not break the bank to enjoy meaningful experiences away from home. Here are a few money-saving travel ideas suggested by Stump and Miller.

  •  Take shorter trips. As they’ve grown older, each of Stump’s children have developed different interests, so instead of traveling as a family all the time, she takes each of them on one-on-one trips based on their interests. When the family does come together for an excursion, a day trip or weekend getaway is a more affordable option.
  • Hop on the internet. Miller’s youngest daughter, now 18 years old, loves using TikTok as a jumping-off point to research travel destinations, local restaurants, activities and events. Other kids rely on YouTube to get ideas or travel virtually.
  • Enjoy a staycation. For families that can’t afford multiple plane tickets, closer-to-home experiences offer fun learning opportunities such as attending a multi-cultural fair to watch live performances or trying a new cuisine at a nearby restaurant or in a cooking class. 
  • Take advantage of free or discounted deals. Some libraries offer free passes to museums for library card holders. National parks have free entrance days throughout the year. Check for upcoming dates. Flights and hotels are often discounted during the shoulder season—the period between a region’s peak season and offseason. Some credit cards allow members to use their reward points for travel-related discounts. 

Preparing for Travel

  • Research destinations. Bookmark areas of interest on a Google map or add them to a Pinterest board. Read books, magazine articles and travel blogs about different locales.
  • Sample the cuisine. Much can be learned about a culture through food. Experiment with new ingredients by visiting specialized grocery stores that cater to different cultures, or join a snack subscription with selections from around the world.
  • Learn a new language. Check out apps like Duolingo, Babbel and Rosetta Stone.

Traveling Is Empowering

Life is full of challenges, and traveling, especially to foreign ports, can test anyone’s patience. Some of Miller’s children don’t love to travel because of flight delays or other unexpected mishaps. Her youngest is more adaptable. According to Miller, dealing with adversity is part of life, and travel is a great teacher.

Traveling allows kids to get out of their comfort zones, and for many, that sense of adventure is powerful. Whether exploring historical landmarks, taking part in hiking excursions, trying new foods, hearing different languages and dialects, or meeting new people, family travel can help children feel more comfortable, less isolated and see the world in a new light.


Making Memories

Children love to collect souvenirs on their travels as a way to remember their experiences. Miller and her daughter usually buy a piece of jewelry because it is small and doesn’t take up any suitcase space. Stump’s family likes to take lots of photographs and bring home candy from the culture. Rocks or shells, if permitted, also make wonderful keepsakes. 

Memories go beyond objects. Multi-generational travel allows children to see their grandparents from a fresh perspective. Kids will remember travel experiences long after they return home. “Travel gives you a real appreciation of the world beyond what you see every day,” Miller says, adding that her daughter has befriended other travelers with whom she still stays in contact.

Megy Karydes is a Chicago-based writer and author of 50 Ways to More Calm, Less Stress: Scientifically Proven Ways to Relieve Anxiety and Boost Your Mental Health Using Your Five Senses.