Recently while on a walk at the Emeryville Marina with my friend Leslie and her son, my nearly three year-old friend Dean, the conversation turned, as it so often does, to travel.  Strolling by the boats, Leslie said, “What do you think Dean; what if you, Daddy and me got on a boat and sailed around the world?” Dean’s response, without missing a beat, “Let’s go!” In a second I was transported back in time to my little brother’s face staring up at me urging, “Yet’s go Yanna, yet’s go!” to whatever our next adventure was.  And just as quickly I was back, wondering when that beautiful sense of spontaneity begins to be tempered by practicality.

A few weeks later while visiting my family in Arizona, I spoke with my seven year-old nephew Ryan, my brother’s son. “So what do you think about going on an adventure with Auntie Lorna tomorrow while your parents are at work?” Without hesitation he replied, “Sure, ever been to Chicago?” I tried not to laugh, I really did, and I hated having to explain why this wasn’t a good plan. Why wasn’t it? It sounded good to me. It just wasn’t practical.  That night before he went to bed, I asked if he’d given any more thought to what he’d like to do. “Hollywood” he said matter-of-factly.

The truth is, I don’t want to say no to these suggestions. I don’t want to teach them why you can’t just hop on a plane, boat, train, bus, etcetera, to go somewhere you want to go. In fact, I want to meet them where they are, and have them remind me that I may be the one who’s got it wrong.

So what lessons am I going to take from these tiny teachers?

What Ryan and I settled on that day in Arizona was a trip to the Arizona Science Center.  To my amazement, he rode a bicycle forward and backward across a tightrope 2 stories-high, and lay on a bed of nails with only his head protected. 1. Adventures can be had right where you are. I’m making a local-centric wanted-to-but-never-did list and I’m going to start doing them before I take off so that even being at home is filled with adventure.

On another recent walk in the redwoods (or as Dean more accurately describes them the “greenwoods”) at Joaquin Miller Park we reached an impasse. Leslie asked Dean, the leader, if he’d like to take the path on the left or the one on the right. Dean’s answer was neither but straight ahead up a hill without a path.  When Leslie explained that we may want to choose one of the established paths so we wouldn’t get lost, Dean replied, “We won’t get lost, we’ll just use our ‘maginations!”  2. Trust your ability to be resourceful and take risks that ultimately make you bolder. I’m going to be sure, during my round the world trip that I’m more whimsical and spontaneous than I am calculated, planned out, and cautious. Where will I go first? Next? How long will I stay? Who knows! I’ll use my “magination.”

Finally, in the spirit of Ryan, Dean, and other pure adventurers like them, 3. Allow yourself to be “impractical” for an ultimate thrill. Someday, sooner than later, I’m going to show up at the airport, train station, or bus station without knowing where I’m going.  Sure, for those of us who aren’t millionaires, it may be too impractical to do all the time, but it can be done. And who knows, maybe I’ll end up in Chicago.

How about you? What adventures have you had in your own town? Ever take off spontaneously without a plan? What have the kids in your life taught you about travel? Tell us about it!

58 Responses to “Out of the Mouths of Babes: Travel Lessons”

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  1. I really, really loved this post. Isn’t this the reason why they had that one TV show, “Kids Say the Darnedest Things”? It’s so cool though that the little people in your life are opening your eyes to new ways of looking at both home and travel.

    I’m a big advocate of traveling closer to home when you can’t go further away. I have a whole section of my website dedicated to travel and adventures around Ohio! It may not be exotic, but Ohio can be fun if you know where to go.

    • thanks amanda! and thanks so much for featuring it as one of your Best Blogs of the Week !!! It’s true, that show was entirely built on that! I feel so grateful to have so many people to learn from- young, old, pro travelers to those who’ve yet to start their travel lives :) I LOVE the idea of having a section of your site devoted to local travel. you’re the expert, right? btw- i really liked ohio! visited twice- columbus and dayton and had a great time!

  2. Love this post! This is one of the reasons I want to have a child – to see things through their eyes and be reminded of wonder and spontanaeity again. We don’t get the opportunity to be as spontaneous as we would like. But we’re always open to things when travelling – hope to have many of these moments in the year ahead!

    • thanks andrea! me too! i almost made that my #4 (have a little one) :) i’m sure your year will be filled with amazing adventures and i’m really looking forward to reading about them!

  3. So true, it is amazing what we can learn from the mouths of little ones. So uncomplicated. Why do we complicate things with ‘practicality’? Practicality is also the thief of spontaneity, resulting in worry and anxiety – everything needs to be planned, covered and costed. Time to start simplifying life…

  4. You just hope when they are 18 they have the same attitudes – keep encouraging the young to do this – our responsibility!

  5. Great post!

    Day trips, be they to a park or museum, are a huge part of my life and such a great educational tool for my little adventurer. I feel so lucky; living in the Bay Area, there are so many amazing places to visit!

    I’m inspired to create a journal of all the places my son and I have been and hope to go. Maybe this is something he can reflect back on as he grows up and away…

    • thanks lcw! agree- we’re really lucky to have so much at our finger tips! the journal is such a beautiful idea! i’m sure he’ll love it- i know i would! :)

  6. As a dad of young kids, I love this post! I especially love #1. I’ve written a lot about that this year and really want to get my kids started with travel right here at home. You don’t need to go far or spend a lot of money to excite kids about the world around you. And for me, that is so exciting!

    You have to love the lessons kids teach you – and not just about travel!

    • thanks jeremy! awww- you’d know this so much better than i! so true- you get to multiply the adventures by so much by keeping them local & affordable. and just being with the kids provides adventure in itself, right? love it!

  7. The little ones are full of wisdom. I have worked hard for many years, so now I am in a position to go off on a whim and yes, I do, The xraziest thing was to just get on an overnight train from Munich to Milan, just because it was stanidn there, about to depart. I had no luggage, only a handbag, a few Euros cash, my credit cards and my passport. It was enough.

    • thanks inka- that’s so fantastic! i know i’ve read about quite a few of your great ones and look forward to reading more :)

  8. Great post, I find that when I let go of the sensible and practical I have much more fun.

  9. Oh to be a kid again- the magic.

  10. What a very cool post. Taking advice from young ones is a great thing to do sometime, and I always love new adventures in my hometown. We actually had some friends from London visit us at home last year for a week, and we took the week off and were tourists in our own towns, doing things that neither of us had done since we were kids. It was an awesome week and was so much fun. Despite living here nearly my whole life, there are always new things to see and do, or things that I haven’t done in years that makes me feel like a kid again!

    • thanks adam! isn’t it incredible how we can travel so far and potentially miss so much at home? i’ve lived in so many places that i took for granted! grew up in new england and never went to martha’s vineyard, nantucket, provincetown. lived in nyc and never went to the statue of liberty, LA and never to catalina, and there’s so much i haven’t seen in the bay area yet. hoping to change that in the coming months! that’s great that your friends enabled you to see your town from a new perspective- especially since you grew up there- love it!

  11. Brilliant post loved it! I agree though spontaneity is important,and I hope when i go on our trip we will be able to be spontaneous too!

  12. Great advice! I think the world would be a happier place if we tried to look at it through the eyes of a child more often. Your nephew and friend’s son sound adorable and wise beyond their years!

    • thanks laurel! i agree! and i may be bias, but i do find them out of this world adorable and wise little misters :)

  13. Great story and you are totally right — kids, with their innocent and non-jagged look on the world — can bring a hell of a lot of insight to us adults.

  14. As a mother of a three year old, I totally get and love this post. Every day Kalyra teaches me something new and reminds me to view the world with curious, imaginative and joyful eyes. She is my greatest teacher.
    We read a book every night about a train that rides from New York to Chicago. She asks every night. “Where is Chicago mummy?” And I explain a big city. “Is that in America? ” Can we go there one day?”
    She is currently collecting all spare coins and saving for Disneyland.
    We drove past the airport on Sunday and she asked me if we could get on the plane and fly back to America.
    But the best one was when she said, “One day when I am a grown up I am going to live in Thailand, all by myself, and teach.” I’ll be alright,” she said. “But you can call me if you want to!”
    Children just make you love the magic of life.
    Great post.

    • oh caz this is beautiful, thanks! i love reading kalyra’s sayings, so sweet! LOVE the thailand remark- ha ha. mark her words here, with the amazing life you’re giving her, she may just do it!
      couldn’t agree more on kids and the magic of life and hope to follow in your steps at some point in the future :)

  15. Best post I have read all week! Well done.

  16. Lovely post & so true! We have been on an open-ended non-stop world tour with our child since she was 5 and she just turned 10 and as much as I’ve loved single, couple, intergenerational, small group travel, I think family travel is the best. It is amazing to see the world through your child’s eyes, find out that they don’t have “culture shock” or difficulty playing with kids who don’t speak one of their languages, have endless amazing shared experiences, time to bond and it’s the best education by far.

    When we had a 19 hour trek over land and sea into Morocco starting at 4AM, our 6yo thought it was a ball!

    That kind of kid enthusiasm even for the so called “drudgery” of travel is part of what makes it so delightful. When we were in Paris again this last summer, my then 9 year old told me that she was planning her own RTW trip when she is 20 after she has finished her University. ;) It will be so easy for her as she has friends around the world & is already an expert on most cities subway/mass transit not to mention planes, trains, cargo ships, sailboats, biking, walking, cars, RV etc! We travel the world with 1 carryon each so she knows the value of traveling light & being ever flexible and creative, focused on experiences/love/people not “stuff”. She is comfortable in 5 star lux hotels, hostels, rental homes, pensions, couchsurfing or a tent.

    Kids are natural travelers & explorers, but there are MANY things that you can do to encourage those tendencies from birth. We started traveling with our child at 2 weeks old when she spent a weekend in a hotel with us in SF, but despite doing tons of travel with her, we never went out of California until she was 5. We found amazing opportunities for travel, language/cultural exposure ( we’re monolinguals raising a very fluent trilingual/triliterate in Chinese, Spanish, English from birth) , adventures etc. We even took her to beaches at birth and to the snow in the mountains at 3 months…concerts, operas, museums, state & national parks, zoos, cultural festivals etc from babyhood. You don’t need money either as the best things in life are free & we travel the world on just 23 dollars a day per person.

    We always travel with out much of a plan. We just had a blast in Bora Bora on our miniscule budget & having no idea where we would stay just days before arrival. We’ve just done 14 flights & stops between Spain and SE Asia also not knowing, but it worked out great. We’re here for the winter so kidlet can immerse deeply in her Chinese at a Mandarin school, but didn’t have any idea where we would stay or how we would do that when we arrived. It’s working out great!!

    Be bold, be fearless, be free! Allow that inner kid to rule ( but do some planning & prep of course). I am basically a scaredy cat adventurer, so I figure if we can do this, ANY one can. Life is an adventure!

    • thanks so much jeanne! as someone who hasn’t had kids yet (but wants to!) i’m so grateful to you for sharing your experience…and relieved to hear that you think family travel is best! phew! i think that goes against what so many people assume, right? obviously you are dispelling the myths about what one can/can’t do with kids and are serving as a great model for those of us who don’t want to listen to the naysayers! :) i really love the morocco story and can see how it would brighten one’s outlook to be around a little person excited about the adventure rather than bemoaning the drudgery. your daughter sounds like an incredible person- and only 10! WOW. with this comment, you’ve effectively hit on so many concerns and put a nice big x through them. you’re proving you can still be spontaneous, flexible, take the hard road, travel on an tight budget and that it can be more enjoyable and your child can be all the better for it. thank you!

  17. You know, when I was in 5th grade I read Island of the Blue Dolphins which opened up my mind to the idea of Barbados. I told my mom and dad I had wanted to go but they dismissed my idea as my childish fantasies. I have to say that when I finally arrived for our honeymoon, it was the most satisfying and wonderfully emotional arrival I had ever experienced in my life to date.

    It is still magical.

    While Shaun and I do not want a child now, I can imagine that our eyes would again be opened when the time arrives.

    • thanks erica! that’s incredible that you chose that for your honeymoon spot and got to share it with shaun after dreaming about it as a kid!
      what a great way to start an adventure-filled married life together :)

  18. Loved this story and the lessons learned. It’s true, there is a lot to learn about children, especially when it comes to have fun no matter what. Their biggest tool is their uncensored imagination, which sparks a lot of creativity and spontaneous moments.

  19. Very true! I love children so much exactly because they r so spontaneous and always find something interesting to do or see things in an abnormal way :) We should learn from them all the time!

  20. Well, Ryan sure won my heart with his “Chicago” response! :-) Actually, I enjoyed all of this post. Great lessons to be learned from kids, indeed!

    Randy and I love to be spontaneous with day trips or taking an unplanned turn down an unknown road. Someday, I’d also like to just show up at the airport, train station, etc. without knowing where we’re going. That will be an awesome day!

    • thanks cathy! yeah, that moment with ryan is one of those many instances in which they can steal your heart! :) that’s great that you two are spontaneous together and have
      local adventures. i’m putting that last part (showing up at an airport, etc.) on my list for 2011! you should too! wanna hear about it :)

  21. So kids really DO say the darnest things, heh? ;) Glad you are having a blast with yours — just found your site via Kirstin’s Friday Five and have enjoyed looking around. Keep up the good work.

  22. So cute! The one burden of adulthood is definitely money. Sometimes I wonder about all the amazing things that could be done if we didn’t have to worry about money. Like you said – just hopping to an airport and deciding to go somewhere – what fun that would be.

    • thanks bethany! i know, can you imagine?! i’m going to do the airport thing in spite of not being a millionaire! going to try to make it happen this year!

  23. I loved this! It’s so true we should all take a chill pill, back up, and just take things as they are. Instead of trying to build the perfect experience, we forget that there is fun in the ‘Let’s just go and see’ factor. I try to remind myself to live in the moment, but only kids do this on a regular basis.

    It’s great to catch up with your posts here after the hols. You’ve been busy!

    • thanks marie! yeah, i’m definitely benefitting from spending time adventuring with my little neighbor-friend! thanks so much for taking the time to catch up! really appreciate it!
      more adventures more often to come in 2011 :)

  24. I have travelled to many places in my life and really feel that the benefits have been huge, both to me and the many people I have met on the way. My favourite countries have always been and will always be the eastern countries.

  25. Lorna, I love this! Kids are so much more adventurous and adaptable than people give them credit for being. I personally think more families should take the international life plunge.

    • thanks lisa!!! i think so too! and i’m bound to be one of those families! i see far more benefits than problems coming of it and have really enjoyed reading blogs by those who are doing just that. :)

  26. Spontaneous adventures are my favorite! Earlier this year, I decided to go to Thailand on a whim. I booked flights from Melbourne to Bangkok the night before flying out. In makes packing and preparations a little bit frantic, but without months of building up expectations around a 10 day break, it’s just pure in-the-moment experience once you get there.

    I once heard a quote that went like this, “The best places on earth are a 24-hour sail upwind.” In other words, the most impractical adventures reap the best rewards.

    • omg torre!!! i have to put that quote on the wall of the chinook! yes to spontaneity! i went to vietnam that way! got a visa monday, booked ticket tuesday, flew on thursday and LOVED it. i felt SO ALIVE. thrilling just to read your comment here :)

  27. Very cool! So glad 7 links brought me here. Lately, we’ve been thinking a lot about #1 – Adventures can be right where you are. Adventure is not something to be found – it’s all around you. So often, I think, people are so focused on “aiming high” that we forget to look right where we are. As always, I could write a book in response to each one of your posts but will leave it here for now :)

    Thanks for pointing readers back to this one. Perfect timing.

    • awwww so sweet- thanks kent! i really hoped to have more local adventures while still in the bay area, but alas, getting ready to take off for the bigger trip in time for the TBEX conference trumped most of those. that’s okay, i’ll be back! we chose places to temporarily or permanently plant ourselves for a reason- we like those places! and i think we can fall into a routine that leave those places feeling less exciting than they really can be. but i know you take advantage of the adventures at home and i’m so grateful you shared some of them with me! :)

      • Yep, we’re on this sort of Pacific Northwest high right now and really thinking about everything that’s so close to us. For instance… We’re National Park fanatics, and we have 3 right here in WA state.

        Your statement: “We can fall into a routine that leave those places feeling less exciting than they really can be.” is so true.

        • i hear you! one of the biggest lessons i’m getting from this road trip is that i could stay in each place for a year and still not scratch the surface. i knew that about countries from traveling internationally, but hadn’t really considered that (so naive!) for each state. making this trip so rich though! :)

  28. great post. my kids say always ” let’s go” I have been a traveler for well over 10 years and with my babies 4 years.

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