Monday, March 22, 2010

Intentional Parenting - Part 8; Intentional Travel

The first time I traveled internationally—I mean, really traveled, not just stuck my toe over our northern or southern border—was in 1984. I went to England to study for the summer and came back changed completely. My world had opened up, and I saw everything through a new lens.

Travel became an important passion for me.

I began to understand why my grandparents, in their retirement, made travel a priority. Grandpa Earl was always planning another trip, telling “Toots,” my grandma, to get up off the couch because it was time to go on another trip. They traveled well into their 80s, until Grandpa’s kidneys failed and it became too hard to go anywhere.

When I married B, I made it very clear that travel would be an important part of our lives together. (Nothing like setting those expectations early, huh?) Honestly, I didn’t care what kind of house we lived in or what kind of car we drove as long as we had a little extra money to take a trip now and then. Thankfully, he has accommodated my whim, and over the past 25 years we’ve been to lots of great places together, and we’ve made some wonderful memories.

When we had kids we began to think intentionally about travel with them. We knew that we wanted them to see a good portion of America, but we also wanted them to experience other cultures. We had friends who were missionaries in Brazil, so when the girls were young we started saving our Frequent Flier miles, hoping to be able to take them to visit our friends. In 2004, that dream became a reality and we packed up all three girls and headed to Brazil.

To say that that trip and others we’ve taken have changed us and our kids would be an understatement for sure. Each time we go somewhere we are reminded again and again of the importance of travel in our lives.

The Benefits of Travel
One of the greatest benefits of travel, of course, would be making memories as a family. We still laugh about “Ted” the bison who made friends with our car—with us trapped inside it—during a trip to Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. Or, on that same trip, we marveled at the grandeur of the Teton Mountains and remember wading in the Snake River near Jenny Lake one very hot day. We can’t drive through Tennessee without remembering the time Abby ate too much Easter candy in the back seat of the car, and we had to quickly find a rest area for . . . well . . . you know.

Every trip we’ve taken brings back fun and happy memories of times together as a family. We can laugh about times we’ve lost our temper with each other, knowing that those times also bind us.

Another great benefit of travel, I’ve found, is that it puts history into perspective. The first time I went to England I got a real sense that America is just a baby country compared to these great European countries. Sitting in churches that were 800 years old sure makes you realize that our 150 year old church, while pretty old by American standards, is nothing compared to the great cathedrals of Europe.

Walking where Henry VIII walked, seeing where he beheaded his wives, makes everything I’ve read come to life. And standing near the graves of some of my favorite poets and authors makes me sense that these were real people with real lives and real relationships and real emotions.

Finally, one of the main benefits of travel, to me, is that it helps me see God’s hand in the world. I distinctly remember being in England that summer of 1984, watching the faces of the people walking past me, and realizing that so many of them were lost, without hope, without God. Not that people here in America aren’t lost too—many are—but for some reason it really hit me as I was overseas how many people did not know Christ.

At the same time I also came to have a more global sense of God’s grace—He loves all of His children, all over the world. For me, it took seeing these different people to realize in a new way that He sent His son for the entire world.

What does Intentional Travel look like?
For us, like I said, we’ve made sure that we’ve traveled with our kids. We’ve taken missions trips as well as trips to Disney World (not every trip has to be educational!). We’ve traveled extensively within the U.S. and a little bit internationally (there are so many places we still want to go!).

And we found one place that we love so much we keep going back to it—Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Finding that special place wasn’t necessarily intentional, but going back to it five times sure has been. The memories we’ve created there could fill an entire book. Just this week Kate said, “I really hope that we’ll still be going to Kiawah when we’re all married and have kids of our own.”

Finally, intentional travel looks like this week, when Abby and I will pack our bags and head to England together—just the two of us. When our girls were very young we decided that when each of them turned 16 I would take them on a mother/daughter trip. Really, the trip could have been to anywhere—I just happen to have fallen in love with England, and I want my girls to experience this place I love. So two years ago I took Kate (we had an absolute blast!), and this year it’s Abby’s turn. I am so looking forward to spending some good one-on-one time with her. Plus, she had to plan a bit of the trip, so I’m looking forward to seeing the part of the country she chose to see.

I feel so passionately about travel that I think I’ll have more to say about it tomorrow. A Travel Tuesday post again!

Until then, tell me one of your favorite travel memories in the comments section. I’d love to hear about it!


  1. This is good encouragement for me... I'm nervous about my summer trip! Went to Richmond last week alone and got so sick... was afraid I couldn't get home... made me never want to leave my kids again. You've inspired me anew... thanks!

  2. Oh, and my favorite travel memories -- definitely Camp of the Woods or Destin, FL with my family -- love Glacier National Park, too. Oh, and Israel. But anywhere is wonderful if it includes my whole family! :-)

  3. Oh Carolyn, that's terrible. I got sick on our trip to Brazil and was miserable on the entire plane ride home. It is just awful to get sick when you're away from home. Your trip this summer is going to be AWESOME!!!!

  4. Oh Kiawah. I am grown and with kids and we still go, so tell Kate there is hope! The year my family spent in Malaysia when I was 13 was hugely defining for me in my faith, interest in other cultures, and desire to do that with my own children someday. My trip to Cuba with Wheaton was the most eye-opening study trip I could have imagined. My husband knows that when Cuba is open to travel, that will be our next destination.

  5. Cuba--how interesting! And good to know there's hope for Kate and Kiawah, Mrs. W. I'll tell her. :)

  6. Not surprisingly, we had similar experiences when the travel bug bit early. My trip during high school to Vienna, Budapest and Prague opened my eyes to the world and I've made travel a priority ever since. The many Brits I've met along the way love to travel... they've said they'd rather live in a small flat and have money for holiday! Brilliant idea. Just splendid. P.S My bread is rising as I type. Yum.

  7. My parents - my mom, really - were intentional about exposing us to different places and cultures through travel. And I'm so thankful for that! Mark's parents didn't make travel a priority at ALL, so he's had to learn to see the wisdom of my ways. :) I can't wait to show Annalyn parts of the world!