From the moment a child is born, mothers work hard to make sure they experience as little discomfort as possible.
When they are hungry, we feed them. When they are tired or cranky, we rock them and soothe them. When they are cold, we wrap them in a blanket. When they are hot, we put a damp cloth on their heads.
But as children get older, it’s important to teach them that discomfort is part of life. If we don’t do that, then they will always expect things to go their way and won't know how to handle uncomfortable situations.
Nothing teaches flexibility, patience and learning to deal with discomfort better than travel. From the airport chaos, to occupying yourself in a cramped seat for hours, to dealing with jet lag, and navigating the language, currency, and public transportation in a foreign country, even the best trips involve obstacles. Watching how your children handle these obstacles is a good indicator of how they will deal with discomfort throughout their adult lives.
I was, and am, very proud of how my children have become good travelers. They buck up when they are tired, learn to reroute when things change, and are open to trying new food, experiencing new cultures and trying things they have never done before.
Our family vacation to Italy reinforced this for me, that even kids who sometimes complain about being too hot, tired or hungry at home, can somehow adapt to a new environment when they realize the good fortune they have in getting to experience life in a foreign country. Sometimes this means walking for miles with rolling luggage through cobblestone streets in the heat and up and down ancient stairs. Sometimes it means putting off food so we won’t miss a train. Sometimes it means sharing a room, a bed or a couch when accommodations don’t always go as planned. Sometimes it means getting lost and having to figure out your way.
Despite these obstacles, I believe their wanderlust, like mine, will continue to grow throughout their lives, and so will their patience and flexibility for things that aren’t exactly the way they are at home.
A wise person once said to me “nothing makes us grow more than grief and travel.” I couldn’t agree more. If I have to choose, I will always take travel knowing that grief will come and go, not at our whim. And it doesn’t have to be Italy, it can be a trip to the beach, a weekend getaway, a chance to travel out of the comfort zone and into a place where we can be our best possible selves.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.