The Gift of Travel & Multilingualism for Our Children

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This past weekend my husband and I set out to get our youngest boys their very first passports.

My oldest had his passport at a much younger age. It was easier to travel internationally with just one child, but after realizing that he doesn’t remember many of the awesome trips we took together, and not being bathed in wealth to just take trips on end regardless, we decided that with the two youngest we would wait a little longer.

When the time came to get their passports I was so very nervous.

It’s not cheap (at about $100 a pop, non-expedited), and it’s not easy – you have to have TONS of original government issued paperwork, both parents need to be present, and if you are divorced, notarized paperwork from ex-spouse needs to be attained, and on, and on. But it was one of the most exciting things we will ever do for our children: give them the encouragement to travel beyond the borders of what they know and learn.

I am passionate about this and about teaching my children to be bilingual, bicultural beings. To think beyond what society teaches them, and school books hold. Because the truth is the history of this one country we live in varies depending on who is telling the story, the perceptions and ideologies ingrained in us shift the minute we learn to observe the world from a different angle. When we travel beyond the basic airport to resort to guided tour to resort to airport standards, and when we take our kids with us, we place ourselves in situations that can put to question who we are, what we know, what we thought we knew and what we want our children to learn in the process. It shatters our ability to accept the world as black or white.

Travel forces us to ask questions, and learn, grow, become better, and more conscientious people of the world. I want that for my children – for all children.

As our world becomes more globalized, their ability to live, understand, and work in these environments will determine their ability to succeed. No longer can we hide behind the “America is #1” mentality, for though I love my country, I recognize that it is struggling to stay up there in ranks.

The ability to work well in other cultures and customs, the ability to communicate in a language aside from their own, their ability to understand and respond to diversity, and their ability to be well-rounded, good people – that is the hope that this little booklet holds.

I am not alone in my beliefs of what travel can do for our children, and our world. There are some great people out there who are also spreading the message of encouragement for bilingual education and travel for our children.

Some of my favorite people are Ana Flores and Roxana Soto, of Spanglish Baby whose book “Bilinguial is Better” is now on pre-sale order status on Amazon, and hopes to spread the message of the benefits, importance and beauty in teaching children the ability to communicate in more than one language. Tracey Friley of One Brown Girl is increasing the number of world travelers through The Passport Project  where she has committed herself and has been succeeding in providing girls ages 11-15 with the tools necessary to obtain their very first passport.

I realize that the expense of travel is growing daily, and that it remains to be one of the last things most families are thinking about when trying to make ends meet in this tough economy. I also want to remind you that travel doesn’t have to be to far away places to serve a significant purpose in our children’s lives. But as you, as parents, set goals for your children, plan the ways in which you hope they will be successful and happy, I hope you will consider the element of travel as part of the course. There are so many places to see, the world is so vast…yet, only through travel can we truly experience how small we are in it, and the huge impacts we have, they can have, to make it better.

 

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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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8 Responses to The Gift of Travel & Multilingualism for Our Children

  1. Thanks for the shout out, Carol and congrats to your boys on getting their passports! How exciting!

    Yes, traveling is an amazing way of learning that we're not alone, that there is so much more out there than just the beautiful Unites States of America and that although things may be done much different elsewhere, in the end, we're all the same!

    Like your children, I was lucky enough to have parents who believed in the value of traveling both nationally and internationally. And so traveling is my number one love… I just wished I had more time (and a lot more money) to be able to do it more often! I'm passing on this love to my children and I hope that as they get older they too will see the value of travel and continue to do it on their own as they get older.

    ¡Buen viaje!

  2. Carol Cain says:

    @ Roxana A. Soto:

    Gracias Roxana! xoxo

  3. I completely agree that travel and exposure to other cultures and languages are really important for children! I have twin girls and even though they're only going to be 3 this summer, I try and make a point of letting them experience as much as they can. Even if they may not remember these exact trips and experiences, I know they're learning things that will help them grow into more worldly adults.

    • Carol Cain says:

      So true Michelle! And it's not to say to not travel at all with your little ones. I took my youngest when they were only 2 and 3 on a road trip from NYC to Montana, and we took shorter road trips as well. All to expose them to new things, and also to prepare them for longer travel : )

  4. Ana Flores says:

    What an inspiring post!

    My girl got both her US and Dutch passport when she was only 3 months. It was definitely a priority for us because we want (and need!) to make it a point for her to visit her family in El Salvador and Mexico every year. At least one per year. It´s part of her bicultural upbringing and also because that´s the only family she has and needs to be connected to her.

    I can´t thank you enough for the shout out and the love. You´re just amazing!!!

  5. Carol Cain says:

    @ Ana Flores:

    Thanks Ana! So great for your daughter to have the opportunities to be in tune with who she is as a whole : )

  6. Hey Carol! Bummed I missed you in NYC.

    Absolutely agree on this though being bilingual and well travelled not only opens up new doors, it teaches tolerance. I've been teaching cooking/english to Japanese kids lately and what really gets them excited about learning english is the food we cook together. For families that don't have the budget to travel abroad, perhaps being exposed to global foods will help expose them to global cultures.

    • Carol Cain says:

      Hi Marc! I missed seeing you here as well! I love your response and you are so right! Nothing serves as a better conversation starter than food and global food allows for curiosity to grow and lessons to be learned. Thanks for sharing. I hope to see you soon xoxo

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