This post was sponsored by The Jordan Tourism Board of North America. Opinions were not directed by the sponsor and are, as always, my own.
Every parent in the world wants the best for their children — but how do we know what's best? How do we know our American views are best? My son was born just outside of Tokyo two years ago. The only regret I find myself with now that we are back in the states is that he wasn't older during his time overseas.
With our daughter having recently joined my son in the family, I am reinvigorated to get them back overseas as often as possible. Today, I'll share my perspective on the merits of international family travel, focusing on the perspective and enlightenment that come with it.
We traveled around the world with my son to Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the Pacific. Even though he was not old enough to comprehend our travels, it was because of him that my wife and I looked at our destinations through different glasses than we'd previously worn. Let's talk about some of the lessons we learned, and will hopefully continue to learn and pass on to our kids through international travel.
Trying to suggest to someone that they get some perspective in whatever situation they are in is often fruitless, I've found. People seem to get easily offended when you try to talk to them about gaining perspective, as if you were belittling whatever it is they are going through.
If you've ever been on either end of one of those conversations and have found them frustrating, there's one thing for sure I can tell you about international travel.
It gives you perspective.
The second you are in a land foreign from your own, perspective is grasped and embraced without language being necessary. You find yourself immediately less burdened by your own problems. To have your children understand the differences in daily life at a young age will empower them and mature them to a place our words alone as parents never could.
I visited Bangkok alone three months after my son was born. I'd passed homeless families on the street before in countries around the world, thought it was sad, but quickly allowed it to leave my psyche. I got off the train from the Bangkok airport and walked towards my hotel where I passed a mom with an infant on a cardboard box. My world changed. As a new father I completely melted as I pictured my wife and son laying there on compressed paper; scared, hungry, unaware of what the next day harbored.
I have not let that image go and often think of it when we as a family are struggling with something, or arguing over what that mom and son would find luxurious. I relent from my stance and feel brought back to reality. Perspective learned from first hand experiences is powerful for both kids and parents.
My family has been lucky enough to travel to many places and when we return to the states we are often met with a few of the same questions. One of the most common being “Is that place safe?” After our trip to the United Arab Emirates as a family and after my work trips to Bahrain and Kuwait, I found many friends and relatives relieved we'd arrived home safely. Why?
The stereotype that all of the Middle East is dangerous and should be avoided is based on a relatively few amount of countries and even smaller factions inside of these countries. I'd choose to walk down most streets in any of the above listed countries compared to the south side of Chicago (which saw 13 murders over Labor Day weekend alone). You'll see an added security presence in many places in the Middle East, but it always had a calming effect on me. The last thing any of these countries can afford are foreign tourists being harmed. It would have huge economic impacts (see Egypt) and the governments do everything they can to avoid harm coming to visitors.
Having just moved to D.C., Jordan has been on my list of Middle East travel destinations because Royal Jordanian, the national airline of Jordan, flies its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners nonstop from Washington Dulles to Amman.
Jordan is no doubt a country that suffers this unsafe stereotype due to its location in the world, though I have yet to find a reason that would keep my family from visiting. If you like official reports, the U.S. Department of State has given Jordan a low crime rating and states “Jordan has made itself a willing and capable partner in the fight against terrorism.” That said, should you visit the Jordan/Syria border or trek unguided through areas of inter-tribal violence? Probably not. Report after report from friends and colleagues reveals none of them having any safety concerns during their trips to Amman and main tourist areas.
Until you and your children are exposed to foreign cultures and everything enveloped in a culture, I don't think you can be truly sure of your own passions, likes, or dislikes. We simply are not exposed to enough here in the states.
My passion for history intensified while touring the War Remnants museum in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam and while visiting the famed S-21 Prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We found my son is particular to fresh vs. canned fruit (and still is) in the Maldives. My wife rediscovered her art interest in Paris.
Food, hobbies, passions — you have to go find what you like and dislike.
While international travel is rarely stress free, the merits are something you and your children will talk about your entire lives and will positively impact everyone. I relish the day my son says the first thing he learned on his trips, or when my daughter displays a maturity about a difficult situation she experiences and displays perspective based on something we saw abroad.
That is what I want for my children. I don't want them to have what I think is best. I want them to have the tools and experiences that will help both of them discover what they think is best.
What has your family learned when traveling abroad?
The Jordan Tourism Board of North America is proud to put Jordan on display as hosts of the FIFA Women's U-17 World Cup. Learn more about Jordan and all it has to offer at http://www.myjordanjourney.com/.