RealityTV2Whether we admit it or not, most of us have watched some sort of reality TV show. With shows ranging from Amazing Race to Dancing With the Stars to The Bachelor, how could it be avoided? But I had the extraordinary opportunity to see the reality behind reality programming, and I learned that not everyone recognizes the value of family travel.

A few years ago, I got a call from the producer of the FOX reality show, Trading Spouses, asking if our family would submit an application to be on the show.

The premise of Trading Spouses is to have the moms from two “different” families switch places. For the first two days, each mom lives the lifestyle of her new family. On the third day, each mom says, “Now we’ll do things MY way!” And just to answer the number one question I get asked….NO! You do not sleep in the same room with the man of the house!

Evidently the producers felt our family was “Reality-Show-Worthy” because soon I was flying cross-country to live with a family of complete strangers as that mom flew to live with my husband and daughter. Spending the week with strangers who have a totally different lifestyle can be an eye opening experience. And several of the things I learned during that time period apply to traveling.

Lesson One: Not Everyone Sees the Value in Traveling With Their Family

The parents in my “new” family had no desire to travel. I asked if they ever went camping. The answer was, “No”. I asked if they went on vacation. The answer again was a definite no. When I explained how kids learn about decision making and gain confidence in new experiences by traveling, the dad told me they were fine staying home. He saw no need to leave the comfort of his couch. While I was there during the summer, the three kids basically watched TV and videos the entire day.

Lesson Two: Not Everyone Sees the Value in Exposing their Children to Enriching Experiences

Because many of the books I’ve written deal with creative kid’s activities, the producers selected me to infuse fun into my “new” TV family. I was shocked to find this family didn’t even have markers and glue to do some craft projects. Naturally I brought along a suitcase full of craft supplies. Soon the kids were happily painting wooden race cars, building kaleidoscopes and decorating a pillowcase for their mom. Dad, on the other hand, cussed at me for having them do crafts. He really resisted when I had the family go on a hike and then a bike ride.

On the other side of the country, my husband, (a combination of Jim Carrey and Steve Martin) spent the week with his new “wife” who was shocked that a man could be funny and outgoing. She later told me, “I didn’t know men treated women as nicely as your husband treated me.” She thoroughly enjoyed the new experience of going to a museum and a kayak trip with him. She commented, “We’ll have to do this with our kids.”

Lesson Three: Not Everyone Sees the Value in Spending Time Together as a Family

As the Traveling RV Mom, I know what it is like to be in close quarters with your family in an RV. Part of the fun of RV’ing is togetherness, be it reading a book together as the rain falls on your RV or laughing while making s’mores. Yet the dad in my new family openly admitted he didn’t see any value in spending one-on-one time with his kids. I know he loved them. He just didn’t display his love like we do. He wasn’t happy when I suggested he spend an hour individually with each of his children. His son wanted to go to a Natural History Museum to see a dinosaur exhibit. Dad protested the entire trip.

After spending a week with this family, I saw first-hand that travel experiences do make a difference in how people view the world. When I left my TV family, the dad actually admitted that he was going to change in how he treated his family. “And I’m taking my wife on that hike you showed us!” he added. The kids couldn’t wait to tell their mom about the fun they had doing creative activities and making craft projects. In just a few days, I was able to expose this family to the fun that comes with getting off the couch and doing something enriching. Yes, it was an unusual situation in that we had a camera crew recording every move 16 hours a day. The overriding lesson, however, is that travel, even for  just a local kayak trip, enriches and changes lives!