When I was 14, my parents took my sister and I to Europe for two months over the summer. I still recall listening to them talk about the upcoming trip with their friends after dinner one night over a glass of wine “Why don’t you come to California with us instead?” asked my Mom’s best friend Theresa who visited the State every year with her husband and two sons. “It’s much safer, I’ve heard of teenagers going missing on holiday in Europe.” She was right. There had been stories, but then again kids also went missing in my sleepy Canadian home town of Victoria as well.
Despite the worry of potential kidnappings, my parents reasoned that they had raised us to have good enough common sense to avoid dangerous situations and soon we were boarded and ready for our flight. With a two month itinerary taking us through Holland, Belgium, France, Spain and finally England the whole family was buzzing with anticipation.
The holiday was certainly a success. We toured the canals in Amsterdam, swam in giant waves at the Belgian coast, saw the Eiffel Tower in Paris and walked all over London. It was truly magical.
When I look back on that trip I can reflect on what an amazing personal Renaissance it was as well. I learned in Holland movie theatres have an intermission (so you don’t run out of beer of course!), how to calculate exchange rates (this was pre-Euro) and even navigating the Tube lines in London. While California would have been lovely, the wealth of cultural and practical knowledge I gained from my European experience far outweighed those of another holiday. The trip also kindled what is now a life-long love of travel and new places.
To this day I am thankful that my parents took us to Europe. It probably would have been much cheaper and easier to pack us all to Disneyland or Hawaii but they didn’t. Instead they realized how valuable it is to have an appreciation for other places, histories and cultures that are more dissimilar than not to our own.
While every family might not be able to plan this kind of holiday, there are plenty of interesting and different places close to home. The important part isn’t where you go, it’s about exploring the world together and introducing your kids to the beauty of travel.