My first trip out of the country occurred when I was just six. My parents took my 13-year old brother and I on a 7-day Carribean cruise. Many parents today might see this as a waste of money. What can a six-year old really get out of foreign travel? Or perhaps parents today think you can only travel with a six year old if you plan to go to kids things…playgrounds and children’s museums and puppet shows. My parents didn’t get that memo.
What can a six year old really get out of foreign travel?
I do have fond memories of my first “real” thunderstorm. Being from California, I didn’t see a lot of those. Nor did I associate rain with warm summer days. But I was mesmerized even before we left the dock at Miami, sitting at an outside table under cover watching the ferocious storm role through while in shorts and a summer top. Another fond memory was spending time with my Dad playing shuffleboard!
Aside from these great memories though, was a complete adjustment in my way of thinking about the world and my place in it. While I don’t really recall much of the historic sites…there are penetrating memories and lessons from that trip.
I am among the very fortunate. I come from a fairly wealthy background and never wanted for anything. I grew up with a swimming pool and my own bedroom, and worried because my clothes came from Macy’s instead of always coming from the pricier I. Magnin store at Stanford Mall.
When we arrived at our first stop, Haiti, we signed up for a trip up to the Citadel on donkeys. I didn’t really know what a citadel was, but I was quite familiar with donkeys. The surprise came when we started out on our donkeys up the steep climb to the citadel…and each donkey was accompanied by two young boys not much older than I: one in front to lead the beast, one in back with a switch to provide encouragement. Both boys were bare foot and clad in rags. The “supervisor” was a large man on a white horse with some sort of very large gun. I remember asking my mother why the boys were wearing shoes. It came as quite a shock when she told me they likely were too poor to have shoes. It further shocked me when one of my boy-guides picked up my discarded cruise-ship lunch box and ate the rest of lunch, sharing with the other boy-guide. I had turned up my nose at the lunch, eating the cookie and half of an apple. The boys were delighted. I learned that they had no lunch other than my leftovers. I remember being told they were lucky because they had jobs.
Was this trip wasted on a six year old? I don’t think so. I may have missed the history. But I think the lesson I learned…and the time spent playing with my family…are pretty darn valuable experiences.