Many families hesitate at the thought of extended travel with middle-school and teen-aged children.  In our overscheduled and often frenetic culture, it may be the most powerful gift you can give them.  Emotional and spiritual growth of emerging teens are equally as important as academics and sports. Travel offers the gift of unstructured time away from, the sometimes overwhelming, social pressures of their young lives.

Sure, the initial disconnect from home may be bumpy, but that phase ends when young eyes are treated to new and exciting cultures and life experience beyond their limited scope.  They see that there is a whole world out there filled with happy people leading lives that may have nothing in common with the mores of their own community. It helps them put their own lives in perspective and develop a global awareness that will enhance their understanding of our amazing planet.

Teens struggle in our material culture of mixed messages.  An inordinate amount of time is spent replicating the images of those seen in the media as a means of developing a sense of self.  Some of this is natural, we all look for heroes, but too much inhibits the development of initiative and inner reflection.

I am a great believer in downtime for kids. From dawn to dusk they lead directed and scripted lives. I can remember giving an open-ended assignment one day to my eighth grade class who stared back at me with disbelief, utter bewilderment. They demanded guidelines, a model, rubrics. How would they know what an “A” looked like?   That response saddened me.  I told them to get creative, let their souls sing, have the courage to glow, and to give me their best work. They left the classroom in anger.

Time went by, and a funny thing happened, one by one they shared ideas, revealed talents, smiled, gained confidence and yes, glowed a new light when the projects were handed in. This was the same process we experienced with our own children when we moved abroad and widened their parameters.  Alone in a new culture, they had the time to look inward and discover emotional and spiritual strength that they didn’t know they had.

So, the next time you are considering a vacation and wondering if the expense will be worth it, take a chance. Take an adventure. Let your children glow.


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