Monday Teeny Poll » Teeny Manolo

Monday Teeny Poll

By Glinda


A friend of mine has a daughter in her late teens who is currently traveling in Europe.  Mind you, she had never been much out of her hometown before this, and had certainly never traveled to another country. Not because they don’t have the means, they just don’t really like traveling all that much.

During the arguments discussions leading up to the decision to allow the daughter to travel such a far distance without her family, at one point the daughter accused the mother of never taking her anywhere, never letting her gain a different perspective on the world other than the one in her hometown.

At first I was taken aback by what the daughter had said, but then wondered if it did indeed have some merit.

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26 Responses to “Monday Teeny Poll”

  1. Carol Says:

    Had you left out “extensively”, my vote would have been Yes. Travel, even within your own country, helps you see the world from different perspectives and contributes to the decline of tunnel vision. I don’t think it needs to be extensive or involve passports at all times, though. Especially when they’re older and getting involved in school, sports, jobs, etc. Travel to another city or state can be just as rewarding – there’s many wonderful things to see in our world!

  2. TeleriB Says:

    I interpreted “extensively” more as “frequently, and to different places.” Gramma’s house over and over doesn’t count.

    My parents bought a time-share when they were newlyweds and it served our family so well. Cheaper than a hotel for a week, roomier, and we could fix meals there – it meant we could afford trips to destinations we never could otherwise. I don’t mean Paris; I mean San Francisco, Texas and Disney World. Also Williamsburg, Nantucket Island, the Outer Banks in NC, and (for some reason) DuBois, PA. (That’s Doo-Boys. Not Doo-Bwah. Just so we’re clear.) We usually traveled around Easter time, when we had spring break from our (Catholic) school – early enough that it generally qualified as off-season for more price breaks. (I’m still fond of the beach in late winter/early spring as a result. During the summer? Not so much.)

  3. gemdiva Says:

    I’d like to give a qualified “Yes”. If the parents have the means to be able to travel and if the travel time is used as quality family time and not just paying lip service to what a family “should” do, then I say go for it. I have very fond childhood memories of family vacations. I even loved the Sundays when my dad would get us all in the car and we’d just drive somewhere, anywhere. I wonder if people still do that.

    I couldn’t afford vacations when my son was younger, but in my son’s high school years, there was an opportunity for him to do some work for my company and we traveled for that together several times a year. It was a great lesson for him on how to deal with business travel (airports, hotels, car rentals) and introduced him to people from many different regions in the US. It also gave him an appreciation for Mom’s job and, most importantly, gave us a great opportunity to have many long conversations about anything and everything. I may not have always loved my job, but I am very grateful for the opportunity it gave me to form a closer bond with my son during those years.

  4. gamma Says:

    We have traveled a fair amount with our children, meaning when time and circumstances allow. It is expensive, exhausting, and usually not a vacation for the parents. But…I always thought my job/privilege as a parent was to show my children the great stuff in the world around them, like the zoo and the beach and Australia.

    But we don’t have to exhaust our finances or ourselves to service our children’s curiosity. If parents hate travel, they don’t have to devote every vacation to exotic destinations. But they should occasionally bite the bullet and take the kids somewhere. And if money is the issue, kids understand that. Do what you can, and make it count.

    And it’s not just travel; kids need to be exposed to little adventures too. I know people who are so determined to shelter their kids from pernicious worldly influences that we turned out to be the ones who introduced their teenage son to Chinese food, and their 12-year-old daughter to Slurpees.

  5. Sonia Says:

    Mine would also be, travel as often and to a variety of places as budget and time permits so kids see how different the world is from their own backyard.

    My kids have never left the country, save for Canada, but they’ve been a lot of other places now, I think they’d be comfortable traveling more as they get older too.

  6. Glinda Says:

    Yes, by “travel extensively” I meant not just to Grandma’s in the next state. But really, it wouldn’t have to be all that far, as long as they were exposed to a lot of different things, I think.

  7. Twistie Says:

    I think parents should take their kids to new places when they can. I voted for travel extensively, but, like others, I do have to qualify that to say I don’t think parents should completely break the bank and I don’t think every single trip has to be to another country or even another state. All too often, there are things of import and interest even in one’s own town that the kids never quite get to because nobody thinks to take them there.

    I never got to Europe as a child, and only got to a few states, but I got to see different parts of California (which has a lot of variety to offer!) and we did take a couple huge, blow-out trips to other places, and I got to go with my high school drama club to Ashland…all of these experiences helped make me more aware of and more interested in the world around me. Even just sunday drives showed me things I couldn’t have seen if I’d kept to my usual paths and destinations.

    Giving children new experiences and new perspectives strikes me as a big part of a parent’s job. It’s something they should do within their individual means. Even a different neighborhood can be an adventure in some places. Kids need to know that not everybody has the same point of view, cultural heritage, or personal tastes. How will they really understand that if they never see anyone who isn’t a default part of their world?

  8. La Petite Acadienne Says:

    I completely agree with everything Twistie just said, especially the last paragraph.

    I don’t think that parents need to bankrupt themselves in order to expose their kids to different cultures. Sometimes, even just the food, music, movies and books that you have at home can broaden a kid’s horizons quite a bit.

    And cultural lessons don’t need to involve a ton of travel. We live in the country, but I’ve told my husband that I have every intention of bringing our kids to the city on a regular basis so that I can a) bring them to an art gallery and a play, b) get them used to seeing people who don’t look like them, and c) teach them some street-smarts.

  9. Ruth Says:

    My yes is qualified as well, for all the reasons mentioned above. But it’s still a yes, in the sense that as much travel as a family can REASONABLY afford is, I believe, important for kids to learn about other people and broaden their viewpoints.

  10. dgm Says:

    What La Petite Acadienne says (I feel like I agree with her every week on these polls). I don’t think travel per se is as important as simply exposing kids to a lot of different experiences. If you travel to foreign countries and only ever stay in high-priced hotels and eat at fancy restaurants, I don’t think you are really expanding your child’s mind. We have friends who go to Hawaii every year and one of their kids had no idea it had a beach(!) since they only ever play golf and lay at the ritzy pool. They don’t dine in town with locals, they have no idea of the history of Hawaii or its native culture or the surrounding communities. Yes, they travel to get there, but so much for “different experiences.”

    Having said that, I am all for bringing the family on Great American Road Trips. And camping. 🙂

  11. raincoaster Says:

    As someone who was born in France and raised in Canada and who has worked extensively in the tourist industry, I MUST SAY: it doesn’t count if you don’t go somewhere a foreign language is spoken.

    Canada is beautiful and big. The US is beautiful and big. But they are full of people exactly like people you already know. You get the truly soul-shaking impact of travel when you’re the only people around who speak your language.

    Rather than make a billion little trips to places which are essentially just down the block, culturally speaking, I would recommend taking one trip overseas or to Central or South America every several years. After all, the point is not geography: the point is growing as a human being and a family, no?

  12. raincoaster Says:

    Forgive me: I’m still bitter about all the Americans asking “But why are your prices in Canadian dollars?”

    I could have been fired, but I once replied, “Because when you got on the big silver bird, you left your country. Bienvenue!”

  13. dgm Says:

    I think there are many ways we can “grow as a human being.” After all, what of all those people in little villages all over the world who never leave a 10 mile radius? Are they the lesser for it? The idea that parents have an obligation to travel around the world with their children seems to me something that works for the middle and upper classes in privileged countries.

  14. marvel Says:

    Overseas trips for many families will always be out of financial reach. I think the point of traveling is introducing a child to novel experiences, in whatever form a parent is able to introduce novelty. For a city kid, maybe it’s a day trip to nearby farm. For a farm kid, maybe it’s a day trip to the nearest city.

    The end-of-year activity for the tutoring program I volunteered with a couple of years in the DC area was a trip out of the city to a park in either Maryland or Virginia. For many of the middle-school students who participated, it was the FIRST time they had ever been in the woods, or seen an actual canoe. For them, traveling 45 minutes outside the city was a life-changing, novel experience, and that travel was in many cases beyond the means of their unassisted families.

    Also, I think you do a disservice to the cultural diversity present in many major metropolitan areas. If someone lives in Boston, or New York, or DC, or LA, you can meet many different people who are VERY different from you and your family just by walking across the city–and you don’t need to travel to host a student from abroad in your home for dinner, and you can get involved in the community by tutoring kids who’ve recently immigrated to the US. So there are ways and means beyond travel to culturally diversify, and there are beneficial experiences related to travel that are independent of exposure to cultural diversity.

    I checked that I thought it was important for parents to travel “extensively” with their kids because I think kids become more intellectually curious with the introduction of novel experiences, and travel is a good way to spend family time, build some (hopefully) happy childhood memories and explore new things together. But by all means, travel “extensively” according to family tastes and finances.

  15. La Petite Acadienne Says:

    I do agree with raincoaster in that it is an incredible experience to visit a place where a different language is spoken.

    That being said, however, raising your kids to be culturally sophisticated is akin to being environmentally friendly: ’tis much better to do what you CAN do, rather than throw in the towel because you can’t do EVERYTHING.

    Some people might be able to take their kids overseas. I know I’d love to take my kids to Holland and France, partly because I want them to more fully appreciate our war veterans. By the time I have kids and they’re old enough to travel, all of our WWI and WWII veterans will be gone, and I want to make sure that my kids truly appreciate what was sacrificed for them.

    That being said, I don’t know what my finances will be like in 15 years. I may not be able to afford that overseas trip. But, if not, I still intend to instill culture in my home, and to expose my kids to as much culture and history as my pocketbook will allow.

    Even a small effort is much better than nothing.

  16. Twistie Says:

    Raincoaster, I live in the San Francisco area. I can take a ten-minute drive and find neighborhoods that might as well be different planets, let alone countries.

    If parents can afford to take their kids to different countries, then I’m definitely all for that. But I agree with Marvel and La Petite Acadienne that there can be amazing opportunities much closer to home for those who can’t manage to take a family of five to Holland or France or Japan for two weeks.

    dgm also has a sadly accurate point with her comment. You can take a child to culture, but you can’t make him/her think if you haven’t encouraged such thought before. There’s a family I know who are nice people, but they always accomodated their children’s tendancy to avoid new experiences. Thus it was that when their daughter got a chance to go to France her senior year of high school, she spent the entire trip eating nothing but McDonald’s French fries and getting frustrated that people didn’t speak English to her. She now travels all the time…to Disneyland. She doesn’t go anywhere else when she has the chance to go somewhere.

    My parents never took me out of the country, but they did take me to a lot of different places. They exposed me to the music and food and art and literature of many countries. They encouraged me to be curious about the world. We had friends who were naturalized Americans but still celebrated their original cultures from Mexico, China, and Holland. Now a friend of mine has offered me the opportunity to go with her to Paris and London in the fall. I have a feeling I won’t be able to scrape together the cash to go, but if I can, I know for damn sure Micky D’s won’t be getting a dime from me in either city. I know given the chance that I’ll brush up on my high school French, learn some new phrases, and make an attempt to speak to people in their native language. I’ll eat the local foods, take in sights I’ve waited my entire life to see, and really have something to say about where I’ve been when I get back.

    My parents didn’t take me to France, but they gave me everything I need to appreciate the opportunity, should I manage to get there on my own.

  17. Martha Says:

    Has everyone here tried traveling “extensively” with young children? It’s expensive, it’s a hassle, it’s a pain. And it is expensive. It is not something every family can do. I agree with dgm that this is an upper or middle class idea. When did travel fo pleasure become a necessity?

    In any case, Raincoaster, I can drive 10 minutes and get to a neighborhood where no one speaks English. We have met refugees from Somalia, Bosnia, Moldova, Guatemala and more by working with Catholic Charities refugee services. I know that this not the same as actually being in a country where no one speaks your language. (for that matter, why should that be the criterion? Why shouldn’t we say you have to go to a place with another alphabet? I found that much more disorienting than simply another language.) But travel, while it can broaden the mind, is not the only way to do so, and it not fool-proof. As it seems you found out. Hadn’t the foolish tourists you met traveled to get to Canada?

    Let the kids study abroad in high school or college. Then they can discover for themselves that the world is big! And diverse! And there are good people everywhere, and sadly, jerks everywhere, not just at Raincoaster’s workplace.

  18. Martha Says:

    just to clarify — the “jerks” in the last line was meant to reference the people who, for example, expected Canada to display prices in US dollars.

  19. Glinda Says:

    Martha, for a second there, I thought you were talking about me!


  20. silverpatronus Says:

    i am not american, nor are we wealthy, but my parents made a point of traveling abroad as extensively as possible with my sisters and i when we were growing up, broke or solvent. and that was before the cheap-flight revolution. my mother considered it a worthy investment and was willing to suck up the debt required to make it happen. i think travel is important, especially travel abroad. and doing it on a shoestring meant that we got very into the cultures of where we visited rather than doing the tourist thing, since we couldn’t really afford the tourist thing. so we’d eat what the locals ate, do our own groceries and cooking a lot of the time and spent a lot of time on public transportation. in instilled a real global sense in us, and now that we’re adults we continue to travel as extensively as we can afford to, and when we have children we will raise world travelers, just like we were. i think travel is part and parcel of a rounded education.

  21. raincoaster Says:

    I’m thinking what we have right here in the comments section is a cultural divide. I live in Canada, and it is far cheaper for me to fly to Europe than it is for me to fly to Toronto…and when you get there, well, you’re in Toronto. This may be a function of weird Canadian prices, I am more than willing to admit. But living as I do in Chinatown I know quite well that it’s not Beijing. A different country is different in so many ways that it’s a humbling experience. I was in Indonesia for three weeks and still never figured out how the traffic lights worked (when the tanks are coming they have right-of-way, that’s all I know).

    Now, I certainly understand that when you’re travelling with young kids you want to minimize risks and surprises, and that gets expensive. So I did a bit of research and came up with some sites that have good advice. I’ll post the list a bit later.

  22. raincoaster Says:

    @ Martha, I’m far too egotistical to take offense, no worries! But it was a good one, even if it was inadvertent!

  23. La BellaDonna Says:

    My folks had five kids, and sunk their money into paying for our schooling; ironically, although my Dad traveled for his job, it meant that as a family, we didn’t have the opportunity.

    Although I would very much have liked the chance to travel with my family, I think they made the right choice; I haven’t needed to travel physically to be interested in other people, other cultures, other places, other times. Thanks to my parents, it’s reflected in my bookshelves, constantly.

    There’s more than one way to travel, as it turns out.

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