The first time that my children left the country was to go to Tijuana, Mexico for a short-term mission. My parents were skeptical, but my husband, Tim and I had been before and knew the safety factors of the area that we were working. I think that they were 5 and 7 years old.
As the years progressed, we gradually took them further afield. A cruise to the Caribbean, was a good start. The environment was familiar with western food, drinks and beds, but we were able to explore the different ports of call and experience the culture and activities of the West Indies. We even climbed Dunn’s River falls in Jamaica.
The next international destination was Akumal, Mexico, which is located on the Caribbean side of the Yucatan Peninsula. Here we experienced the culture and food of Mexico. We went to an eco-park, a zoo, some caves and the best part, Mayan ruins. Back at the hotel, we were able to snorkel off shore and experience the birth of green turtles, on an environmental tour.
Aruba, is as close to South America as we have traveled. This island, in my opinion, had little culture of their own and mainly catered to the large cruise ship passengers.
As the kids moved into high school, we decided that Europe was the next in line for discovery. To facilitate this transition, our family decided to host high school exchange students for the school year. This turned into a long-term annual event. We have, to date, hosted students from Brazil, Japan, Germany, Jordan, Denmark and France.
Our first overseas experience was in Northern England and Scotland. We chose this destination because it was English-speaking and had many outdoor activities for our boys as well as castles and swords. Two years later, we visited one of our students in his home in Germany and then went on to take a tour of Italy for 17 days. A tour was a good choice for us, since the guide was very knowledgeable of the culture and history of the areas which we were visiting and spoke Italian. Italian was not strictly necessary, but did make it easier to navigate with our limited time. The tour was a good mix of history, culture and outdoor hiking in the Dolomites and Cinque Terre. We culminated our experience in Rome, where we were able to view the ancient places that we had studied throughout our homeschooling years.
Since then, our young adult children have traveled alone to Germany and Japan. The experiences that we were able to provide them when they were younger have made them more comfortable with their place in the world. They are mostly aware of their surroundings, while traveling and have plans to work abroad in the future, if the opportunity arises.
Travel is more than just a vacation. It is experiences, adventures and becoming culturally aware of the world around us whether it is abroad or in our own backyard.