As I got back in the car and started driving, I reflected on the meaning of this bracelet and necklace. You see, I first got these items at a market in China when I was seven years old. I can still remember the rows and rows of little jewelry booths. You could sit down at any of them and either pick something they already had made or choose your pearls and jewels to be custom strung for you right there on the spot. My mom purchased the set that I recently had restrung and I purchased another bracelet that I still wear on occasion. I think the bracelet costs me the equivalent of about a U.S. dollar and had mostly beads with a few pearls.
These simple items brought back so many memories of our two weeks in China. Although I was quite young, I still have several vivid memories from this trip. This was my first international travel. And although it was a leisurely trip, it impacted me in various ways. Since that trip to China, I have been blessed enough to travel to several other foreign countries (sometimes with family members, sometimes with friends, and sometimes solo). Not only is travel fun and exciting, I believe it benefits young people in many ways.
Travel broadens a child's horizons
Knowing that there is another culture, a different type of people, and other languages can broaden a child's horizons. It gives perspective, especially to a young person, that their little world is not all that is out there. Seeing a different culture in action really brings to life the fact that there is a whole nother world out there.
It challenges a child
Having to deal with a long flight, time change, a different culture and language, and having to walk miles in a single day are all difficult things for a kid. I fell asleep at a restaurant one of my first nights in China due to jetlag. My feet ached another day when we had done miles of walking and sightseeing. I dealt with people getting into my personal space, touching my hair and face unsolicited. These experiences forced seven-year-old me to have to learn to cope in situations I had previously never been exposed.
It changes a child's sense of what is possible
Knowing that there is so much more out there made me realize that my little home town is not all that was out there. I found out that this whole different world exists in China. And not only did it exist in China, but it made me realize that there were so many other countries and cultures to explore. Not only that, but international travel is empowering. If I can go to China, what else can I do?
These benefits of travel are not reserved just for kids. They can be reaped by anyone who travels, especially internationally. But if you have children, I would implore you to make it a point to travel with them. Even just one or two trips over the course of their childhood can make a huge impact on what they believe is possible.
Yesterday, I became so overwhelmed in the car with gratitude that I had to call my mom and thank her once again for making travel, especially international travel, a priority in my childhood. She showed me the way by example and then allowed me to branch out on my own later in my teens. I appreciate all that travel has given me and shaped me.