It was that time of year again.
Temperature spikes. Long, sunny days. Flowers in full bloom.
Summer was back and I was anxious for what it had in store. As the final days of the school year wrapped up, my sight shifted from my textbooks to the next family adventure. The coming weeks would be chock-full of planning and scheduling for that summer’s road trip.
In anticipation of traveling away from home, my dad unloaded our suitcases and travel accessories. Meanwhile, my mom broke out the book of highway maps and road trip games that were sure to keep my sister and I occupied in between naps. Road Trip Bingo was one of our favorite activities because it engaged the whole family; it taught us about different states, nature, geography, road signs, and more.
School may have been out for the summer, but these trips kept us learning year-round.
As my family traveled to California, Virginia, Florida, and even Idaho, I saw a glimpse of just how much was to be explored within the United States. We witnessed the incredible engineering of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco; we toured the birth home of the late Martin Luther King, Jr. in Atlanta; and we even set foot on the White House lawn where I collected a leaf for an upcoming school science project.
Each adventure across the United States left my young mind amazed in awe at the breadth of history, culture, and education beyond my small hometown in Indiana. Aside from the historic sites and natural wonders, my family made a point of seeing the local universities in just about every city that we visited. I believe that touring so many college campuses at an early age encouraged me to continue pursuing excellence in education as I grew older.
Even though I had not yet stepped onto foreign soil, I had already accumulated years of educational and cultural experiences from just traveling within my home country.
When Charles and I established the vision for WellTraveled, we shared the desire that every young person have the opportunity to see the world. At this point in our lives, both of us have enjoyed traveling to and living in many states and countries around the globe. These experiences changed our lives in ways that we can’t even begin to fully describe.
However, we recognize that many students who would love to travel internationally believe that they are too young to take this step. In fact, student survey responses from our travel seminars ranked “age” as the top obstacle holding them back from traveling.
Should age restrict travel opportunities?
While it is not the simplest process for a fourth grader to take an international trip to a foreign country, there are several other avenues to experience different cultures and see another part of the world.
1. Visiting a Local Neighborhood or Nearby Major City
During my childhood, one of my family’s favorite getaways was just a short two-hour drive away in our home state of Indiana. Here, we found a wellspring of arts and world culture at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which happens to be the LARGEST children’s museum in the entire world. Who knew that the largest and most popular museum made for kids could be found in the United States? Similarly, cities around the country have other extraordinary sites that are waiting to welcome in young people and their families. With today’s Internet access, searching for local attractions is easier than ever before; some websites even allow viewers to use a free trip planner. Map out what you find and see what’s close by! You might be surprised to find that your next family or class adventure is just beyond your backyard.
2. Visiting Family in Another State
In addition to the road trips mentioned earlier, my summer breaks were spent visiting family members. Since most of my family resides in other states like Texas, Missouri, Ohio, and Alabama, summertime was the prime time for seeing cousins and other relatives. Traveling to family reunions and the like allowed us to explore different states and the diversity of culture across the country. One of my most memorable photos with my cousins was taken inside the Dixie Caverns of Salem, Virginia. Thousands of years of shifting rocks and natural weathering resulted in this underground hidden treasure that was first discovered in the early 1920s. While our family picture only captured a glimpse of the incredible sight, the tour in its entirety impressed my young mind with the wonders of nature and physical geography all around us.
3. Inviting Family to Visit Your Home
But wait...perhaps you are not able to travel to another state for an extended period of time. No worries, all hope is not lost! Extending the invitation for your family to visit your home might open your eyes to a cultural experience that you did not expect. When my family had guests from outside of Indiana staying in our home, we were challenged to know the variety of activities available in our geographical area. Due to our close proximity to Chicago, we would often introduce our visiting family to some of the many marvels in the Windy City. Taking family on these local expeditions allowed us to engage in conversation about their hometowns and how our community differed from theirs. Sharing in a common experience, whether it be a science exhibit or a culture festival, opens those avenues for learning something new.
So, if you can’t travel to another country, is it possible to experience other cultures?
Indeed it is! I hope that today’s blog encouraged you that these opportunities are available, and can be found in a few short minutes with some diligent online research. The experiences shared above are but a snapshot of what you will likely find in your own community.
Traveling abroad truly changed my life, but it was my time as a youth exploring different states that proved invaluable and laid the building blocks for being WellTraveled.
Educators and Parents - encourage your students and/or children to brainstorm how they can have a cultural experience within the United States. Maybe they would like to set a personal goal for this year? If so, we would love to hear about them.
Students - think about and research the different educational activities that are available in your local community. Make a list and share it with your parents so that they can help you reach your travel goals.
Stay Educated. Stay Empowered. Stay WellTraveled.