The Power of Travel for Children

This summer my family and I had a wonderful holiday in the Algarve in Southern Portugal, home to strikingly beautiful beaches and an abundance of fresh, locally grown culinary delights.  We spent many lazy days at the beach, cooking together and sightseeing.

A few days in, I realized something important: more than the sunshine and the fresh seafood, the highlight of my trip was seeing travel through the eyes of my kids, aged 9 and 11, and their cousins, aged 8 and 13.

There were so many things, big and small, that caught their attention. There were moments that we shared that l am sure they will remember forever.
In Tavira, they were amazed to be having dinner next to a Roman bridge that was almost 2,000 years old. When I ordered a plate of sardines with their heads still on, I thought they were delicious…but my kids had a few other choice words to describe them.
For those of you who have been to European beaches, you know that the dress code is slightly different.  My kids were a little uncomfortable at first to see so many skimpily clad people, but they became accustomed to it over time.  It’s just one cultural difference they will need to acclimate themselves to as they travel the world.
For adults, seeing signs all over a foreign country in a foreign language is expected.  For kids, it was a source of constant wonder.
Everything – from the pristine white houses and cobblestoned streets of the region, to the beautiful graffiti all over southern Portugal, to seeing how crazy the residents are about soccer – sparked their curiosity. It was so fun to see.
Having spent some years growing up in Portugal, I speak Portuguese, and during the trip I would speak to the kids in Portuguese. For breakfast, I would ask if they wanted leite or agua to drink, and they were able to answer sim or não. We would incorporate expressions into our conversations like tudo bem. While they didn’t become fluent, they were able to pick up bits of a new language and use it in the moment. What a great skill to learn!
On the way we also managed to fit in a few days in London, a city that my kids loveJust like in Portugal, they soaked up so many experiences that will stay with them for a lifetime: public performers in the center of the city, Hamley’s toy shop, London taxis and double decker buses. They also had some observations on the people of London: they are very friendly, ‘even to the ducks in St. James’ Park,’ and ‘People do crazy things in London!’
The kind of education that my kids and their cousins received on our recent trip is invaluable – and that was just a vacation! No matter what your age, travel opens your eyes to things that you never would have seen before. I firmly believe that the younger one begins their travel adventures, the better.
Hope you are all enjoying adventures with your friends and family this summer. I’m sure you’ll agree that we all deserve to go out and have an amazing travel experience at least once a year! 

Kind regards,
Steve Hart