This is a guest post from Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan, CEO and Founder of Momaboard.com, the social network for globe-trotting children and their parents. I love the idea of travel as education. When I was fourteen or so, my dad wanted to buy an RV and spend a year traveling around the country as a family. He thought that would be the best homeschooling education his children could possibly receive. My mom said no. And I’m glad I didn’t have to spend a lot of time in an RV with two incredibly exuberant, shockingly loud brothers. But still, it was a pretty awesome idea. Thank you so much for this post, Kaamna!
I moved to America from India to go to college. I left my home, my family, my comfort zone to move to an environment that was culturally and socially radically different from what I knew. And I was one of the luckier ones – I had visited the US before, spent some time in London and had a fairly good idea of Americanisms from shows like Beverly Hills 90210 and Full House (it was the ‘90s!). Some of my fellow international students had left home for the first time, and the formidable cost of a round-trip ticket meant that they weren’t going to see their families for four years, at least.
The decision was our choice – we voluntarily made this move, looking for better education, exposure, opportunities that we couldn’t get back home. Yet, we always marveled at our American counterparts despairing at the university gates when leaving their parents who lived in the next state! Or the ones that walked around with brave faces when their parents were unable to send them care packages at exam time. We routinely compared the ignorant questions we heard on a daily basis: “Oh your parents probably can’t listen to the CD you recorded because you don’t have CD players in India”, or “Isn’t Nelson Mandela the President of Africa?” The difference between them and us was not that we were experts in world history; it was that we had been exposed just enough to see that what we know was a lot less than what we didn’t know. And that kept us humble and hungry in our quest for knowledge and experiences.
My son is an American citizen who will have all the comforts of the world sitting right here in privileged San Francisco. For our parts as parents though, we are committed to travel as a critical supplement to his education. At the age of two, Karam has been to 12 countries and although he won’t remember any of them (not even Australia the country he was born in), here’s the evolution we have already seen in him, and in us:
- Kids have an amazing capacity for readjustment. It’s the parents that end up getting stuck in rigidity.
- Thanks to our travels, I can walk into any restaurant in the world and find something that Karam will eat. His palette is polygamous. It’s completely liberating.
- Mishaps during travel, particularly in foreign countries have given us the confidence to believe we as a family can handle anything.
- Children don’t see differences in skin color, economic class, or culture, they only see people and the tangibles: things they want to put into their mouths and things they don’t. As an adult it’s worth pulling yourself out from all the analysis and adopting this very simple view of the world once in a while.
- I believe we are on the way to teaching Karam to find goodness in everything. He won’t be one of those kids that goes to a third world country and only sees the poverty. He will search for a deeper richness, and likely find it.
Things have changed since I went to college. More American youth are traveling around the world, recognizing that the center of the Earth is not any one country, but the network that connects them all together. The internet and social networks like Facebook are making “pop culture” global, from Japanese anime, to Bollywood music, to American sitcoms. Yet, there is only so much you can experience sitting at your desk all day. You cannot visit a city, town or country and not at least subconsciously imbibe some of its history, norms and cultural nuances. That in itself is learning, and if you don’t remember the specifics, at least you will have a new acknowledgement of this: the world is the richest subject you will ever have the opportunity to study. So make the most of it.
“Two of the greatest gifts we can give our children are roots and wings.”- Holding Carter