As I write this article, my house is filled with the aroma of lemongrass: our next meal is my favourite Vietnamese Pho, being made per the recipe I from my travels 3 years ago. Near my desk, lie my friend’s binoculars that I borrowed for a recent Jungle Safari to Tadoba National Park, Maharashtra.
My love for travel stems from my father who booked tickets for every summer holiday 3 months in advance, when we would spend time in the hills as a family, carrying a camera and a Kodak film roll that yielded 36 photos (and how judiciously and wisely we used to spend it!).
In the same way, I have travelled with my kids since they were 4 months old. I call my kids my best travel buddies because they've never made me carry a rice cooker or a mini kitchen ever and they have forgiven me for so many things I’ve forgotten to carry. They can now also knock off to sleep on a flight, bus, train or car ride.
Also Read: Is monogamy meant for everyone?
When I look back at my childhood my best memories come from my family holidays. That's probably why I have prioritised travelling with my kids over everything else like lavish birthday parties. Give them a choice, and they too will choose travel over other indulgences.
We find joy in the whole process — planning included. We’d watch videos to put together our itinerary, list out the food we’d love to try; we’d read about the family tree of the many tigers in that forest or learn a bit of the local language. The joys during our travels also come from taking a bite of the fresh produce and local cuisine, be it the creamy hummus and tabouleh in the Middle East, or the Sea Buckthorn juice in Ladakh, or the freshly made Nariyali Bhat in the Konkan belt. These small joys create everlasting memories for me and for them.
I recently interviewed historian and author Yuval Noah Harari. He’d told me that the ability to share stories is what makes us human. And to me and my kids, travelling as a family is an opportunity to listen to and share endless stories.
Be it the story of the ex-Army officer on our recent Ladakh trip who drove our cab, or of the locals who let us into their homes on our trip to the Northeastern states in India, there are stories and unplanned experiences in every one of our travels that we would remember for a long time. Showing my children how different people and their families live, and exposing them to different languages and food makes them aware of the world outside, makes them more compassionate, and makes them patient young human beings. It is anyway what we strive for, but this also makes parenting them a beautiful and enriching experience.
Travel also teaches you life skills — from sharing your food in the train compartment with fellow passengers to waiting for your turn during treks. I distinctly remember one of our travels where my daughter was bitten by a wasp and our local neighbours immediately put some rust on the sting. That is a memory she will carry for a long time, unlike the lessons from her textbooks that she reads day in and day out.
Despite the challenges and stress at times—like the time in remote Pangong Lake when I had a sleepless night caring for my kids battling altitude sickness—the lasting memory is of the spectacular view of the lake. My daughter recently reflected on her experiences from that trip for a school project about lakes and valleys.
Also Read: How to ease a caregiver’s stress
Another interesting thing I’ve noticed is that travel lets my children see me in a different light, too. Travelling brings out the child inside me. I remember screaming in joy and calling out for my daughters when I spotted a stingray right outside our villa in Soneva Jani, so they don’t miss it, and of course, so we could capture it in our cameras for posterity.
It’s tough to rank the joys of travel we have had as a family, but 2 instances stand out for me, as a parent. The first is when we went snorkelling in Soneva Jani, with no phones and no distractions, but just shoals of fishes swimming by— that’d made me pause and appreciate the calm quietude surrounding us. The second unforgettable experience was watching a tiger cub and his mom in Tadoba. The cub was playing near the mother, yearning for her attention, as she napped. When the mom finally woke up, she showered the cub with love and licks! We were lucky to get this sight after 4 tiger reserve visits and 24 safaris, but it was well worth the wait — my children saw first-hand, the universality in the language of love between parents and children.
As I finish writing this piece, reminiscing through the endless pictures we’ve clicked from our travels, a card sitting by my daughter’s desk grabs my attention. With flowers and trees all over it, she has written: “My goal is to run out of pages in my passport!”
If I can help my daughter achieve that goal, I would consider it a job, as a parent, well done!
Mansi Zaveri is the founder and CEO of Kidsstoppress.com. She is @mansi.zaveri on Instagram and LinkedIn