We were traveling a lot with our book tours and speaking engagements when our children were young, and we took them with us whenever we could, using our abundance of frequent flyer miles. As writers, we could work just as well — in fact sometimes better — when we were away from home.
Those at their schools objected occasionally, and the kids developed a pretty good routine for calming the waters. “We’ll take our homework with us and we will write a full report on where we’ve been and what we learned,” they would promise, and once in a while, if they thought the teacher in question had a sense of humor, they would add, “We can’t let school interfere with our education.”
Now don’t misunderstand. We love teachers and we love schools. All of our children went to public schools in Salt Lake City throughout their elementary and secondary years, and we appreciate so much the education they got and the many incredible teachers they had. Each of our children can list certain teachers who were transformative and pivotal in their lives.
But getting away now and then is also part of being well-rounded, and we all learned to define education much more broadly than “schooling.” It became kind of a running joke in the family, and whenever either of us planned a trip that didn’t take them along, or when we told them they had missed too much school lately, they would use the same line with us: “Come on, Dad, you know we can’t let school get in the way of our education.”
The interesting thing was that the joke was true. Kids can learn an enormous amount from travel, particularly travel that gets them out of their comfort zone and exposes them to cultures and norms and demographics very different from their own.
We ended up paying a bit of a price for that pattern because our kids got so used to travel and to new places that none of them feel the slightest pause in living around the globe these days. We have one in Zurich, one in London, one in Maui and one in New York City, and only one of nine lives near us in Utah. The good thing is that we are still traveling a lot and see them often — in fact, we are actually writing this column from Moscow, where we are halfway on a round-the-world speaking and research trip on which we are managing to see five of our nine children and their families.
Also, fortunately, each of our children seems to manage to visit the others frequently, and thank goodness for our summer reunions at our beloved Bear Lake. Perhaps the best news of all is that some are finally contemplating moves back to Utah.
Here’s the thing, though: We still believe much is learned from travel, and a type of family communication takes place away from home that is very different than the conversation at home. We sometimes travel with our grandchildren now, by age group. Earlier this month we took our three 13-year-old granddaughters to Las Vegas for a couple of days, letting them fly in by themselves from Phoenix, San Francisco and Utah, and picking them up as they landed since we were already there. We stayed at the modestly priced (plenty of special offers) Treasure Island Hotel where we could see Mystere, the Cirque du Soleil show, and go on the huge High Roller (Las Vegas Eye) and do a lot of eating and laughing together. With grandparents as their guide and chaperone, kids can find a lot of creativity in Las Vegas, and when grandparents are alone with grandkids, away from their parents, it is a whole new way of getting to know them.
Interestingly, flying is often cheaper today than it was 20 or 30 years ago. In fact, while we were students in Boston 45 years ago, we watched for tickets home to Utah that were $600 or less for a round trip. We have a daughter in Boston now, and we can often beat that price today online. And getting each of our three granddaughters to our little Las Vegas rendezvous was just over $100 since we booked early on Southwest. Our son who lives in Arizona just emailed us saying he found a round-trip fare from L.A. to Barcelona for $300. We hear a lot of complaints about the hassles of air travel today, but with some planning (and some getting used to) it is a marvelous way to transport yourself and those you love most to new awareness and different perspectives.
The bottom line is that if your health is good enough, if you like travel, if you think it is educational, and if you have kids or grandkids who agree with you, there is not much of an excuse for not doing a bit of it.
Flying, of course, is not the only way. Especially here in Utah, there are literally hundreds of beautiful and educational destinations within easy car distance.
And this article would be incomplete if we did not add the final and often most valuable travel benefit of all — that it feels so good when you come home, and makes you more aware and appreciative of the wonderful place we live.