The first time I traveled internationally—I mean, really traveled, not just stuck my toe over our northern or southern border—was in 1984. I went to Oxford, England, to study for the summer and came back changed. My world had opened up, and I saw everything through a new lens.

Travel became an important passion for me.

I began to understand why my grandparents, in their retirement, made travel a priority. Grandpa Earl was always planning another trip, telling “Toots,” my grandma, to start packing because it was time to go. My grandparents traveled well into their 80s, until Grandpa’s kidneys failed and it became too hard to go anywhere.

When I married my husband, I made it very clear that travel would be an important part of our lives together (Nothing like setting those expectations early!). Honestly, I didn’t care what kind of house we lived in or what kind of car we drove as long as we had a little extra money to travel. Thankfully, he has accommodated my whim, and over the past thirty years we’ve seen some amazing places, and we’ve made some wonderful memories.

When we had kids, we began to think intentionally about traveling with them. We knew that we wanted our daughters to see as much of our own country as possible, but we also wanted them to experience other cultures. We had friends who were missionaries in Brazil, so when the girls were young, we started saving frequent flier miles, hoping to be able to take them to visit our friends. We saved and planned and dreamed for a few years until that dream finally became a reality; we packed up the three girls and headed to Brazil.

That trip was both life-changing and “family-changing” because it bonded us in ways we could never have imagined. Our family grew closer and stronger, and soon we started planning other trips. Each time we set out on a new adventure we are reminded again and again of the importance of travel in our lives.

So, aside from my DNA, what makes me travel? And what, especially, makes me want to travel with my kids? Why not just stay home on my comfy couch, watching NatGeo documentaries? Why spend all that money when I could save it for a rainy day?

Here are five good reasons to travel with your kids.

Travel exposes us to new people. When we travel, we show our kids that not everyone lives as we do, not everyone believes what we do, and not everyone experiences life like we do. God made us all different, but we all need the same things. Love. Hope. Security. Travel teaches our kids that we are more alike than we may think.

Travel helps us learn from our weaknesses. My daughters call me the Energizer Bunny when we travel—I run from one exciting experience to another, hoping to drink it all in as deeply and as quickly as I can. But sometimes this pace tires us out, and someone might get crabby or meltdown. Sometimes we get lost or frustrated with one another. How do we handle the complexities and the sheer exhaustion of travel? We can learn a lot about ourselves when we’re in new, and sometimes stressful, situations.

Travel teaches important life skills. Like reading a map. Making a plan. Asking someone for help. Sometimes travel takes us out of our comfort zone, but that’s really the point, isn’t it? In the end, realizing that we can make it from Point A to Point B is an important accomplishment, and it just might help our kids realize they can do other things, too!

Travel shows us the majesty of God. Soak in the grandeur of Westminster Abbey, take in the majesty of the Alps, or stand next to the powerful pounding of the Atlantic Ocean, and you’ll know what I mean. Everywhere I look, every time I travel, I see God’s hand, and I want my kids to see that, too. God is massively creative, and travel makes me appreciate his creativity in so many ways.

Travel shows us the world’s need. Every time I travel—every time—I come face to face with poverty, both financial and spiritual. And every time I am reminded that the only solution to the desperate needs of the world is a Savior who loves them. It’s astounding to me, really, that Jesus died for the filth of this world when I see it up close. Even in the wealthiest of countries, there is dire poverty. When I travel with my kids, I pray that they too catch a glimpse of the needs of the world.

I travel because it energizes me and because it helps me see the Creator in new ways. I travel with my kids because I love seeing the world open up right before their eyes. I travel to help my kids become more aware of the needs of the world and to encourage them to become compassionate people who will make a difference wherever they are.

Shelly Wildman is a writer, speaker, and former college professor. She speaks to women’s groups about trusting God, even when it’s hard, and about how God has used deep loss and motherhood to draw her closer to Him. Shelly was a Visiting Instructor at Wheaton College—the same school where she met her husband—where she taught writing for many years. She holds an M.A. in English Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Shelly and her husband, Brian, live in Wheaton, IL and have three grown daughters. You can find Shelly on her blogTwitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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  1. Lovely! Whether we travel with or without our kids, within the 50 states or beyond, one state over or just up the interstate to another city, travel always, ALWAYS reminds us how small this world really is. As you point out, people everywhere have the same needs, even if we don’t have equal resources.
    The focus of travel, I think, should not be the destination or the vacation we think we need, but on the opportunities we can’t even anticipate. Oh, if money and time were unlimited…

    Amy Cates
    amycates.wordpress.com

  2. Hey Shelly,

    One thing I never wanted to do was travel… but God has had other plans. I didn’t leave Australia till I was 44 but have spent the last 20 years everywhere!! everywhere —… and I love meeting all those amazing people..

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