Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Value of Travelling with Children

This is not the post I was planning, but on the Four Pillars site yesterday Mike asked for advice about converting euros back to dollars. Almost as an aside in the comments he mentioned his intention not to travel again with kids. I asked him why and basically he found it hard to travel with a 2 year old. Frankly, getting through the day at home with a 2 year old can be challenging, so I don't think it matters whether you go away or not. I admit the long flight can be tough, but that's what late night flights are for.

He also said, "At that age I’m pretty certain that he won’t remember anything and if he does it will be the various playgrounds we went to… ", which brings me to the reason for this post. It's possible that he's correct. My own grown kids don't remember their first trip to Disneyland (when they were 5 and 2 1/2). However, I have incredible memories of places I visited when I was very small. Those memories have had a huge effect on me, on things I was interested in when I was in high school, artists I like, my interest in Palladian architecture, books I've read, etc. etc. And the earliest of those memories date back to when I was 2 years old!

I've been to Hawaii several times but the only time my grandmother was with us was when I was 2 years old. My mother won the trip and went with her mother and me. We stayed at the Princess Kaiulani at Waikiki Beach (the only time we stayed at that particular hotel) and my memories of that trip include my grandmother warning me about falling into the swimming pool and falling off the lanai (balcony). She always thought I was going to fall off something. She took me on a ferry the summer that I was either 3 or 4 and kept grabbing me because I was getting "too close" to the rail.

I also had a bizarre memory that the seats on the plane were bright orange and circular and thought for years that I had just imagined it. Then I was sitting in the boarding area of another airport many years later, wondering why it seemed so familiar, and suddenly realized the orange seats had been in the airport!

Without question the trip that made the biggest impression on me was going to Italy when I was four. While some of my memories, such as going to Madurodam (a miniature town near Den Hague) could have taken place then, they could also have been during one or two other trips to Europe since we always flew KLM into Amsterdam and then went on from there. Italy, however, was a country that we never returned to (much to my dismay).

My memories from there include:
  • Climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa with my father and the high spiral steps that tired out my little legs.
  • The gondolier in Venice letting me try to pole the gondola (I couldn't budge it).
  • Taking a tour of a glass factory and being given the little glass animal they made right in front of me (I still have it).
  • Getting a beautiful white dress and white leather dress shoes.
  • My mother picking scarves in a little shop.
  • Being in a car accident when a truck loaded with Coca Cola dumped part of its load on our rental car. I don't remember us going to the police station afterwards (my mother told me she had to deal with it in French and German since she didn't speak more than a few phrases of Italian) but I sure remember those bottles of Coke coming towards me!
  • The big rocks imbedded in the street in Pompeii where I jumped from one to another.
  • Scaring the pigeons in the Square.
  • Reaching for my father's hand, looking up and realizing it was a strange Italian man! (I'd been playing with my new Dutch doll that said "Mama" and had lagged behind. I'd reached for the first male wearing a Harris Tweed jacket and holding a cigarette. My dad was only about 5 or 10 feet away, but it was a scary moment.)

So a truly memorable trip can certainly make a permanent impression on even a young child. And I don't remember a single playground. Just my .02!

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