My 10-year-old son believes that he can change the world. His dream has nothing to do with being a star athlete or celebrity. No, he dreams of saving endangered animals and ending poaching.
He has seen something of the world already. His first trip was to Egypt at age two – the benefit of growing up in a family in the travel business.
My father took us on weekend safaris in my native Kenya, and helped me discover my purpose when I was young. On safari at four, while brushing my teeth, an elephant cast her shadow over the bathroom, and only a gapped wooden wall separated our eyes. Yet, I never felt safer than at that moment. From this experience grew a passion for travel and exploration that propelled me to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro at 14. Later I became part of the company my father started, and today use my place in the travel industry to seek solutions through sustainable tourism.
My son is now in search of his own purpose. His quest has taken him through Canada, India, Egypt, Costa Rica, Colombia and Nicaragua. These journeys are about more than just vacation. I can see his vision is beginning to take shape.
If you ask him about Colombia, you won’t hear much about cool forts in Bogota or Cartagena. Rather he will likely talk about helping an ecologist in the forests outside Villavicencio set up motion-sensing cameras to track jaguar movements to learn ways to protect them and their environment. If you question him about Nicaragua, he would tell you about Masaya Volcano (what kid doesn’t like volcanoes?); but he will also talk about a hammock workshop in Granada that creates jobs for the disabled. He would share about the inner city kids he met who are lifting themselves out of poverty by collecting plastic bags to turn in for recycling; which, in turn, provides supplies to their school. The recycled bags are used to make the hammocks at the workshop.
My son is like any other child his age. He loves sports and works hard, however, his outlook on life is being directly impacted by his travels. He sees connections in the world that have him thinking about the planet he will inherit.
This has led him to approach challenges with an open mind. It has also given him an energy and thirst for knowledge that are contagious. The proof is seen in his younger sister who listens to him. My daughter is five and has also been to Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Colombia. As I was taking her to school, she looked up and asked, “Daddy, can you tell me which animals are endangered?”
There lies the true benefit of traveling with your children. Expose them to the world now as it is. Don’t be afraid of what they might learn. Embrace it and all the questions that come, and you will be surprised by the result. It is about empowering children to lead the way!
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