Why travel now when your kids won’t remember?
There are several answers to this question. The first is that while we truly enjoy traveling with our daughters, our trips are also for us. Neither Jeff nor I travelled until we were married. As history lovers, we had a deep desire to see the world and decided to make it a priority once he finished residency and we had schedule and financial flexibility. Having Molly shortly after was an incredible adventure, but instead of sating our desire it created a new desire to share these experiences as a family. To be radically open to life in its complications and failures as well as its achievements. To model a thirst for learning and interaction with people and places outside of our community and comfort zone. Welcoming new life in the births of our daughters gave us the motivation to take risks and create a life that is full and well-lived. One that isn’t waiting for a day in the future to make our goals and dreams a reality.
A second answer is that even if they don’t specifically remember the places we visit, these trips are shaping who we are as a family, who they are as individuals, and who we hope they become. When we travel, we’re removed from daily distractions and able to focus on what brings us joy and how to interact peacefully and supportively during stressful times. We are constantly evaluating our priorities and purposefully plan very little to allow ourselves flexibility to make our days work peacefully. The girls are at an age where everything is new and they are just beginning to make sense of the world, and we have the incredible opportunity to expose them to new languages, food, faces, and customs. Our hope is that by sharing the world with them when they’re young they will absorb it into their senses without prejudice or fear. That by making the typically unfamiliar familiar to them, they will be able to choose love and collaboration over fear and isolation. That they will view the world as the miracle it is and seek out ways to contribute to it. That they will be instilled with an unquenchable wanderlust and desire to learn.
A final answer is that they in fact do remember a significant amount. Molly was not quite two when we took our first international trip with Emma to Italy. Months later, while showing her a photo of Emma being kissed by Pope Francis, we started to explain the day, and she interrupted with, “and I was eating cookies.” Jeff and I had completely forgotten what seemed to us like a minute detail of the day, but the enjoyment Molly experienced from eating cookies at 7am solidified one of the most important moments in her sister’s life in her mind. They are able to bring their unfettered curiosity into every building, down every street, and into every cafe. They are far from bored bystanders. Unlike us, they aren’t distracted or turned off to any part of what is in front of them but take it in with all of their senses. Which brings me back to my first answer: traveling with our young daughters gives us a glimpse into how they experience the world and form robust memories. And inspires us to do the same.