By Boris Kester
Travelling with your kids is one of the best gifts you can ever give them. I know first-hand, as by my tenth birthday, I had visited more than twenty countries in Europe and Asia.
Travel DNA/It’s Never Too Soon to Start
As one of the best travelled people on earth, among the questions I am most frequently asked is: “How did all that travelling start?” The answer is: I have been travelling ever since I was five months old. Simply put, it is part of my DNA.
April 1965. The world consists of 124 countries, and I’m just over five months old. My parents put me in a pram and take me on a journey. For the first time in my life, I cross an international border. We travel through Europe by train and take a boat to Crete. My parents discover the island on foot – with me in tow.
On the way, the Greeks stuff me with treats, we sleep in a different place every night and I pose on the ancient stone throne of King Minos. My mum holds me, while my dad takes my very first travel photo. Before I can even sit, walk, or talk, I learn the basics of travel. Transportation. Encounters. Discoveries. Adventure.
My parents took me (and my sister) on adventures abroad throughout my childhood, and I kept track of the number of countries I had visited. Seeing different landscapes, meeting people whose language I didn’t understand, playing with kids from other countries, trying food I had never tasted before, learning about the local history and seeing world-famous landmarks — it was all very exciting. Weeks before we would leave for yet another journey, I was already counting down the days.
My family had a rule of thumb: you had to have visited as many countries as you were old. I was well on track; when I was 10 years old, I had been to more than 20 countries on three continents. The curiosity that my parents instilled in me, and the hunger to always see different places, stayed with me.
When I reached adulthood, I continued to travel and count the countries I had been to. I always made sure I went to places I had never seen before. The thirst for going to new places, and the curiosity about our world, has never left me. Even after I visited my last country in 2017, I retained the desire and urge to explore.
First-Hand Knowledge/Learning by Doing
My childhood hero was Odysseus. His stories inspired me to dream about marvellous and dauntless travels to unknown environs and about never giving up until you reach your goal.
Visiting famous and not-so-famous places with children is the best way to teach them about places and people. It is a way to make history come alive, rather than via a lifeless textbook page. But possibly even more significant, it provides first-hand knowledge about our world and the rich variety of people with whom we share it.
An Author is Born
When I was eight years old, I started keeping records of our travels. I wrote up diaries, saved entrance tickets and bills, made drawings, even held on to wrappings of things we bought. Whenever we travelled to a new country, I would draw the flag in my diary with a multi-colour pen and proudly add the country’s number.
I still have those diaries, and I consider them to be the precursor of my travel website and the book I wrote. In fact, by taking me on their travels early on, my parents provided not only a profound education, but also the underpinnings of my life’s career.
I am eternally grateful to my parents for giving me this wanderlust. In addition to the obvious – exciting adventures, exotic foods, beautiful landscapes — travel has given me the opportunity to see beneath the surface.
It has proven to me that by far most people are good in nature. It has provided me with a lot of friends from all over the world. It has given me memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life and that no one can ever take away from me.
On an emotional level, travel has enabled me to be more self-reliant and has given me an enormous boost in self-confidence. It has made me humble and grateful. It has made me realize how much grey there is between black and white. Moreover, it has given me a deep feeling of accomplishment and purpose in life.
The Reward of Travelling with Kids
My mother always told me that children are the easiest people to travel with. They are flexible, they have few preconceptions, and they easily make contact with others. Where adults may be reticent about talking to strangers, kids can provide a perfect entree.
Most of all, kids are curious by nature, and their excitement is contagious. Looking back in those notebooks I kept, it’s striking how happy I was when we visited a new place.
So, I can wholeheartedly say to all the parents out there: take your kids on travels! It is probably the greatest gift you can give them.
Boris Kester is an author, fearless adventurer, senior purser, polyglot, avid sportsman, programmer, and political scientist. He is one of about 250 people worldwide to have travelled to every country in the world.
According to the authoritative travel site nomadmania.com, Boris ranks among the best-travelled people on the planet. He is the author of The Long Road to Cullaville, Stories from my travels to every country in the world.