How Travel is Making Our Kid Smarter

Before having kids, Stef and I enjoyed traveling and exploring new places. We got so much out of it and we wondered if it would still be possible to travel frequently when we had kids. It didn’t help that everyone told us to wait because once we had kids, “you won’t be able to do anything anymore”.

In true Stef & Marlon way, we knew that despite what everyone was telling us, we would do things our way, and that undoubtedly, we would continue our traveling alongside our child. We made the changes we needed to in our lifestyle so that travel can always be done. As examples, the biggest change was the ones we made in our careers so we could work from anywhere and the easiest was just rearranging our expenses. Just trading our Jeep for a Corolla gave us a savings of $200 every month- $2,400 a year to allocate to travel. We loved the Jeep and it was a lot of fun to own, but we prioritize travel.

Fast forward 2 and a half years, and Isabella has been to dozens of places outside of the home. We have traveled in planes, trains, and boats– across all types of climates and places. What we’ve noticed is that Isabella advances leaps and bounds on every trip that we make. Many critical moments such as her first steps took place while we were out on a trip. She’s perfected her motor skills, increased vocabulary and obtained interests in varying topics. So what is it about travel that makes our daughter go through these developmental leaps?

Forbes Travel Guide wrote on the positive effects of travel. Among the benefits, a few stand out to me that can potentially have an exponential impact on a toddler:

  • Vacationing improves your mood and reduces stress. It also can temporarily help boost productivity. A cranky toddler can cause quite a struggle, but honestly, Isabella is always at her best when we travel. It could be that she is receiving the benefit of improved moods that correlate to travelers. The finding that it can also boost productivity explains why she’s so much more eager and able to acquire knowledge and new skills.
  • People who travel more frequently are more satisfied with their physical health and well-being. A state of well-being is internal, and it can bring on feelings of confidence and security. This gives Isabella the ability to try new things with less fear and apprehension, allowing her to explore in environments outside her routine.
  • Vacationing can increase creativity. This, of course, is important for a toddler. At this age, creative experiences help children express and cope with their feelings. It is also important in fostering new ideas and promoting critical thinking.

While she gains these benefits, she’s also made friends with people from different cultures, tried different foods, and even been exposed to different languages. She also gets to spend time with us outside our routines, and our own increased happiness as parents allows her to get two more patient and happy parents still enjoying a shared hobby together.

And what about memory? Will Isabella remember these experiences?

Statistically, most people cannot remember anything before the age of three. A study was done to explore childhood amnesia and it was discovered that roughly around 7 years of age is when a child begins to have issues recalling memories before three. This means that a child starting Kindergarten can still recall earlier memories of their toddler years, in this case, 63-72% of the time. It was also found that memories of richer detail stick around longer, and communicating constantly around it may also help solidify the memory. Further, these rich experiences + communication with the child can strengthen the neural process that is typically lacking at this age, in turn helping them create these synapses earlier so they can recall memories longer. Therefore, Isabella may not remember all these experiences, but there’s a good chance that she may be able to recall some of the most impactful for her if we continue talking to her about them until she’s past the point of childhood amnesia at age 7.

Regardless of that, travel has made her the unique child that she is. Who wouldn’t be with the number of diverse experiences? Among her travels, she’s practiced her numbers as we counted the number of beluga whales that surfaced the Cook Inlet in Alaska. She danced to the beat of flamenco music in the streets of Ronda, Spain. She learned sand wasn’t edible in the beaches of California and felt snow for the first time in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. She was mesmerized by the whale sharks in the Atlanta aquarium and by the towering skyscrapers of New York City. She watched her first theater performance on a cruise en route to St. Thomas, fed ducks & squirrels in Boston, and loved the cold wind in her face in Chicago. She laughed her way through the rides at Sesame Place outside Philly and took her first steps outside of The White House in DC. In South Africa, she saw one of the few remaining black rhinos left in the wild.

These experiences have formed her to be the child she is: a free-spirited, intellectually curious, confident and well-behaved child. We’re going to continue dedicating resources to provide these adventures for our family. Hey, at this rate, she’ll be the one booking the flights for us. 

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