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Challenge: Traveling with Kids

Ditch Digital Media and Get (Far) Out of Town

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Do you remember the family vacations of your childhood? Seeing a big city or the Grand Canyon for the first time? Maybe visiting a museum with dinosaur bones or priceless art?

In the past, the only way we could experience these amazing places and things was to actually experience it — with our five senses, in real time. These days, in less than one second, Google can show us anything we want to see. Our digital lives have dulled some of the luster of the real world. In our constantly connect and busy lives, we don’t disconnect, slow down and experience the world because we are conditioned to consume and crave information, rather than appreciate it. That’s why it’s essential that we don’t lose those staples of togetherness: the family vacation and travel, truly the best classroom one can find.

These experiences are even more important in today’s fast paced digital world because there are less “live” opportunities for our kids and us to look up and live in the moment — to see a Monet painting in person and feel the warmth of the Water Lilies or to actually touch the cool, smooth texture of the exterior of one of Frank Gehry’s new buildings.

We must take the time to plan some family outings or family trips to really absorb with all our senses what we know life is about. Life is three dimensional — let’s help our kids feel that first hand. Travel is all about “doing” and actually experiencing the moment using ALL your senses.

When you travel you walk in the footsteps of those who have come before us. We see the art and architecture that has inspired people and civilization and we get to experience communication in a different way. Whether it is a new language or just a different way of engaging in social con-versation.

Adults and kids gain an understanding of themselves and the world that will stay with them for a lifetime when they travel. It’s the ultimate in experiential learning and when done together, true connections are made between people, places and things. Memories keep you grounded. Memo-ries are forever. They connect you with your past and present self. When you travel, you create memories and connections to places through smell or touch or visually. When you or your chil-dren think of that destination or even visit it again, those memories and sensations come flooding back in. I can’t walk by a crêperie without being taken back to my sweet 16 trip to Paris with my mom.

So how can we truly experience the world in our constantly connected society? It’s going to take some work, but the memories and fun will be worth the sacrifice. Your kids may revolt — you may even want to — but hang in there, you’re in for some amazing bonding time!

Remember when you were a kid and the rules mostly involved staying where your parents could find you? Well, the new rules of the road involve keeping their minds on the task at hand.

Try these out for an unplugged — and unforgettable — experience.

* Keep it Real. Before you leave, agree as a family that you’re going to experience this trip through your REAL lens, not the digital lens.

* Be the Gatekeeper. One adult keeps all the devices for the entirety of the trip. If your child wants to take a picture, she may ask for you for the phone, then return it afterwards. We want our kids to feel that they can use/see things through their own personal lens, and photographing something they enjoy is an expression of that. It’s what they do with that picture AFTER that often makes them lose the value of the moment, so no posting on social media in that moment. We want to stay connected to each other, not the en-tire world wide web.

* Live in Wonderment. No looking up answers to questions posed throughout the day. Wait until later to look things up together. You could even write down the question and wait until you get home. The idea is to sit in wonderment and let your brains come up with creative an-swers instead of turning to Google to tell you right away.

* Use your Senses. Encourage everyone to use all their senses when experiencing something on your travels. Touch, listen, taste (okay no licking the buildings) and truly see it.

This world is still as amazing as it ever was, and we still have so much to learn. Sure, we could do it through our phones, but we would miss not only the experience of it, but the bonding and family time that makes it a lifelong memory, not just a fact on a smartphone.

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