Almost Fearless

What To Do When Your Child Doesn’t Inherit Your Travel Gene

I have many passions, but the one that has defined my life the most is travel. Family trips as a child delighted me to no end. I loved to drag the heavily-bound atlas from the bookshelf and trace the borders of far off lands with my finger. When National Geographic would arrive in our mailbox each month I’d sneak it into my room so I could read it first. This passion only grew as I became older.

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As parents we all go through similar things when our children are born; we coo and cuddle and determine whether our little bundle has whose  eyes and whose nose. As our children grow and begin to explore their world, parents might start to notice other seemingly inherited traits. Perhaps the child has an affinity for music or a seemingly innate knowledge of a soccer ball.

But what about our passions? Do our children inherit the things we’re passionate about?

When my daughter was born, I wanted her to experience the world in a fashion that favored travel and all the diversity and excitement the world has to offer. I wasn’t able to afford to travel with her at the time but we lived in places that were ideal for exploration, like New Orleans and the Big Island of Hawaii. But as she grew older, it became apparent that she was a homebody. She preferred to be in one place. So in her late teens she went to live with her father; meanwhile I could hardly stay put and I went to Taiwan.

A year later I got married and with her newly-printed passport in hand, my daughter made the long journey to Kaohsiung to be my maid of honor. I was so proud and so pleased that she came. After just a week, however, she got antsy. She missed her friends, she wanted to go home early, and I felt like a failure. Subsequent trips to Central America and Europe went much the same way. It was clear that she just didn’t like being away from home for too long and that’s okay.

So what does a parent do with a teen or young adult that obviously didn’t inherit the travel bug? These are a few suggestions to help encourage the reluctant traveler and hopefully put them on the road to a lifetime of travel and all the incredible things that entails.

Plan Ahead and Plan Well

I think one of the mistakes I made with my daughter was that I dismissed how stressful travel can be. Navigating airports, dealing with jet lag, and getting my bearings in a new place are second nature to me. Add the little tics like the air smells different, language barriers can be so difficult, and few things, if any, are familiar. Culture shock can be utterly and completely overwhelming for someone experiencing it for the first time.

Before the trip, whether they’re traveling solo or with you, be sure to go over things they can expect as well as the unexpected. Prepare them to understand flight delays, immigration lines and forms, and ground transportation upon arrival. Even something as simple as not having wifi access in a foreign country can cause someone to panic. If your newbie traveler is not the planning type, this can be a good lesson as to why preparation can make travel and life much more easy in the long run.

Blogs, vlogs, and other media sources can also play a big role in preparedness. Encourage your kids to do some research, find answers to their own questions, and be a part of the plan.

Give Them Control and Choices

If someone offers to cover your rent for a month so you can have an all-expense paid trip to Abu Dhabi, you’d say yes in a heartbeat, right? Not my daughter. Abu Dhabi is a fabulous city in a fascinating country but for my daughter it may as well have been Mars.

However, just because I love Abu Dhabi doesn’t mean that she’s obligated to love it, or to even visit. In hindsight I should have let her choose the destination. She may have preferred an all-inclusive resort in Mexico or snowboarding in France. My mistake was in assuming that she would want to visit the UAE simply because I liked it so much.

So if you have the means to let your reluctant traveler choose their dream vacation, by all means encourage that, even if it’s a destination you’re not so fond of. Teens and young adults are much more likely to be enthusiastic about a trip if they have some input and choices.

Consider Their Likes and Dislikes

My daughter loves snowboarding and is quite skilled at it. As I mentioned, if I had considered that and suggested a snowy destination rather than a desert one, she probably would have been more enthusiastic. It was a poorly-thought out move on my part, but I learned something from it, although it seems simple. Even seasoned travelers are much more likely to enjoy a destination if their favorite activities can be incorporated.

Cater to both your interests and their interests. Does your teen or millennial live for their favorite bands and DJs? Plan a trip around an international music festival. Are they avid hikers or climbers? Head to the mountains of Argentina or Alaska. Are they passionate about wildlife? An African safari or a trip to the Great Barrier Reef could be ideal. The more they realize they can do something they love in another part of the world the more likely they are to be excited at the prospect.

Make It a Plus One

Horsing along the Incan trail in #Cusco #Peru 🐴 #NoProbLlamasForPE2 #wcc360

A post shared by Benji (@bm1lls) on

If you’re the parent of a teen or young adult, you’re likely familiar with the term ‘FOMO’. If you’re not, it means “Fear of Missing Out”. My daughter had a bad case of FOMO in Taiwan and was glued to Facebook much of the time. She had just met a cute, new guy at home and wanted to be in the loop.

The simple solution here is to allow them to bring a friend or partner along on the trip. Obviously that involves more planning and coordinating with other people but it can be the one thing that motivates them to get on that plane. When I think back to the time I spent with my daughter in Prague I realized that if one of her friends was with her she’d have been much more likely to explore the city on her terms. After all, I’m not going to go with her to a club that opens at midnight but her friend certainly would have.

Sharing mutually loved experiences with your child is one of the best parts of parenting. And for those parents whose children don’t yet share that passion for travel it can leave us sad and bewildered. But just how we parent our children of any age, nurturing their interests and passions is key. And the goal is to turn a sputtering travel ember into a roaring flame. It needs to be brought along slowly and easily so before they know it they’re standing on top of a pyramid in Mexico or reveling in the chaos of Khao San Road-

And thinking it was their idea all along.

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Cate Smith Brubaker

Cate Smith Brubaker has been riding since she was five years old and writing almost as long. A lifelong equestrian with a travel bug to match Cate has ridden and observed horse culture in areas ranging from the Middle East to Mexico and beyond. She and her husband are currently driving the Pan American Highway and she’s had the freedom to ride unencumbered in areas like the highlands of central Mexico and the beaches of Nicaragua. As she heads to South America she’s looking forward to the polo fields of Argentina and the dazzling mystique of the Peruvian Paso horse.

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