On traveling with kids in a tumultuous world

Part of traveling is facing our fear of the Unknown. While humanity’s enemy might not be the white walkers, explorers certainly aren’t finding the world a welcoming playground these days. 

Seems every day we wake with news of an airport attack, or some guy blowing himself up in a crowd of innocent people. 

So what’s a wandering family to do? 

Go. Get out there. Explore. 

Your family will tell you not to go. Ours did. The little voice in the back of your head will tell you to stay home and bake cookies all summer. Mine did.

But truth is, if we are raising good strong engaged kids, then now is a fruitful time to get in the world. As long as you are safe about it. 

A few days before our summer trip to Europe, an Egyptian plane blew up. Soon after we arrived, a guy in Orlando took scores of people’s lives in a club. An American cop killed an innocent black man driving home from work. A couple guys shot up an airport departure lounge. A family crashed into another on the highway and died in fiery flames. The father of my friend responded to his neighbor’s call for help and was shot by his neighbor. 

The point is that atrocious acts happen everywhere everyday.  And if I want my boys to grow into the kind of people who can and will make the world better, then they have to see that people who are different than they are are not bad. 

While traveling in Europe this summer, we made choices more aimed at our safety–avoiding large crowds, a slight challenge during the Eurocup frenzy in Germany. Yet by traveling in a smaller way, we also found ourselves more connected to life in the countries we visited. 

Staying with friends in Munich and Amsterdam was a reminder that while our state department warns us to avoid Europe, families still live there. My friend Loesje mentioned that in Holland, she is more aware of her surroundings, but she still takes her five year old out in trains to the center of town. 

While watching a Eurocup game with another Dutch friend, a couple Molotov cocktails were thrown on the field and I asked her how she talks about the state of the world with her kids, eight year old twins. And she said that they have to give them the basic facts. They don’t just tell their kids that Orlando is a city in Florida. Instead they tell them that a sick man killed people. Because their culture has a long relationship with war, they don’t, and can’t, completely hide the truth from their kids. In fact, they discuss world news in school. 

So when we hopped on the last leg of our Raileurope journey, and Kai asked if we are in a war with anyone now, I let my environment help me introduce a truth to him. I didn’t dwell in details, but I said that right now it seems the world is at war. That the west is struggling with how to accept that we haven’t used our power in the most responsible ways and now people are fighting back.  In simplistic terms, I explained that ideologies clash, and we are trying to figure out how to listen to the cries of the Middle East, while also keeping ourselves safe. 

And then we returned to reading Harry Potter, me hoping he didn’t ask details I wasn’t ready to share as he then pointed out the window at the astounding Austrian Alps, and said, “Europe is really beautiful.”

Yes, I thought, it is.  

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