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Unlocking Learning: The Educational Benefits of Travelling with Children

Unlocking Learning: The Educational Benefits of Travelling with Children
Unlocking Learning: The Educational Benefits of Travelling with Children

As parents and educators, let us embrace the power of travel as a tool for learning, growth and connection.

As an expat family living in Indonesia, travelling with children is an experience nothing short of transformative. From the perspective of a child, staring out the school bus window navigating the tiny jalan tikus (mouse streets) of Jakarta, squeezing past the sewing machine man negotiating his way past the kaki lima (food cart) selling hot steaming soybeans, to an overloaded motorbike with four people on the back, to the contrast of a stream of luxury BMW’s and Mercedes navigating through a maze of traffic. It’s mesmerising, indeed. An education. When we would return to Sydney on home leave, my son would make me laugh as he would stare out the car window and bleat, “It’s so boring here; there is nothing to see!”

Our first family holiday in Indonesia took us to the death cliffs of Toraja in Sulawesi, where we became part of a procession of 30 large pink buffalo, lining up for the slaughter en route to an elaborate funeral. We were honoured to be invited to join the grieving family. This is considered a high privilege in their culture: We were cordially asked to join because we were foreigners and esteemed guests. Our next trip was to the North Sumatra forests, and I watched with delight as my daughter proclaimed, “Mummy, I can feel warm rain!” only to realise that the “rain” was from a massive adult orangutan that sat above her in the tree, peeing down on her.

Every corner of this diverse archipelago, with its 17,000 islands, offers lessons and experiences for a travelling family with the first encounters of the strangest kind. Living in Indonesia teaches us about cultural diversity and tolerance. With over 300 distinct ethnic groups, Indonesia is a melting pot of cultures, languages and traditions. Children learn to appreciate and respect people from different backgrounds, religions and ways of life when they travel. They attend local and international schools, make friends with Indonesian children, and immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of Indonesian culture through school life and beyond.

Exploring Indonesia’s natural wonders also provides invaluable environmental and biodiversity lessons. From hiking through the 150 million-year-old rainforests of Kalimantan and sleeping in a Dayak longhouse to snorkelling in pristine coral reefs, they learn about the fragile ecosystems that exist and the global impact of environmental conservation efforts. A week or two on the road can have a very impactful educational experience for children as they witness the importance of preserving and protecting our planet.

Moreover, living in Indonesia fosters a spirit of adventure and adaptability in a way you cannot touch, see and feel in the West. Travelling brings new challenges and discoveries, from navigating bustling markets to trying exotic foods. Our children learn to embrace uncertainty, adapt to new environments, and enjoy the unexpected. The first time my five-year-old daughter showered in an outdoor bathroom with brilliant red heliconia flowers delicately cascading down a stone wall, she stated, “Mummy, I am showering with flowers.”

Language acquisition is another significant aspect you absorb as you travel. We can open the language portal living as an expat here as we learn and practise Bahasa Indonesia and absorb other dialects and languages spoken in different regions. Through language immersion programmes, interactions with local communities, and everyday experiences, children can develop language skills that open doors to deeper cultural understanding and communication.

Beyond the myriad of school choices, living in Indonesia teaches our children about resilience and gratitude. They witness the resilience of Indonesian communities in the face of natural disasters, economic challenges and social inequalities. They learn to appreciate the simple joys of life and cultivate a sense of gratitude for the privileges they enjoy.

Cultivating Cultural Awareness

One of the most significant benefits of travelling with children is the opportunity to cultivate cultural awareness and empathy. Experiencing new cultures allows children to appreciate diversity, understand different perspectives, and develop respect for people from all walks of life. Whether learning traditional dances, conversing with locals, or branching outside the norm and tasting exotic cuisines, travel broadens their worldview and instils a sense of curiosity and open-mindedness that transcends borders.

Fostering Independence and Adaptability

Travelling presents children with challenges and opportunities to problem-solve, adapt and navigate unfamiliar environments. From deciphering street signs in a foreign language to trying to speak the local dialect (and street slang for fun), every moment abroad fosters independence and a new perspective. Children learn to embrace change, overcome obstacles, and approach new situations with confidence—a skill set that extends far beyond the realm of travel and into their everyday lives.

Bringing History and Geography to Life

History books and maps are pale compared to the immersive experience of walking in the footsteps of ancient civilisations. The experience of seeing a wonder of the world — such as Borobudur in Central Java, the largest 9th-century Buddhist monument in the world — opens up a tactile experience of history. Witnessing geological wonders like the smouldering, active crater of Mount Bromo and marvelling at Mount Semeru smoking in the distance every 30 minutes bring geography to life, transforming abstract concepts into tangible realities.

Nurturing Curiosity and Creativity

Travel sparks curiosity and ignites the imagination, inviting children to ask questions, seek answers and explore the unknown. Every destination is a playground of discovery, where children can engage all their senses and unleash their creativity.

Strengthening Family Bonds

The most invaluable benefit of travelling with children is strengthening family bonds and creating lasting memories. Shared experiences, whether conquering new heights like climbing a steaming active volcano or fossicking in a wet market, foster deep connections and build a sense of adventure that transcends distance and time. Through laughter, exploration and moments of awe, families forge bonds that endure long after the journey has ended, weaving a solid foundation of love and connection that shapes the fabric of their lives.

In conclusion, travelling with children as an expat living in Indonesia is more than just a holiday — it is a transformative educational experience that enriches the mind, nourishes the soul, and strengthens family bonds. It is a profound and enriching experience that broadens our perspectives, deepens our connections with the world, and shapes our children into global citizens. As parents and educators, let us embrace the power of travel as a tool for learning, growth and connection, empowering our children to explore the world with open hearts and curious minds.

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