~Not going one more step~
When average people find out how much we travel, and that we do it all with four kids in tow, the general response is unanimous. “Your kids must love that!!!” is the overwhelming reaction to a life that is filled with gallivanting. When met with this reaction, we have learned to just smile and nod, the way that you do when the truth is sure to disappoint or confuse. After all, who wouldn’t love a life filled with jetsetting to beaches near and far, VIP meetings of everything from penguins to chefs, and backstage passes and tours?
It turns out; some of my children are just not all that impressed with the traveling lifestyle of their family.
No one is more shocked by that truth than me. Its mind boggling that any children who bear the genetic stamp of parents with wanderlust coursing through their veins, would want to be homebodies. But that’s the thing about genetics; it’s a game of averages and when you roll the dice as more than typical, you end up with a few wild cards.
So we’ve gotten a couple of full scale wanderers and a couple of leave me here and send me postcard homebodies.
This has not been without its challenges. Trying to balance the needs of all our family members, especially when the stakes are my lovely travel plans, is something that we have learned to work through together. With a little give and take from everyone, we’ve found a way for the world conquerors to peacefully co-exist with the reluctant travelers.
It helps to have a plan and it helps to know that we are not alone. Other families, whether hard-core travelers or casual vacationers, are also dealing with reluctant traveling kids. There are kids who would rather stay home and make plans with friends, and there are kids who would rather spend time with their cell phone than out in the real world. Some kids are just introverted and a life of travel is just exhausting, while some have special needs that make traveling feel like an insurmountable challenge. Whatever the reason, there is a way to find harmony with the reluctant traveler.
~Just leave me here. Alone.~
- Talk about the reluctance. Get it all out there on the table, and ensure your child that you are ready and willing to work together. Find out what exactly it is that makes them want to avoid the next family excursion. Sometimes assumptions can be wrong, and you might find that you can easily work around the sticking point and go on to have a very pleasant trip.
- Allow partial participation. We have learned that our reluctant travelers are willing to go along for the ride, if they don’t have to experience it whole hog. While I would much rather everyone see the entire museum together, sometimes it is better for all if we let the reluctant ones take a break on a bench for an hour to recharge. It’s a compromise, but it’s worthwhile.
- Compromise is key. I like to do things my way (who doesn’t right?), but in a family give and take is a part of the game. Occasionally, I play the parent card and insist that things are done my way, but most of the time I like to give the respect I want from my kids and listen to their needs. Accommodating their traveling needs and desires, particularly when they don’t quite line up with my own ideas, is not as easy as putting my foot down, but it helps in terms of attitude and overall willingness to cooperate.
- Make sure basic needs are met. There’s a saying that a cranky child is hungry or sleepy or both and that certainly comes into play when traveling with children, particularly reluctant children. If a child doesn’t want to be there in the first place, it’s going to be infinitely worse, if they don’t want to be there and they are hungry. Keep bellies full and allow for plenty of rest.
- Give up some power. Again, as much as my position as the parent relies on a certain amount of hierarchy, in the name of happy travels, it helps to turn over the reins. Reluctant travelers often need to feel like they have some control, so giving them responsibility to choose the dinner location or the evening activity is a win/win for the entire family.
- Get their input. Getting reluctant travelers invested in the trip from the beginning can head off plenty of headaches during the trip. Give the most reluctant members of the family a role in planning so that they feel like they are a part of the process.
- Find a new way to explore. Tours of any kind are absolute misery to one of my travelers, but by accident we discovered that he can tolerate a tour if he has a video camera to keep him occupied. Score one for the entire family! Taking pictures, collecting memorabilia, or updating Instagram are great ways to give unwilling participants a way to enjoy the process.
- Set the expectations. Being a reluctant traveler is one thing; being a reluctant traveler who whines and makes everyone miserable is another. The rule in our family is that you don’t have to like it, but you may not complain about it. It’s a simple rule, but it works to show respect for the entire family.
- Leave them at home. There was a time that I thought I would never, ever leave a part of the family at home while another part of the family traveled. Never say never, I suppose, because trips that don’t involve the whole family happen pretty often. I am big fan of family togetherness, but that has to be balanced with each individual person’s needs. Sometimes it’s best for everyone if some of us go and some of us stay.
- Accept the reluctance. In my dream world, all of my kids would have the same wanderlust as their mom, but my kids are strongly and staunchly their own people with their own ideas. I don’t always like that, but I respect it and work hard to let them know that I understand that they don’t see the world the way that I do.