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My two children — ages 3 and 5 — have traveled to about 23 countries. Often when I tell people where we’re going, they ask, “You’re taking your kids there? What will they do?” My motto is, “If kids live there, kids can visit.” But what most people find even more bizarre is what my kids do while we’re visiting these places.

From surf lessons in Costa Rica to parasailing in Fort Myers to indoor skydiving and zip lining, I’m often told, “Your kids are brave.” That is usually followed by, “Aren’t you scared to let them do those things?” I’m terrified of heights and many other things, but I refuse to let my fears stop my children from being adventurous. Here’s why.

Photo courtesy of Monet Hambrick

I Want My Children to Try New Things

One of the main reasons I travel with my kids is that I want them to have experiences they can’t get at home. If I only allow them to stick to the activities that are familiar, they won’t get all they can from travel. Surfing, for instance, is huge in Costa Rica, so it was only right for my children to take a lesson. My 3-year-old couldn’t do everything in the class, but she could do a lot. The lesson allowed her to decide whether or not surfing is something she likes and wants to continue. The answer: She loved it!

Photo Credit Monet Hambrick
Photo courtesy of Monet Hambrick

When one of my daughters wanted to do the “Tarzan” swing in the middle of the 13 lines we zip lined, I’ll admit I was nervous. None of the adults in our group was brave enough to do it, but she insisted. The guide said it was more than safe for her to have a go, so she did. Afterward, she told me, “I didn’t really like it but I’m glad I tried.” I’m proud of her for trying it.

I Want My Children to Come to Their Own Conclusions

To some degree, fear is taught. Babies are naturally curious and will touch anything, go anywhere and put anything in their mouth — until someone tells them not to, tells them that something is hot, tastes bad or is too scary. So much of what we do as humans is shaped by our parents and those around us, but just because I might fear something, I don’t necessarily want my children to learn that fear from me.

My kids now love some of those activities I’m scared of and I’m glad I didn’t prevent them from trying new things and finding joy in them. I remember once when my then-4-year-old wanted to go parasailing. Her dad went with her and I watched in awe. She was having the time of her life, laughing and enjoying her ride. When she was coming down, my then-2-year-old said, “Mommy, I want to go.” Too quickly I responded, “No. We can’t do that. I’m scared.” In that moment I gave her a reason to be scared of doing something when she really had no reason to be. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I wished I hadn’t said them.

Photo Courtesy of Monet Hambrick
Photo courtesy of Monet Hambrick

My Kids Push Me to Face My Own Fears

I am terrified of pretty much everything. As a child, when I went on end-of-the-year field trips to Orlando theme parks, I would stand in line with my friends but when it was their turn to go on, I’d head for the exits. When I was at Disney World with one of my daughters and she was finally tall enough to go on a roller coaster, she really wanted to go. How could I cheat her out of her first roller-coaster experience because I was too afraid? So I rode it with her — and I loved it! We went on it three more times that day and I realized that all those years I had been limiting my own fun.

I will always encourage my children’s adventurous ways. We’ve shared some amazing moments and created memories that will last forever. I can only hope that if they have children of their own, that they will let them take the lead in being adventurous both at home and while exploring the world.

Here’s some more travel advice for families:

Photos by the author. 

Know before you go.

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