“Miss, when are you going home?” In the usual hustle and bustle of work, surrounded by students of all ages, I missed this question. But the 4th grader was persistent, “MISS, when are YOU going HOME?” I stopped and crouched down to better hear the kid and answer his question. “Home?” I asked, “Well, I live in Chicago, just like you.”
“No!” He said. “Home to India?” I smiled and laughed to myself as I explained that I had just visited India because it was interesting to me, but that I lived in Chicago. His teacher had used some of my pictures from a trip to India I took last year for a group project the kids were working and he had assumed that India was my home.
This isn’t the first time a kid has been confused about ‘where I am from’- the children I baby sat at church as a teenager were convinced that I lived in the chapel basement and the girls I cared for in Spain asked me every other week to show them where on the map I had lived. (Google maps is fantastic for pointing out different parts of the world for kids especially.) Most people are confused about where I am from, so I try and keep it simple; but as my grandma once told me, ‘Home is where your heart is.’ Thankfully you don’t have to share your heart with everyone that you meet, so I just pick a hometown and people are usually satisfied.
Anyway, my high school students often ask me, “Miss, why do you travel?” There are many reasons, so I usually like to turn the question back to them, “Why do you think I like to travel? Are you interested in traveling when you get older?” It is fascinating to hear their responses as most are curious about the world outside of their neighborhood and city. They say that it might be cool to see a new place or meet different people, or that one day they would like to visit xyz and send me a postcard. I loved watching kids get excited about exploring a new country.
Some of them ask me to point out on the map to the countries I have been lucky enough to visit. They ask me about specific places, “Have you been to Paris?” or “What’s life in Spain like?” But my favorite question is always, “Where are you going to next?” I guess it is that travel monster inside of me that is always excited to think about the next adventure. So sharing with the kids is a fun way to get them interested in travel too.
My parents had the brilliant idea to take their kids traveling at a relatively early age, exposing my brother and I to new cultures, foods, and experiences. Some of my most vivid childhood memories include watching my brother get drenched in a ‘monkey and elephant’ rain storm in Costa Rica, or bolting ahead of my parents on the ski slopes. My mom loves to recount my famous four-year-old line, “Mommy, why are all the cars yellow?” when I noticed all the cabs on my first trip to NYC, demonstrating precisely the importance of exposing kids to new places and things expands their frame of thought. I knew I was a lucky girl when I was traveling with my parents, but little did I know how much it would shape my personality and interests. When I have kids of my own, I plan to show them as much of the world as possible. But first, I want to see it for myself!