Most people I speak with have many questions regarding a traveling and children/teens. Will they like it? Will they remember it? Is it hard? Do long-term traveling kids miss out on a “normal” life? I have my own ideas on the subject but, in truth, the best person to go to for answers is an expert……
And so I introduce you to Hannah Miller.
Hannah Miller is 16 and a nomad by choice. She has been traveling with her family continuously for the past 5 years and has visited over 20 countries. In addition to traveling full-time with her mom, dad, and 3 brothers, Hannah runs her own website and continues to build her reputation as a writer. Check out more about Hannah at EdventureGirl.com or EdevntureProject.com
What do you feel are the benefits to traveling with kids/teens?
There’s so many benefits to traveling with your kids, no matter how old they are! For me, one of the biggest has been that over the years of interaction with various different cultures, I’ve gained the ability to be fairly comfortable with people who are drastically different from me, whereas if I’d stayed home, I would probably have been at least a little uncomfortable around anyone who didn’t speak English, or have the same cultural quirks I did. It also opens your kids eyes to what’s really out there; shows them that the world isn’t just a map, it’s a history, a myriad rainbow of cultures, sights, sounds, and tastes! There’s really no way to describe how well travel early on can teach you that!
You have articulated some great benefits to traveling with children/teens but are there any downfalls you would like to identify? Have you encountered any challenges that are unique to traveling as a child/ teen?
There are a few challenges to being a traveling kid, but the advantages far exceed them. One I’ve encountered is that many of the traveling kids we meet are much younger than me, and the rest are adults. So many of the friends I make on the road aren’t my age. But that’s not really a big deal, as I have friends my age in the states that I talk to often, and it’s nice to know people from all age groups. Another difficulty might be that most of the world will not accept a kid’s ability to do something. For example, many travel or work opportunities are open only to people of a certain age, regardless of whether or not younger people can do them. I have to say this is one of the most annoying things about travel as a teen. To know you can do something and to be held back because of an age restriction.
What is your level of independence while traveling with your family? Do you feel you are missing out on personal freedom in any way?
Definitely not! In fact, I’d say I have more freedom than most kids, since traveling taught me pretty quickly to manage it wisely. For example, I’ve been allowed to manage my own online work, meet new people, and even travel solo to countries like Belize. I’m currently working towards funding a two month trip to Peru, which I’ll be doing alone. So I’d say I’m allowed to be quite independent.
What is the oddest/ most surprising thing you have learned on the road?
There’s definitely been more than one! Here’s a few though: Termites are a delicacy all over the world, and taste like minty carrots, believe it or not. Giant jungle ants can be used to stitch together a bad wound, if you allow them to bite you and then twist their bodies off, leaving their heads in your skin. We learned this when my brother was badly bit by one and a local showed him how to use them. Also, elephants love to paint. Who knew?
What is the one thing you absolutely will not travel without?
My instruments, all three of them. I’ve always traveled with them, and I can’t imagine not bringing them along. Besides, there’s no better way to get past the language barrier and have a fun night than to pull out a guitar or a fiddle!
You are a musician, how do you continue to progress as a musician on the road?
There’s a lot of different ways to continue learning on the road. YouTube has been an immense help to me, and I use it all the time! I also was taught when I was quite small how to play by ear, which has helped me out a lot. Because my teachers taught me how to do that, I can listen to a song and figure it out pretty quickly. I also use a few websites, such as www.ultimateguitar.com to help find chords for the guitar. But one of my favorite ways to learn on the road is to find other musicians to jam with. In fact, I’ve learned some really cool songs from fellow travelers! I’m always excited when I find someone with an instrument who’s willing to play with me.
You are taking college courses now, are you finding that you have any “gaps” in your education due to travel/worldschooling?
Nope, I haven’t found any yet! My mom has always been really good about making sure we have a proper education. She works the essentials like math, science, english, and history around our travels, and we actually get through it pretty fast! She’s always maintained that it’s important that we use real textbooks for those things, and do them in order, especially where math is concerned. We’re registered as homeschoolers in New Hampshire, and each year we get an evaluation done by a teacher, just so that we know how well we’re doing and where we’re at. Thus far, I’m about the same as any other kid in the schooling category.
Only because inquiring minds want to know….What do you want to be when you “grow up”?
It always cracks me up when people ask this question. What is “grown up” anyway? I know tons of adults who swear that they aren’t grown up yet, so who knows? Maybe I’ll never grow up! But where the next decade is concerned, I have a few dreams I’m working towards fulfilling. I’d love to be a travel writer, and I’d also love to be a published fantasy novelist. My life goal is to visit every country in the world at least once, and to find a way to take kids who don’t have that opportunity with me. So I suppose you could say that when I grow up, I want to be a traveler, musician, writer, dreamer, and to live my life to the very fullest I can. We’ll see how well it works out!
Do you have any tips specifically for traveling with teens?
The biggest tip I could give parents traveling with their teenagers is to listen to your kids ideas and desires. My parents have done a really great job of this with us, and I can’t thank them enough. Ask them where they want to go, what they want to see. This will get them more excited in where you’re going, and it’ll also allow them to feel that they have some control over their lives; that they aren’t just along for the ride. If they really, seriously do not want to travel at all, work with them to figure out why, and help them to find a way they’ll be more comfortable with it. But above all, be open to their ideas. Trust me, it’ll make traveling with them a lot easier! And hey, we sometimes have some pretty cool ideas!
Are there any travel opportunities/activities that you passed up and now regret missing out on?
This is a hard one… I’m usually pretty adventurous, there’s not much I’d pass up. The only time I remember not doing something cool and regretting it, I was six or seven and we were in Hawaii. We had taken a catamaran with some of Dad’s business friends and were on a snorkeling tour to a submerged volcano. On our way back, we stopped at a cliff edge, and the others jumped in. I was tired, cold, and six after all, so I stayed in the boat. It’s actually the only travel moment I’ve ever regretted, because when everyone climbed aboard again, they had the most wonderful stories of dozens of gigantic sea turtles beneath a ledge, and I had missed it. It made quite an impression, and ever since I’ve always tried every experience that comes my way at least once, for fear of missing out on something exceptional.
What does the future look like for a teen who has been “everywhere”? Do you have any plans for personal travel as you grow into an adult?
As far as business goes, a teen who’s been a lot of places has a really good chance for the future. People are looking for out of the box kids who have a pretty wide mindset. Also, a lot of jobs are international, and we’ll be dealing with many different cultures, so a kid who’s grown up all over the world would be able to handle themselves with more ease than a kid who’s grown up in the American system. That being said, business is not the only thing traveling teens will use their experiences for in the future. An open mindset is useful in everyday life as well, especially when relating to your neighbors or breaking out of the normal groove of American life and going on to live your own dreams.
I know you have a long time to think about it but, as of now, do you think you would consider raising your own family on the road?
Definitely. I don’t think I’d want to be raised any other way, and it would be really cool to give my kids a similar experience. I know I’ve learned way more about the world than I would have if we’d stayed at home, and if I have kids I would want them to see the world and realize that there’s more out there than the little town they were born in. Besides, I don’t think I could stay off the road long enough to raise a family!
If you could set the record straight on just one misconception about traveling teens/families, what would it be?
That just because we’re traveling around the world and aren’t living normal lives, among other normal kids, means we’re socially awkward and unable to handle ourselves within American society. This misconception has always seemed a bit ridiculous to me. After all, we’re able to handle ourselves throughout many different cultures, in situations where we don’t even speak the language or even know what the particular rules of a certain society are, but we’re supposedly unable to cope when in a culture where everything is familiar? How ridiculous is that? If anything, teens and kids who travel are more capable of being social, because we know what it’s like to be the odd one out.
Is there anything else that we have not touched on that you really want people to know about long-term traveling teens/families?
One thing I hear from a lot of parents is that they’re afraid their kids won’t remember things, or enjoy traveling, and that the whole thing would in the end be a waste of time and money. You should know that this is not true, in any way. I can remember our travels back from when I was five, and my youngest brother often brings up random details over dinner concerning our trips from when he was three. So we do remember things, just as much as adults do, just not always the same things. Also, everyone has days where they really wish they were at home, on the couch, with a cup of tea, and not riding a crazy third world bus in hellish heat, with a chicken on their laps. Everyone who’s traveled long enough has a bad day. But let’s face it, people who stay home have those days too! Your kids will thank you for traveling in the end, trust me.