The last time I was in Germany, I was 4 years old. In spite of the considerable number of years that have passed since then, I still remember a surprising amount about my family’s travels that summer long ago. During the three months that my dad was in Europe on business, my mom, two older brothers and I followed him all across the continent – creating such exotic experiences as my first taste of mineral water while picnicking in the shadow of the Matterhorn, climbing the ancient steps of a certain off-kilter tower in Pisa, drifting on a paddle wheeler past storybook castles on the banks of the Rhine River, learning the finer points of Swiss chocolate from the head chef at our hotel in Minden, Germany, staring wide-eyed up at the colorful gondolier’s costume while floating along Venetian canals, and many other unforgettable memories.
Traveling far from home can have a remarkable effect on a young person, as was confirmed to me again with the return of our youngest son who spent 11 amazing days traveling from Munich to Berlin with the Crescenta Valley High School touring choir during spring break.
Other than reading the occasional late night post on the tour’s blog, we were out of touch with the sightseeing singers the entire time. Even though parents had been graciously invited to travel with the group (can you say, “cha-ching”?!?), I’ll be the first to admit that staying back at home was more difficult than I had expected it to be.
Part of my unease was simply being out of touch with our son. I’m amazed at how quickly we’ve gotten used to near-constant access to each other via text messages, IMs, tweets, Facebook, emails and yes, even actual phone calls. But with the exception of the number for the “only-call-if-it’s-a-matter-of-life-and-death-and-the-future-of-civilization-depends-on-it” satellite phone carried by the tour group’s intrepid leader/choir director, Tammi Alderman, we were essentially cut off from any contact with our son for almost two weeks.
However, another even more powerful factor made it difficult to stay behind – and that was simply that I knew how much fun the kids would be having, how many unforgettable memories they’d be making and what a life-changing perspective they were most likely to gain from seeing a world and a lifestyle so different from the one we tend to take for granted here in the USA.
In our family – especially the kids – the travel bug seems to bite early and often. In fact, only two years ago, another of our sons traveled with Ms. Alderman and the CV choir to Prague and the Czech Republic.
Our kids have been actively involved with church youth groups from a very young age, so they’ve each had many opportunities to travel at least as far as Mexico – and many times to much greater distances – on short-term mission trips to help build or refurbish homes and churches and to work on vital facilities or infrastructure in other communities and countries – including impoverished Nicaragua, war-torn Kosova (twice!), hurricane-ravaged New Orleans and other amazing places worlds away from our own.
These invaluable trips have always gone a long way towards not only opening our kids’ eyes to the needs of others so much less fortunate than they, but also to the amazing blessings they have been given simply by being born in the United States of America.
Of course, some trips to far away places can be just plain fun and exciting. Sometimes they’re a little of everything. And if the near continuous travelogue that has been pouring from our son since the moment we picked him up at LAX last Sunday night is any indication, the CV choir’s trip was “unvergesslich!” (Look that one up in your Babelfish.)
As far as I’m concerned, however, the best thing I could ever hear about any of my kids’ travels is, “Dad, you won’t believe how great it is to be back home.”
I’ll see you ‘round town.