5 Travel Lessons From My Toddler

5 Travel Lessons From My Toddler

A few weeks ago, my wife and I decided to take our two-year-old on the New Pioneer Wagon Train, a trip in the Uinta Mountains near the Utah/Wyoming border.

Yes, I said wagon train. Horses, covered wagons, and living like the pioneers for a full week.

Well, almost. We do have a chuckwagon that cooks us breakfast and dinner, an emergency vehicle on hand just in case, and port-o-potties at every camp. But, other than that it’s 8-12 miles per day on horseback or in the wagon.

My wife and I used to go every year, but have been very hesitant to take our toddler at such a young age.

However, after watching my daughter on the wagon train, I realized just how much I could learn about the importance of traveling from her experience. I’m excited to share these lessons with you.

5 Travel Lessons From My Toddler

  • Being outside will bring you to life. Far away from the temptations to hide behind a screen, retire to a comfy couch, flip the through channels, or scroll through a newsfeed and you start to realize something…. You’re breathing, the air is cool on your face, the trees smell fantastic. In other words, you are ALIVE! We watched our daughter on the wagon train laugh, dance, sing at the top of her lungs, run, and jump. Witnessing her experience travel and nature for the first time really was watching her come alive!
  • Traveling builds confidence. We saw a whole different person in our little girl soon after we hit the trail. She was bold, outgoing, and confident. She met new friends and immediately set out to play with them. She was comfortable by herself without feeling the need to cling to my wife or myself. One of my concerns was needing to entertain her the entire time (gasp…what happens when the iPad dies!), but I couldn’t have been more wrong. She obviously felt empowered and frequently set out on adventures of her own (with supervision). Which brings me to lesson #3….
  • Adventure trumps routine. Between parenthood, dual careers, and a business, to say that our family is routine-oriented would be a huge understatement. Routine is how we keep it all functioning without losing the details. We were very nervous about what would happen when our daughter couldn’t stick to her normal routine on the trip. Luckily, we soon found that adventure trumps routine every time. Staying up past 9pm to see the stars and sit by the fire, taking a short snooze on the trail instead of a full hour nap, eating whenever the food was hot and ready all were huge detours from her routine and she enjoyed every minute of it! This is because it was all an adventure – no routine required!
  • You don’t need all that stuff you think you need. You intuitively already know this, but watching a traveling toddler brought the lesson home for me. All that stuff that you paid your hard earned money for-, that you worry about what would happen if you didn’t have it there sitting on a shelf-, that the media is constantly reminding you that you need a new shiny one of- , yeah, you don’t need that stuff to be happy. In fact, the pressure of that stuff is probably having the opposite effect on your happiness. We didn’t bring all the toys, books and games to keep our daughter occupied. We just let her experience the road and the outdoors for herself and to make her own fun. Believe it or not, our two-year-old organized an entire wagon train dance party! Amazing what people can do without stuff to hide behind.
  • Social media is no substitute for real human connection. If there is one thing I learned about my daughter throughout the trip it’s that she is social. But even introverts crave real human connection. Our society is more connected than ever, but it’s not the same. Getting “likes” and “shares” is not real human connection. We saw the joy of real human connection all over our daughter’s face as she made new friends, played games, danced, sang, and experienced travel for the very first time.

When is the last time you traveled? I’m not talking about resort travel or business travel. I’m talking about the kind of travel that makes you come alive! I’m talking about an adventure where you experience a new world for the first time. Thanks to my daughter, I was reminded just how important this type of travel is for our own perspective and well-being.

So, where are you off to next? For me, I can’t wait for the Wagon Train again next year!

Tim Hammerich

Tim is a strategic communications consultant, founder of AgGrad, and the host of the "Future of Agriculture" podcast. Originally from California, he is now based out of Boise, Idaho.