How Travel Strengthens Children

 

Ruthanne Terrero at the Condado Vanderbuilt hotel
Luxury in San Juan: I’m shown here at the Condado Vanderbuilt hotel, whose rooms are expected to open in October. We dined at its elegant 1919 restaurant, headed by Michelin-star Executive Chef Juan Jose Cuevas, which is already open and thriving.

There’s a story about my grandmother, who, as a young widow, decided to take a train trip across the country from New York to Arizona all by herself. Along the way, at one of the stops, she went to the ladies room and hung her purse on the door hook. Someone on the outside promptly reached over the door and grabbed the bag. My grandmother, who was indisposed, couldn’t catch the thief. She would have been penniless in the wild, wild West, if not for the money bag she wore around her waist.

I only knew my grandmother when she was very old but that story of a young woman, brave enough to set out on her own at a time when it was unusual to do so, has always fascinated me and fueled my wanderlust; it’s also inspired me to not be fearful when traveling on my own. I can only imagine the horror she would have felt when she saw her purse disappear over the lavatory door and that makes me feel I have at least some sense of what it was like to be in her shoes. I wear a ring I inherited from her and when I look at it, I think of her traveling on that train and wonder what sparked her desire to take that trip.

This is a brief story that I heard only once but it helped shape who I am. It gives me a sense of comfort in places I am unfamiliar with and in fact, it gives me a thrill to be in the middle of nowhere where no one I know knows exactly where I am, at least for that moment.

It’s important to pass family stories down to children, particularly those that tell of a challenge, or even a tragedy, that was overcome.

The New York Times recently carried an article that details how those children who have a real sense of their families’ history and roots tend to be able to face life’s challenges with a greater ease. 

Bruce Feiler, who wrote the column, “The Stories That Bind Us,” explains how many families in 2013 have become fractured, thanks to our digital culture and other dynamics. It also shows how those clans that somehow manage to gather and regale tales of the ups and downs in the family’s history, including how it surpassed hardships, have children who are secure emotionally and happy.

Feiler cites studies conducted on 48 families, asking children 20 questions, such as where did their grandparents grow up, if they knew the story of their own birth and if they were aware of any big events or tragedies that affected their family in its past. “The more the children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned,” says Feiler.

Recommendations from the article? Create as many occasions and traditions as possible that provide families with the forum to exchange tales.

Here is where you come in. If you have clients who are on the fence about taking a big family fling, a vacation that will bring them all together for some quality time, show them this column. Of course they understand that a vacation would be good for their family, but if you give them proof that these get-togethers actually contribute to their child’s emotional health, you’re likely to win them over. Explain to them that families need to gather and share in happy times, not just during crises, and that the more often they do this, the stronger their child will be when the time comes for them to face the real world on their own.

You always knew travel was a good thing; now here’s quantifiable proof. And don’t forget that new insider tip I just shared: Don’t hang your purse on the back of the ladies room door or you may be left penniless in the midst of a great adventure.

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