Our 3 year old refused the Captain Wings. He’d been on a plane before. It was no big thing to him. Both he & his sister sat satisfactorily, munching on the strategically packed snacks that would both keep them occupied & help relive the pressure in their ears from take-off. They traveled beautifully, aside from the brief meltdown over a dropped toy or a dead battery. (Also, thank God for iPad’s).
I was a lucky enough to get my Captain’s Wings when I was little. And I got them over & over & over again. My family traveled. A LOT. Belgium. Mexico. England. Paris. Victoria. New York. Alaska. Minnesota. San Francisco. Austin. Maui. I knew I was lucky; my grades held up despite my missing school & my parents viewed my absences for travel as the school of Cultural Reality (we also had an awesomely supportive School District). I think they were right on so many levels. So far I’ve had a new passport for every decade of life.
But what we didn’t do enough of was exploration. We chose to travel far instead of getting to know our own home. We live in Washington State—climate & topography are possibly more variable here than any other state. We even have a rainforest. But for all the miles I’ve banked on the plane or train or car, I haven’t banked nearly enough at the campsite or the National Park or the Bed & Breakfast.
Our kids, right now, don’t know the difference. The elephant at the zoo is just as exciting as an elephant on an African safari. The new friend made at the park two blocks away is equally awesome as the nontraditional nature schooled kid in Maine. Captain Wings are no different than a sticker from the dentist office.
Their cultural inquiries are at an all-time high & the concern about their differences are at a life-time low.
I want them to learn. I want them to know that we are privileged, not because God reached down & blessed their little lives with a fairy wand, but because we happen to work hard & live with a certain zip code at a specific latitude. I want them to realize that the fact that they can recognize letters & sign a few words is more than half the population in this world. And I want them to know, we want them to know, that they are fiercely loved by a God who has bigger, dirtier, bolder plans for them than airbrushed family photos & Pinterest-worthy homes with picket-fences.
And more than telling them about the privilege of their latitude & warm bath at night, we want to show them. We want to show them the National Parks to incite an excitement for soil microbes & sunsets. We want them to see the Wonders of the World so they’ll know, without a doubt, that the Nightly News cannot tell stories big enough to deny this wonder-full world. We want them to feel the tears of the mom who cannot feed her baby (& guide them in supporting her), the splinters in the broken floor boards of the orphanage, & the pulse of a beating heart that holds so much different & yet so much of the same. We want them to travel because the World exists, an oyster whose beauty is waiting to be seen.
Even if they don’t want the Captain’s Wings.
· As much as our budget allows, show our kids the World. Because it exists to be seen. And cultures exists to learn from. And to be raised in a bubble of the Nightly News about Brangelina & Kanye, with streak free windows & proverbial heated tile floors is to miss out on the humanity that Jesus came to save.
· Travel near. Travel far. To the firestation, the salmon hatchery; to San Francisco & San Paulo. This won’t happen in 2016. But foster the curiosity, the culture, the ceaseless learning that their curious minds are waiting for.
· Learn. Be open to culture, to new. Be respectful of culture, of old.
· Respect our internal rhythm, our personal preferences; if we find that our kids love their own beds or our zero-based budget doesn’t allow for travel, swallow it & take a trip through books instead.
· Realize that travel doesn’t always mean away—in all its forms there are so many facets we fail to explore: travel through time with history, through creation with trips to the Pet Store or the River shore, through exploration at the Children’s Museum or Farmers Market. Realize that for as much as travel is a physical act, it should also be one that sparks an intellectual one: learning.