Monday, January 18, 2016

When Our Children Travel

 The New Year had begun and with it the hopes and excitement that stands before us.  The school break seemed short, as it was time to take Bec back to college and drop Gab off at the airport.  To round out her time off from school Gab was going on a free 10-day trip to Israel as part of the Birthright program.  We left early, allowing for traffic as we drove to the airport (JFK).  Once there, we found the group that Gab was traveling with, and then we said our goodbyes.  Less than two years ago, Bec went to Germany on a two-week student exchange program.  We had let our precious children out of our sights to travel off into the world.  Traveling for business, I never have a thought about hopping on a plane, but when you send off your child (no matter how safe they will be), you feel like you are sending them off into the unknown and beyond your protection.

I remember when I was a child; I had the opportunity to fly in an airplane all by myself.  My parents walked me to the gate, where a stewardess (prior to being called flight attendants) met me and took me to my seat.  At the other end, a stewardess took me from my seat to the exit where my Grandparents met me (this was when you could go to the gate without a ticket).  I never left adult supervision and I was able to spend time with my grandparents in Florida.  By the time I was in college; I had only one friend that traveled beyond Florida and spent a semester abroad.  When he returned, we had the chance to hear all about his time in England.

How times have changed!  Today, our teens travel.  We have friends that have children who went on an adventure to different locations in the world every summer.  Other friends of ours have had children study abroad and travel extensively.  Communication is simple with the fact that everyone has a cell phone (this did not exist when I was their age), Wi-Fi and free communication apps.  I remember on our honeymoon, we sent a fax, at $10 a sheet, to inform our parents that we made it safely.  Why send a fax?  It was the cheapest way to update them “real time”.  Each day, Gab sent us an update of her trip (as Bec did in Germany).  Truth is I did the same this last time when I was in Australia.  As concerned as we are that our children are “not here”, the world has gotten “smaller”, so they seem like they are not too far away.  

When Bec went to Germany, ISIS was not a concern.  When Gab was in Israel, they updated their agenda based on what was happening in Tel Aviv the week before, and the event in Jerusalem the day before they walked the Old City.  The group had guards escorting them wherever they traveled, even to the nightclubs.  Did she feel safe – yes.  Did we feel she was safe – yes.  Were we worried – yes.  Do I think they should travel? Yes, it is a big world out there, with many fantastic places and people to visit.  We live in a global community and are no longer bound to our smaller states, or counties.  Yes, there are dangerous places, but like when going to visit a city, we know ahead of time what areas are safe and what areas are not.  Traveling abroad is no different.  In addition, when done correctly, it can be a safe, exciting experience.  Truth is, we cannot look over their shoulders forever, as much as we try at an arm’s length.  I wish I can keep an eye on them forever, but at some point, I have to recognize that they are old enough to make their decisions, seek out what they wish and venture forth.  I am happy…no, I am blessed that they will always come home and share what they have experienced.