Travel as a Family: Life Lessons, with Luggage

You can describe an exotic or well-known travel destination to your children, but it’s not the same as stepping off the plane to let them smell, taste and feel another culture.


Ladia Cheng of Mundelein did just that. She wanted her teenage children to soak in her native Guam, so she packed them up last summer for the 7,350-mile flight. “Once they got the island on their skin and in their noses,” she says, “they understood the habits I carried over from my islander days.”

Growing Global Citizens
Taking your children to another country is a terrific way to help them grow into global citizens. “Travel is really good for everybody in the family to gain a greater sense of something outside themselves and their community,” says Beth Levine, JD, LCSW, of the Family Service Center of Wilmette, Glenview, Kenilworth and Northbrook. “We’re part of a more global world now. We have to appreciate where we all fit.”

Buffet of Generosity
Food and hospitality overflowed on Guam. Cheng’s teenagers—Adina, 14, and Luke, 17—tasted this Guamanian generosity on a 98-degree afternoon when the family got lost at a huge celebration of the island’s Independence Day. But no worries. An islander in a Pittsburg Steelers T-shirt and his family pointed the way to their buffet of fish, baked bread and ribs. “They were total strangers, but were as friendly as could be,” Cheng says. “Everyone made sure we tried all the dishes.”

A Slower Pace
Cheng and her kids can feel like hamsters on a spinning wheel trying to keep up with American life. But in Guam, they saw time passing like an afternoon spent at the beach sipping coconut juice. “Islander time is less counted in minutes, but is viewed more long-range. Time works for you there,” she says. “I wanted my children to learn to savor the sweetness of time.”

You’re Family
Renting a two-bedroom condo was more convenient and spacious for Cheng and the kids.  Even though they weren’t hosting, her Guam friends were incredibly generous. They wanted to make sure she had everything her family could possibly need. They showed up at the airport with a carload of amenities: extra pillows, blankets, and towels—even pots and pans. “If you need something, Guamanians open their closet and say, ‘Take what you want,’” she says. “My kids now see that I view Guam as my home. When I show up, friends I haven’t seen in 30 years act as if they’re my family.”

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