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Raising a Global Citizen

This question has had me stumped for long enough, it's time to seek advice.

If you wanted to expose your young child to the world, where would you begin and how would you organize/plan their travels?

I waited until I was in my 50's to have a child and my wife and I are blessed to a have great little traveling companion. He is currently 4-years old and working on second and third languages. We've traveled all of our lives, until COVID kept us home, where we explored deeply, hoping to cultivate a "sense of place."

Now, any where I go, or think to explore, I want to do it with/for my son. We are very fortunate, to have a lot of free time and some resources. A couple "extended" trips a year seem possible. But, if you're thinking of several trips, where to start and where to go next? Is the organizing principle human history, biomes, art, disappearing fauna and flora...?

I imagine including Service in trips, and probably needing to purchase carbon offsets.

The responsibilities and opportunities are immense, matched only by the excitement of all the learning we'll do together. I'm early on this path of parenthood and I'm considering advice from all quarters.

Thank you for considering my question.

Safe Travels!


Posted by
946 posts

My first trips with my daughters and grandsons were to London. Started at 13 and 9 with girls, 10 and 9 with boys. Always one kid at a time in the beginning. London seemed reasonable without a language barrier, and with exceptional theater, which they each loved. I think it's possible to start even younger with one child and resources.

I've already started planting the seed for abroad study with the grandsons, now 13 and almost 15. It's what changed my life at 19. I think it would have happened earlier if I'd had the opportunity to travel afar.

Posted by
8264 posts

Europe, Africa, Asia, US roadtrip, Canada, South America…..

Northern Lights
Disney Cruise
Learning to ride a bike
Learning to fish
Watching a chalk artist

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you for your replies.

I'm pleased to say we're along our way on some of these suggestions.

I have deep appreciation for Asian cultures. Work takes me there from time to time and may bring the family there sometime too.

I'm curious about an organizing theme. Maybe that is an "academic" approach.

Family in Europe (northern) will likely be an early exploration and seems a reasonable priority.

Again, many thanks!


Posted by
14210 posts

My compliments on exposing your 4 year old to foreign languages. Great that he is interested in acquiring a second or even a third language. You can be glad that he will not be mono-lingual. If he is working on being tri-lingual at this age, so much the better when that is so much easier for him. Which languages are they? I remember when our grandson still at 4 and went over with us, ie his first trip to Europe but only to France exposing and immersing him to a different environment and language sounds.

Posted by
2037 posts

Our youngest son (now 16) has been in a Spanish dual-immersion program since kindergarten. Our first international trip with him and his brother (now 19) was in 2017 to Guatemala. We went on a mission trip and lived at an orphanage for a week. We sleep in bunkhouses and did hard, manual labor: earth moving, building the foundation for new construction, painting. We also helped at a feeding program where over 200 kids were given meals. To see hundreds of children descending from the mountains, some with younger siblings strapped on their backs, many having walked several miles, was something none of us will ever forget. We visited tiny remote villages where people find joy while living in a level of poverty that most people cannot begin to imagine, certainly not in the US. My youngest (11 at the time) read a mural in Spanish that said “Don’t sell your babies for their organs!” and was totally confused. Can you even imagine? It’s hard to comprehend (as a parent), and even harder to explain to your child that such things happen.

After a week in that orphanage, my older son (14 at the time) said, “This is the best trip ever!” Now you have to understand that we had been on a fabulous Disney cruise to the Caribbean the year prior, so us parents thought we’d get some complaints about dragging our kids to a third wheel country and making them WORK. Happily, that was not the case.

My advice for raising global citizens is not to look at the world as your Disneyland. If you want to experience history, culture, etc., it can’t all be just the good stuff, the pretty stuff, tge comfortable stuff. When we went to Germany, we stayed in small family-run inns that were over 800 years old. With creaky floors and big giant keys like you see in movies. With no ac or swimming pool. We didn’t just do the glossy river cruise then retreat to the Hilton for room service, ac and a dip in the pool. Prior to the trip, we went to a presentation by a Holocaust survivor in our town. We went to Dachau and were sickened and saddened and angered. And changed forever.

Our next trip will be more nature-oriented: Dolomites & Switzerland, along with a trip to the Alsace region where we trace our ancestors back 500 years. I think genealogy can be a great springboard for trip planning. Learning about the people who came before you, what they did, how they struggled, how they paved the way for who you are now. That makes history come alive, and can give you a greater appreciation for what you have when you return home.

Posted by
2104 posts

Find the children… if he speaks several languages, at 4 I’d take him to those countries and then take him places where he’ll have a chance to interact with other children. It sounds like you already know that you won’t find this staying at a resort, but parks, family-run lodging, playgrounds where he can spend time in the same place as other children for an extended time. Find local sports events and local activities. What kind of things does he like to do? Eventually you’ll work your way up to more advanced learning and the chance to engage in service activities, but the advantage you have at this age is that 4 year olds can be uninhabited about mixing with others.

Posted by
9210 posts

I started taking my son to Europe when he was 11. Would have started when he was 4 but medical issues prevented it. They’re never too young to travel. My family moved to France when i was 4 and we traveled all over Europe and the UK as i grew up. I’ve taken my son almost every year for 1-3 mos each trip.
He became a world traveler when he was 20 and has been to Asia, South America, Iceland and Europe many times on his own or with friends. We are in Paris together now, moving on to England in 2 days. Travel is the best education a child can have, on so many levels.

Posted by
7212 posts

In 1981, I moved to Saudi Arabia to work for the US Army Corps of Engineers with my family, including children aged 5 and 11. We lived there almost five years and traveled extensively.

My kids grew up going to an international school and exposed to children and people from around the World. Also, our travels exposed them to much history, art and culture. I always encouraged my kids to read something about where we were visiting. Also, I carried green Michelin guides and read from them about what we were seeing.

Later, I had a job in Germany with step children that were teens. They were exposed to much European travel as well. Now, all four of them well informed on the World and other cultures. They all love to travel and do so on their own.

When I first traveled overseas, I wanted to see historic places and of course works of art. After much travel included all the continents except Antartica, my travels have focused more on scenic places like Alaska, Norway, the Canadian Rockies, a cruise around the Horn of South America and an African safari.

Posted by
5169 posts

travel4fun, kudos to you for exposing your children to the grittiness of the world and letting them see the joy in it. I commend you. Your children will be the richer for it.

Posted by
8264 posts

As an aside George Clooney’s 4 year old twins speak 3 languages.

Posted by
108 posts

You're probably already doing this but there's a lot you can do near home, too, like eating (or cooking) foods from different countries and pairing that with books or shows. Edamame became one of our regular foods after reading an autobiographical picture book about an immigrant family to the US who drove past farm fields and were delighted to discover soy beans grew in the US, too. Almost anywhere you plan to travel, a children's librarian can help you find related books such as traditional stories, famous sights, local wildlife, or how cathedrals were built.

Posted by
2067 posts

Cold War History

Really ... Cold War History without Germany heading that list and Poland not included in that list ... yikes.

Posted by
1895 posts

As someone whose parents didn't have a lot of money to take us to foreign locals, I'll suggest more cost effective ways.

1)Give him/her books about other countries, the Madeline series, or any other series that include foreign locals. I loved Sherlock Holmes when I was young and even when I was sitting in my backyard in the summer, I was reading Hound of the Baskervilles and imagining myself running with Holmes along the moors in search of a giant hound!

2)Take him to museums. My parents always took us downtown every year to the Art Museum and history museum to see exhibits. One year a museum had Christmas for different lands and I still have my book about all the different customs.

3))Ethnic restaurants-By the time I was 10, I loved Thai, Mexican, Spanish, Indian, Polish and Indian foods.

Foreign language-I know many people hated their classes but my high school language classes made me dream of the Alhambra and the Prado.

Posted by
14210 posts

"Foreign language-I know many people hated their classes...." If so, why? That is the salient question.

Posted by
7 posts

Many thanks for all of the generous comments and suggestions.

I'm pleased to hear from them, we're on the right track.

The coming seasons will hopefully bring visits to family overseas, speaking more German and discovering warm ocean water.

He's a great traveling companion. Always curious, naturally courteous, if a bit shy, and "taking it all in", for conversations later. So, folks enjoy having him around. He has yet to see a screen, except for when Daddy Skypes into the TV cabinet from his ship.

Grandad was in the front lines, or under them, of the cold war. Berlin will be just an introduction, at the age of 5, for subsequent visits.

Biking and books are part of very day, with a library around the corner and a children's librarian in the family. He is already reading. He enjoys eating and making food from all over, just easing into some spicyness these days. Music is a constant fascination...

He has dual US and Canadian citizenship and the German passport should be coming next year.

Still sorting out the formal schooling plan, with home schooling likely, if enough socialization can get fit in.

These COVID kids -especially only children- are on a different trajectory for socialization and interpersonal development, with masking, social distancing, less indoor time together and quarantining.

I appreciate the themes everyone has offered. They've been great food for thought!

Yours, in gratitude,


Posted by
1028 posts


This is the biggest influence on kids today. Used properly, your child can learn history, art, culture, languages, food, geography, etc. while quarantined at home during a pandemic. If it is abused, you can fly your child first class to Paris for the weekend and he could waste the whole time killing zombies playing Resident Evil.

Posted by
14210 posts

I assume he is sincerely interested in acquiring a foreign language even if is only snip bits at his age, which still is better than the alternative.

Have him focus on the internet to watch language learning cartoons appropriate for his age. One of these cartoons is "Caillou"...a fellow 4 year old, good for picking up French at that age.