We are human, imperfect creatures who fear what we do not know. God did not create us to be afraid, but He knew we would be, even of good things. Have you noticed in the Bible, every time an angel appears to someone, he has to start out saying, "Do not be afraid!"? I think the more we grow and the "older and wiser" we become, the more we fear. If you have kids or have been around kids, you can see that this is true. One reason parenting is so tough is because, generally, kids are not fearful...even sometimes when they should be.
Those years in a child's life where they are naturally more trusting and open to out-of-the-ordinary experiences are a wonderful time to introduce them to any type of travel. There are a few prime years in which their paradigms are being formed--with structure, but not yet rigid. Those are the years to expose them to as many varied experiences, people and places as possible. If you introduce something different as good, as exciting--never denying that it is different, but instead celebrating the very fact that it is--your kids will pick up on that attitude.
As they grow up, it will be as "natural" for them to welcome the new and different as it is for many people to shun or fear the not normal.
We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.
Actually getting on a plane and going somewhere foreign is an obvious way--and a spectacular one, I might add--to accomplish the worthy goal of helping them expand their horizons. However, here are some ways to be intentional about introducing the unusual, even if an abundance of time or money are not readily available:
- If you live in the country, exurbs or suburbs, go spend a day in your nearest big city. Do a little research, find a park, museum and restaurant, throw in some city block walking and you will have all experienced a different pace of life, architecture and probably much more.
- If you live in the city, find the nearest place you can go into the country for a hands-on experience such as fruit picking, horseback riding, fishing in a lake, etc
- Stay in town and go to your most authentic ethnic restaurant. Not the Americanized version, but the one where perhaps many of the kitchen staff don't speak English, like is true of our local favorite Thai restaurant. We met the staff as they were hired from Thailand and came over. I tried to yell back into the kitchen once how delicious the meal was and got blank stares and apologetic shrugs. Let your kids--and yourself--taste, see and hear the foreign. Then go home and look up the country on a map.
- READ stories! If you can't even go anywhere, you can do this. Find a book with a distinct setting. Read, question, discuss.
- Plan a six week excursion backpacking through Europe. (Just want to see if you're paying attention!)
It may be "only natural" to fear what we don't know, but life is too short to stay afraid. Get a little knowledge, gain a lot of confidence, and the world can be your playground.