Since we’ve returned from Asia, I’ve had several people say something to me along these lines:
“That trip looked incredible, it’s too bad your kids weren’t a couple of years older so they could get something out of it.”
I’ve thought about these comments for a while. “Did we waste an opportunity? Should we have waited until they were older?” But I don’t think so. In fact, I think now is the perfect time to take these trips. With each trip, we add a layer to their foundation. These experiences mold who they are at their core and become a filter for how they process everything else. It shapes how they see the world, how they see people, and how they see themselves. Why would I wait to show them the world until after they have already developed a skewed view of it?
Mollie Bylett said, “A mind stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions.” I find so much truth in that statement. The process is simple: You travel – You learn – You grow.
I want my kids to learn that the world is so much bigger than their white middle class American suburban box. When the world is bigger, it’s Creator becomes bigger. The more you see what His Hands can do, the more you learn to trust those Hands. The bigger the world is, the bigger they can dream, the bigger they can love, and the bigger their faith can grow. Why would I wait to show them this? Raising kids who can see bigger, love bigger, and dream bigger than what modern-day society tells them- you guys that’s the dividends for our adventures right there.
When you are three years old, and you are feeling too scared to ride an elephant in the jungle, but you lock hands with your mama and do it anyway; well, now all of a sudden, those voices in your head that screamed in fear, “you can’t do this…” Well now they are only a whisper. And now there are new voices that begin to rival them, saying, “Oh but you can!” Travel brings life to those new voices. And the next time life has them doubting themselves, it’s will be our experiences that will have equipped them with the courage to fight back.
Bali was nothing like I expected it to be. Our open-aired villa was situated in a small corner of Ubud and inaccessible by car. We walked on paths made of stone that winded over rivers and in and out of vines. It felt like a scene right out of The Jungle Book. My words can’t do it justice, it was absolutely beautiful. The people were just as beautiful, they were friendly and so eager to share their culture with us.
We hired a private driver to navigate the streets for us, and I’m so glad we did. There are zero street signs, street lights, and no right-of-ways. The only rule of the road is “be courteous.” I had to close my eyes countless times around the narrow turns and the unpaved paths we drove down. Most Balinese people travel by motor scooter and weave in and around anything and anyone to get to their destination. They carried babies in backpacks, fruit baskets on their heads and never missed a beat during their commute.
Our first day started at an elephant conservation lodge. We fed elephants, bathed them, and rode them through rivers and into the jungle. It was everyone’s favorite activity of the trip. The elephants were intimidating at first, I mean, they are massive but we all chose brave over fear and ended the day with no regrets. Even now as I write this, I’m still moved by those giant animals. They were massive, like I said, but also gentle. You can’t look an elephant in the eyes and not be in awe of the One who created it.
Our days were full of adventure and surprises, from walking with elephants to tasting cat-poop coffee. Go ahead and reread that sentence. You got it, cat-poop coffee, also known as Luwak Coffee. It’s one of the most expensive coffees in the world and it’s made from coffee cherries that are collected from a wild cat’s (the Asian civet) feces. ‘They’ say fermentation happens as they are digested and it’s a world-known delicacy. I’m beginning to trust ‘they’ less and less. However, it did get the thumbs up from my coffee-loving husband. I did try it because, hey when in Rome… but since I don’t like coffee to begin with I really couldn’t appreciate it.
We visited rice terraces and learned about the life of a rice farmer. Did you know that rice terraces have been in Bali for at least 2000 years and were carved into the hills using hand tools? Hand tools! We marveled at the craftsmanship of the hand-crafted temples, built in the 1100’s. Our driver was Hindu and he guided us through the temples giving us the history and sharing the importance of their rituals. I’ve gotten asked a few times why a Christan family would visit a Hindu Temple. How better to understand the gospel than to see what the opposite is. The streets and the temples were filled with Hindus making offerings to atone for their wrongdoings, to ask for help, and to attempt to cleanse their souls. We had conversations as a family about what it would be like to live this way. We talked about the grace and love of a Father who would break His own body to stop the cycle of offerings, that could only ever fall short. We talked about what your daily life would look like if you have to earn God’s merit, wondering always if you had done enough; and we talked about how thankful we were for Jesus who lived the life we should have lived and paid the price we could not pay. It’s this sacrifice that gives us the power to say with confidence, “It is finished.” My hope is that these conversations won’t hinder my children’s faith – but enhance it.
Our driver suggested checking out a local waterfall, we were of course game. When we arrived at the spot we prepared to join the group of tourists heading down to the bottom of the falls. There were about a bajillion steps down and once you made it to the bottom you had to walk on bamboo laid across a rushing river before making it to the waterfall. Our guide couldn’t believe we were going to make the trek down with our little people, he thought we might appreciate the view from the top. But where else do you get to feel the mist of a waterfall in the middle of the jungle? So off we went. Truth be told, downhill was easy breezy but halfway back to the top I was certain they were going to have to send in the rescue unit to pull me and the kids out (Jimmy, of course, was just fine). I was seriously contemplating faking a heart attack if it meant someone would carry me out. But Diakandrus don’t quit and we can do hard things so slowly but steady we climbed our way to the top. I’ve found that some of the best lessons come during the ‘in-between’ moments.
We added the Bali zoo at the last minute to our itinerary. I was skeptical. But I’ll let you in on my best-kept travel secret: Jimmy. My husband is the one that does all the research before a trip, he reads all the blogs, the reviews, and travel guides. Most of our favorite adventures stem from him and his research. So when Jimmy suggested the Bali zoo, I trusted his leadings. It did not disappoint. We learned, that in Asia, non-dangerous animals are kept in “free-range” enclosures. What that means is that you walk right into the enclosure with the animals, they can roam as they wish. The concept is, that if they want to interact with you, they will. If they don’t, they’ll head away from you. We were face to face with kangaroos, lemurs, bats, deer, wallabies, and monkeys. We were close enough to touch newborn twin lemurs but didn’t. It seems it’s an American way of life to not respect the animal’s boundaries. It’s that misguided freedom that results in the necessary limits of animal interactions in the states. In Asia, it seemed people knew when to observe and when it was ok to touch and play. They have a way of life in Bali of living cohesively with nature and it was one thing I couldn’t get enough of.
We tried new fruits and pastries and I collapsed into bed each evening exhausted from hours of exploration and yet full from watching my children take in this different way of life with all 5 of their senses. I hope that my kids will use these opportunities to access their imaginations. I’m hoping the discoveries of new art, food, and the beauty of new suroundings foster something inside themselves that inspire to create, to explore, to learn, to discover.
Don’t give in to the notion that until your kids are older, travel is a waste of time. Travel encourages children to be more likely to befriend the person who looks different from them, to take a risk when they aren’t sure of the outcome, to search for their own answers, and to feel confident to solve whatever problem they face. I don’t know about you, but with lessons like these, I’m confident this trip was time well spent.