Although I’ve certainly enjoyed the privilege of luxury hotels and gourmet meals, some of the best memories I cherish from childhood are trips to the barren desert in Jordan. We didn’t have gadgets and gizmos back then, but I was thrilled just running in the vast, boundless landscape, feeling the fresh breeze on my face, listening to the soothing sounds of the wind blowing and picnicking with homemade sandwiches.
Today, when we think of family vacations, we quickly tend to conjure up images of long-distance trips – perhaps sightseeing tours in Paris or Rome – or nonstop thrills at world-famous theme parks. For my family of four, quality family holidays have largely meant overnight trips across Jordan – camping in Wadi Rum, hiking in Ajloun and trekking in Wadi Feynan. We’re now planning a trip to Azraq and a safari tour to Shaumari Wildlife Reserve.
We started taking our children – Omar (7) and Shareef (2) – on outdoor trips since they were as young as three months old. Although we’ve travelled the world, we’ve discovered that our sons’ favourite moments have involved digging in dirt and petting animals – you don’t need to jet off to faraway places for that!
We don’t focus too much on the destination as it’s really about the journey. Flexibility is essential though! Taking children outdoors, especially younger ones, does not always go according to plan. Adults hike for exercise, the views and to get somewhere; young kids want to throw rocks in a creek. We let them.
Making travel a priority
Regardless of the family holiday destinations you choose, what’s important is that you go. Between work and daily obligations, it’s easy to opt for staying home and relying on play dates to keep the children occupied and content. But family vacations have numerous benefits; not only do they provide you with wonderful memories and stories to tell for years to come, but they’re also a unique opportunity for children to learn and grow into well-rounded world citizens.