Becoming a Global Citizen (and not just a tourist)

Becoming a Global Citizen Through Family Travels

Before we pulled the trigger on this world travel adventure, I was listening to a podcast on Worldschooling. I wish I remembered the exact podcast or episode, but something stuck with me.  The host of this podcast emphasized the concept of helping your kids (and yourself!) to become a Global Citizen, and not just Global Tourists.  

But what is a Global Citizen and what is the difference? What does that mean? And how do you become a Global Citizen? How do you ensure that world traveling, worldschooling, or family travels will culminate in growing global citizens?

What Comes to Mind When You Think “Travel” and “Global Citizen”

Firstly, let’s look at what fulltime family world traveling often looks like.  Some immediate words and thoughts come to mind when I think of fulltime family world travel with emphasis on raising a Global Citizen:

  • slow
  • purposeful
  • engaged with other humans and nature
  • curious, flexible, open minded
  • curious again, kind, helpful
  • thoughtful, intimate
  • uncomfortable (sometimes)
  • multi-lingual. If you are saying, “Wait! But I don’t know other languages!” read my post on being mono-lingual while traveling the world.

In contrast, here are the words that come to mind when I think back on our regular style vacation travels, with an emphasis on Global Tourism; quick, efficient, comfortable (mostly), whirlwind, cityscape, monolingual, overscheduled, busy, exciting, short.  

It becomes clear now the stark differences between being a Global Citizen and a Global Tourist.  The purpose of your trips and travels is different.  The pace, the feel, the life you squeeze out of each experience and encounter. 

Traveling With Intention to become a Global Citizen

Some fulltime families travel with the intention to visit as many countries as possible, get as many passport stamps as they can.  And some take it slower. I think to raise a Global Citizen you can choose to stay in an area for weeks, or maybe months, at a time.  Establishing connections, friendships, acquaintances, and becoming more and more intimately connected to that place through its nature, its people, and its ways.

Growing empathetic and fiercely confident kids who care deeply about the world, especially those parts of the world where they may not reside, is nearly impossible without growing a Global Citizen. 

Taking the time to interact deeply, develop curiosities through first hand experience, and feel a part of the heart of a place takes time.  It takes purpose.  It takes slow and fully engaged circles of interaction.  Read more about how I help my kids to engage and connect with others and new surroundings during our travels.

Preparing Your Children to Understand Full Time Traveling and Global Citizenship

For adults, traveling full time and world travels can feel exciting! We have the neurological capacity to make these big decisions, plan our travel, research destinations, and form a picture in our minds of what this adventure might look and feel like. We understand the desire to be a Global Citizen.

For our children, however, and even for teens, their limited life experience just doesn’t allow for that same logical thinking.

When we decided to worldschool and travel full time, I felt like I was pulling the rug out from under my kids’ feet. Before pulling the trigger, we had multiple discussions with the kids (then ages 9 and 10) about this crazy big idea. They were excited, but also had lots of questions. They often oscillated between excitement and uneasiness. As a result, becoming a Global Citizen can be tough!

Even though traveling the world was a family decision, it was still hard for the kids to wrap their brains around.  They had traveled before, even internationally, but only on short vacations.  What would full time travel feel like? What does it actually mean to stretch our Global Citizen views?

It took us about 10 months from inception to beginning our world travels.  I intentionally decided to stay put for 1 more school year (even though we homeschool).  This allowed us to take time to sell the house, store or sell any valuables, save some extra funds, and plan intentionally.  It also allowed me to streamline some processes within my business.

Giving the kids one more school year at home allowed them to ease into this big change.  They continued their regular activities and social groups, strengthened their friendships, and were able to talk about their upcoming travels to everyone and anyone in their lives.  They were able to “own” the transition a bit more than if we had just up and left in a hurry.

Get The Kids Involved in Planning

Be sure to get your kids involved in the planning.  Raising a Global Citizen takes intention. We look at our globe, talked about different continents and countries. Discussed weather based on distance from the equator.  Considered seasons and the time of year we might land somewhere. We watched documentaries on a variety of locations as well.

Pinklady (10 at the time) was obsessed with visiting Hawaii. Me? not so much. But, every member of our family deserves a “want” and so we planned to visit Hawaii.  SoccerGal was not enthused about the idea of excessive airplane travel.  She is a mover and shaker and has trouble sitting still for long.  So, we researched train travel and routes throughout Europe and the UK.  We planned to take trains as much as possible for her (and me, I love trains. They just feel a little more magical).

So, How will you turn your family into Global Citizens? How will you ensure your family has first hand experiences to draw from when interacting with others from around the World?

Volunteering Abroad with Kids

Volunteering with kids is one of the best ways to help your children truly see the World. We’ve written an extensive article on which volunteer programs we recommend abroad, as well as how to be sure your volunteer experience is authentic and ethical. Don’t get caught up in the Voluntourism trade, and be mindful that what you are bringing to the situation is truly helpful to the community.