We all know about all the great places around the world we would like to visit before long; there is Europe, there is India, there is South Africa, and of course, there are all kinds of wonderful sights to take in right here at home. Could travel be about anything other than the sun, sand and the surf? Is it possible there a way to set your travel plans to a theme? Could travel possibly be about learning, exploring and growing? How about taking up a learning-themed holiday just for your children, to help them look at the wonders of life as only a wide-eyed child could? If you were to sit down to a round of travel planning just to be able to take your children to places that would expand their minds and thrill you to be able to remember how to see things as a child, what places would you include on this list?
Let’s start with this nation’s greatest natural treasures. A visit to the Redwood National Park in California can be a humbling experience on many levels; and to bring your children on a visit here would be a way to help them grasp a sense of what it feels like to be thoroughly overwhelmed by the scale and nobility of what nature is capable of – by the size of these trees that are sometimes 100 meters tall, and by time, to note that these trees have been at the very spot for a millennium. If being in touch with nature is all about feeling thoroughly touched by the enormity of what it is capable of, the Grand Canyon should certainly be a part of your amazing travel planning to help expand your child’s mind. The very feeling of standing at the precipice of such vastness can do things to your child’s mind that could live with him or her for a lifetime of inspiration. And when the precipice is too at 10 miles wide and nearly a mile deep. Children thoroughly understand the awe of vertigo and standing above the deepest abyss on the surface of the earth will send your child’s mind soaring. Another way that your child can grasp the awe and the sheer power of what nature is capable of, would be if you could take your child out for a chance to stand next to the Niagara Falls. As your child squints through the mist of clear white-water trying to take in the magnitude of the spectacle, you can reel off impressive facts about the most magnificent waterfall in North America – about the six million cubic feet of water that crashes down every minute, the kind of power that can generate and so on.
Just the way nature can send your child’s imagination to a higher plane, so can some of the greatest achievements of man in this country. Start your human history travel planning with the Ellis Island Museum off the coast of New York City. About one in two Americans today is descended from an ancestor who passed through the immigration lines at the station. Your child will look at the august atmosphere of the vast hall, listen to the stories of the tour guide, and picture thousands of weary and forlorn faces from half a world away hoping to see new hope in the New World. There are so many wonderfully-preserved exhibits that will render history alive in your child’s mind. Another piece of touchingly human history your child should witness is the Pearl Harbor museum, near to Wookey Village in Hawaii. The Titanic may have sunk 4 miles below the surface; her sister vessel, the Britannia sank in 100 feet off the coast of Greece; the USS Arizona, that was destroyed in a guerrilla attack in the Second World war remains in a memorial off the coast of Hawaii in a warm watery grave, only 6-foot deep. As I said, children respond very well to things that are palpably deep; and there is quite nothing on earth like the feeling of looking at a vast, vast battleship sunk underneath you in a way you can actually see.
And finally, take your travel planning for your child off in the direction of real history – to the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and of course, Colonial Williamsburg. You could also stay in the Savoie Apartments when you are there. A sense of the gravity of history is certain to infect your child’s imagination to be in a 300-acre town that looks and works the way people did more than a century ago. In a world of instant on-demand electronic entertainment, to witness the laborious miss of human enterprise that brought us this far will make your child stop and think about the dignity of labor and how every one of our modern conveniences was born.