“Five times the work, 10 times the blessing…” This has consistently been my response to people inquiring about family travel in Morocco or living abroad with children! I will not lie to you, if you feel like a trip to your local grocery store is challenging with your small children in tow, navigating international airports, local transport, different hygiene standards and foods unfamiliar to your selective toddler… well, traveling abroad with children will probably help you appreciate the relative simplicity of life and shopping in your home culture again!
Oh, but the joy and sheer blessing of watching your child sling a snake around her neck or mount and ride a camel through Sahara sands with the ease of a Bedouin… marveling as your toddler scarfs down sheep tongue or spicy hot couscous without batting an eye… laughing as your baby falls asleep in a suitcase as you wait for a delayed flight in the middle of Africa. They say children are resilient and my husband and I often marvel at the truth in that statement. We recently celebrated our son’s fourth birthday with Tunisian, Canadian and American friends… since his last birthday one year ago, we moved from Morocco to Tunisia and had the privilege of traveling to Malta and then recently to Kenya. Our kiddos are FAR from perfect but we have observed in them a beautiful sense of contentedness and appreciation of the varying cultures and experiences that they are able to engage in… often seeming to pop up in the middle of a crowded ancient Medina or a smoky village hut with wonder and remarkable composure.
We love to intentionally engage our children to help foster an attitude of exploration and gratefulness. Even when being challenged ourselves with different customs and cultures that may make us feel uncomfortable, we try to save any negativity for the privacy of our adult conversations… When our children see our ‘misadventures’ as opportunities to learn and explore, they will be more likely to handle ‘bumps in the road’ with patience and sometimes even a sense of optimism that can help our own sagging spirits!
Lack of understanding can often result in feelings of fear. If you are planning a family travel to Morocco or any country where you and/or your children do not speak the local language, take time as a family to have fun learning some key phrases both before the trip and from local folks you meet along the way. Having a ‘learner’s attitude’ can not only diffuse a potentially confusing cross-cultural encounter, but it speaks volumes to the host population about their worth and value as fellow human beings sharing the same planet. If your child can have a positive encounter with a local person, their journey with appreciating cultural diversity has likely just been kicked off to a positive start! North Africans are generally very welcoming, warm and affectionate with young children.
From an educational perspective, there are few things like hands-on experience that will teach our children about the world. Isn’t it incredible watching your children’s science, social studies or history books come alive? Hannibal is no longer another random battle hero to our first grader… He led the Carthaginians (she’s been to Carthage), grew up in Spain (been there), tried to attack Rome from the North (she’s seen the Coliseum) and all of these things make a whole lot more sense to her (and me too!) because of the travels we’ve been privileged to take part in.
Traveling with children WILL ‘slow you down’… but that in itself can be the greatest gift of your voyage! If I didn’t have my kids with me I may miss the herd of sheep walking by, or the sea sponges swinging in the breeze at the local spice shop. I would hardly notice the amazing variety of ants that southern Tunisia is home to and I would almost certainly not appreciate the ‘treasures’ that my children are able to dig up from the trash that tends to be more visible here than in North America. TAKE YOUR TIME when traveling with children! Sometimes the best thing to do in a crowded marketplace could be to step into a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop, try the strangest thing on the menu and just marvel at life happening in front of your eyes… what do the children see? Smell? Hear? Feel? Don’t miss life’s little gifts… often best perceived by little people… Family travel in Morocco may be difficult, but it is also one of the most rewarding experiences ever!