6 mins

5 skills travel teaches your kids that guarantee success in life

Mel Gow reveals the five important things travel gives your children that will set them up for life. How many do your kids have?

Kids sitting on a rock (Dreamstime)

1. Emotional Intelligence

Studies have shown that emotional intelligence is more important to long-term success than mere IQ.  And nothing fosters emotional intelligence more than travel. Talking to strangers builds self-awareness, and strangers who come from strange lands are the best kind of strangers; precisely because they are so different, we can’t easily categorize them.

Indian kids heading off to school (Dreamstime)

Indian kids heading off to school (Dreamstime)

My sons have come into contact with snake charmers in India, waitresses in small town America and fellow pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. Unknowingly, these encounters led to them developing a solid understanding of their own emotions, strengths, weaknesses and motives, and helped them create the best fit between themselves and the world.

2. Empathy

The next marker for success is empathy.  Out there, off the beaten track and out of your own comfort zone, the ability to relate and find common ground with a wide range of people goes beyond just friendliness and the ability to get along with others. It becomes a matter of survival, and you quickly develop an awareness of how others might see things.

Young volunteer working in Uganda (Dreamstime)

Young volunteer working in Uganda (Dreamstime)

I saw that kind of empathy develop in my sons on each journey, and experienced it, in action, when my eldest walked beside me to get me through the longest, uninterrupted stretch of our walk along the Camino de Santiago. He didn’t think I noticed, and he has never brought it up, but he is the one who dropped back, slowed to my pace, and quietly saw me through it.

3. Gratitude

Success is ultimately about living a fulfilled life, a life where you feel connected to yourself and something larger. That is impossible without gratitude.

Young Indian boy swimming amongst lily pads (Dreamstime)

Young Indian boy swimming amongst lily pads (Dreamstime)

Wandering the streets of African cities, or traveling through rural India, or even some parts of America, will bring you in touch with people who have not had the luck you've had. When my sons met street sleepers in Delhi, or beggars in Nairobi, or even the indigent in Chicago, they realised how much they had to be grateful for.

4. Compassion

New research shows that acts of kindness and altruism increase our standing in society. Conventional wisdom has us play in the dog-eat-dog arena for a competitive advantage but we're particularly sensitive to signs of trustworthiness in people, and people who have compassion earn our trust.

Reaching out for help while trekking (Dreamstime)

Reaching out for help while trekking (Dreamstime)

The way to learn trust is to actually trust people and when you have met a thousand people who you develop a trust for, the one or two who disappoint you, who cheat you or betray you don’t hold very much weight.

We've been cheated in Detroit, robbed in Istanbul, harassed in Nairobi, and betrayed at home, but none of that has really left a lasting impression when the world has held out a hand to help us wherever we have gone. That has built a trust and, in an extraordinary loop, that has helped build compassion

5. Determination

Determination is the stuff success is made of. It is not the same as confidence; determination allows for doubt and for humility, but it is steadfast. The prize often remains unclaimed except by those who push through their own limitations.

Heading for the summit (Dreamstime)

Heading for the summit (Dreamstime)

That boy who walked beside me for 800km across Spain, aged 12, wants to be an expedition leader and motivational speaker, and has already given his first talk. He shows signs of a commitment to himself, a determination to take things in his stride. These are skills, I am certain, that he learned through travel.


Walking With Angels (Melanie Gow)Melanie Gow is a writer, speaker and photographic artist who believes life is a brief shot at something incredible. Her book, Walking With Angels, is the inspirational story of walking the Camino de Santiago with her sons, aged 12 and 16, and is available on Amazon. For more details about Melanie and her book, visit her website, myofficetoday.co.uk.

Main image: Kids sitting on a rock (Dreamstime)

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