Will we travel with kids to every country in the world?

Earth has 195 countries. Here are our plans and tips for visiting them as a family

Our family began traveling full time in 2022, and during that first year we visited 8 countries. Some might say that’s 8 down, 188 nations to go. But we don’t. Will we travel with kids to every country in the world?

Nope.

While that’s a life endeavor for many a traveler (such as these folks), it’s not for us. Here are our thoughts on how we prioritize where we travel with our kids—and where we don’t.

We look for personal connection and interest before traveling somewhere

Many of our destinations come from our personal interests. Food is a big deal to us, for example, so we especially prioritize places where there’s a pride in good, everyday food.

Traveling is a big deal and takes an enormous commitment. Travel with kids to every country is a major goal. Especially when traveling as a family of four, it also requires resources and a willingness to be on the road. We prefer to be intentional about where we travel. We learn about places and cultures, feel a spark of inspiration from a story or show, or share a dish. That’s where we start conversations about if a place is somewhere we want to visit.

We get some folks want to visit every country simply because they’re there. But it’s not our style. We want to feel a sense of connection and interest, and a desire to learn about a place, before we make the commitment to visit.

For Japan, for example, we have had a long-running interest in Japanese culture, including martial arts, food, anime, and the overall ethos of personal improvement and calm. That puts Japan pretty high up as a place we want to visit as much as possible, for as long as possible.

Food

Distinct food and pride in food has been a bedrock part of the countries we’ve enjoyed most. We prioritize visiting places where food is an integral part of a culture’s identity. That’s not fine dining, either. Street food, everyday food, simply groceries: We want to eat well, not fancy.

In Vietnam, our favorite activities were checking out different eateries and learning about foods popular in an area. Back in the US, we talk all the time about how much we loved the food from Hanoi to Da Nang. Not only that, we regularly work Vietnamese components and dishes into our own everyday cooking.

Personal safety

We travel with our 8-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son. We’re responsible for our children’s safety. Some countries face major conflict or have little infrastructure. We don’t feel right taking our children to places where their safety could be in jeopardy. That’s a choice Connor and Aster reserve the right to make as adults.

In Mexico, for example, we know there are plenty of parts of the country that are generally safe. We chose Oaxaca for its consistent record on being a safe place to travel, and not once did we have a concern for our safety.

Sustainability (both planet and us)

We aren’t big on jet setting to country after country. It requires a faster pace, not to mention more time in airports than we prefer. Our travel style is more low and slow: We fly when we need to and stay longer in a country or given area.

That not only fits our travel style better, but it cuts down on some of our own personal carbon footprint. This travel style is sustainable for us in a personal sense. We don’t force ourselves to race—and we don’t burn out. Our slow pace keeps us engaged and rejuvenated as we travel, just in a lower gear. Instead of flying constantly, we spend more time in an area where we can get around more with public transportation or by walking.

History and culture

A large reason we travel the way we do is it is our way of showing some of Connor and Aster the many facets of this diverse world. This is how we want to help them build their own sense of where they might want to be and how they want to be as they become adults.

We love pointing out how people all over the world have come up with so many ways of understanding and working through every joy and challenge of life. Imagination, conflict, innovation, compassion, atrocity, joy, and perseverance run through every culture in different ways.

In Cambodia, Anthony had visited Angkor before, and he wanted very much to share it with Jodie and the kids. While there, we talked not only about how amazing the structures were, but about how these were the works of a powerful empire. The Khmer Empire not only turned grand visions into stone. They solved incredible engineering problems of water flow and storage, and built a city that used to be the biggest in the world.

What we’re doing instead of visiting every country

Instead of travel with kids to every country, our goal is to visit each continent (including Antarctica), along with all 50 states of the USA.

Visiting each of the 7 continents

Each continent in this amazing world has places and cultures that fascinate us. For North America, along with our USA travels, we’ve visited both Canada and Mexico. We’ve spent most of a year in various parts of east and southeast Asia, including Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Japan.

Later in 2023 and during some of 2024, we will go to Europe and Africa. 2024 may also see us heading to Central America, South America, and Oceania.

And yes, we plan to visit Antartica too. Do we know how that will happen? Nope. But we know that if we set a goal and keep working toward it, opportunities and ways forward have a way of showing themselves to us.

Visiting each of the 50 states in the USA

If we were Canadian, we’d set a life goal to visit each of the country’s 10 provinces and 3 territories. Or if we were French, we’d aim to go to each of France’s 22 administrative regions. As Americans, we have a goal of visiting each state in our country.

Will we love and adore every state? No, and we don’t expect to or need to. But we know that every state will have something that surprises us, that we come to understand and respect about how that state is. (For example, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana have much more natural beauty that we think they’re given credit for.)

As of August 2023, we’re at 19 states, and will probably cross the halfway mark in 2024. And every new state we’ve gone to, we’ve left feeling surprised, grateful, and so impressed at what makes every state in the US different yet connected.

The only travel goal that matters is the goal that matters to you

Countries or states aren’t mere boxes to check off. Every place is someone’s home, and it has context, history, complexity, and wonder. Our travels align around our priorities as a family, and we set goals that help us make our travels happen.

Does it matter if you travel with kids to every country in the world? Nope. If that’s a worthwhile goal to you, we hope you make it happen. But if your goal is different, or smaller, then that is every bit as worthwhile.

The country count. What matters in travel is the memories, experiences, connections, and understanding you gain along the way, no matter how many places you ever go.

About the author
Learners and Makers
We are the St. Clair Family: Anthony, Jodie, Connor, and Aster. As Learners and Makers, our family of four slows down, connects, and enjoys the world and each other's company. We have been traveling full time since 2022.

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