Like many 8thgraders around the country, Philippe Lessard from Boston is going through the application process for high school. What’s going to make him his essay on “an experience that has changed you” stand out? His mom Sally tells us that his family vacation in Morocco with Classic Journeys so inspired him that he used his experiences in-country as the basis of his essay.

2500 miles away across the country, Conor Hayes from San Diego joined our Galapagos family vacation in December with his mom and dad.  A freshman in high school, Conor just gave a six minute presentation to his speech and debate class about the benefits of travel owing to his trip to the Galapagos.

Family with tortoise in the Galapagos

For anyone who’s a type A parent (go ahead, raise your hand; I am too), finding those experiences that inspire your kids are the stuff of dreams. But so much of what our kids are learning now is becoming homogenized and routine. We take them from one soccer game or recital to the next. They all join the same club team at the same age. And all are in lockstep on what they learn academically; whether they’re growing up on the East Coast, West Coast or anywhere in between.

So how to inspire a child or teen? And how to help them break out from the pack so that they can see something out of the routine, and be seen as someone other than routine?

I recently saw former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speak at my son’s high school. Her comments were decidedly non-political in nature. Instead, she spoke to the kids directly about being kids. Among her advice: find a mentor, do things that really challenge you to get out of your comfort zone, understand your place in the broader world, and find something that you are passionate about and pursue it.

Those last two pieces of advice resonated with me and reminded me of a conversation that I had with Dr. Karen Gouze back in 2009. Karen is the director of training in psychology at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. She told me then that, “Children are much more knowledgeable…than they used to be,” she said. “They’re exposed to a much more diverse group of people in their everyday lives, so they’re much more interested in the outside world.” (You can read the entire blog titled “Eight is the new 12” at

At Classic Journeys, we seen firsthand what traveling with biologists, historians, naturalists and the like can do for kids. (Especially when it’s not in a classroom session.) Cultural stereotypes breakdown when they spend a day with a Berber tribesman in Morocco who is dressed in headscarf, robe and sandals… speaks 6 languages…and has a PhD in cultural anthropology.  World history class comes alive for your child after they’ve taken a gladiator lesson in Rome.  Science transforms into Technicolor after kids spot emerald toucanettes from a handing bridge in Costa Rica with a naturalist guide. And Spanish class is mas interesante when your child connects it to exploring the ruins of Machu Picchu with a native guide.

Berber tribesman in Morocco

Traveling as a family also provides valuable time together that gives you all a rare chance to put aside your collective daily distractions and share a unique experience together. We often catch ourselves using the phrase, “see the world through younger eyes”. Nothing beats seeing your kids awestruck by something they observe, or do, or someone they meet, in a place far from home. Like Philippe and Conor, they’ll remember it and so will you.

About Classic Journeys:
Classic Journeys offers family vacations in North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the South Pacific. Families enjoy luxury accommodations and gourmet meals that reflect the best of each region, coupled with multi-sport activities, daily interactions with locals, and native guides who make countries and cultures come alive. Tours are six to 12 days long. Land-only tour prices range from $2595 to $8895 per person (with discounts for small groups and children traveling with parents). Average tour size is 10, limited to a maximum of 18 guests per departure. Full details and links to itineraries are available at To speak with one of our personable and knowledgeable guest services coordinators, email us at or call 800-200-3887.