Why Traveling One-on-One With Your Kids Is the Best Gift You Can Give Them
The timing couldn’t have been better: I sat behind my 10-year-old old son, Brady, nine feet above the ground, teetering on the hump of a male camel in the Sahara Desert. The full moon had just risen as our caravan rounded the corner and we set our eyes on the southern city of Aswan. As if on cue, the sky scaled pink and minarets dotting the cityscape began to blare with song.
Brady turned back to me, smiling. “Evening prayer,” he said, as if he had known this culture and these landscapes all along. This, I reminded myself, was the reason I took my child to Egypt. To know the sounds, the smells, the chaos, and the beauty, all wrapped into one.
Traveling to the Middle East with my kids hadn’t always been on my radar, but after a semester of Egyptology in his fourth-grade class, I knew the timing for a one-on-one trip was right. That said, I wasn’t ready to tackle Egypt on my own – I didn’t know the customs, the language or the culture. I needed a hand to make this experience successful.
My son and I joined five other single parents on an eight-day Solo Parent Family Tour with Intrepid Travel, designed to allow single and solo parents (or grandparents), like me, the freedom, safety, and expertise to explore countries like Egypt, Morocco, Costa Rica, Vietnam, Thailand, and India.
“In 2017, I started to research an obvious gap in the family travel space: solo parents,” says Dyan McKie, family adventures brand manager at Intrepid Travel and a single mom herself. “No travel companies were offering it, our global sales teams were getting asked for it and the travel industry was archaic in their approach to marketing to families with images still showing the nuclear family of a mother, father and two kids, which didn’t always represent today’s modern family.”
After an easy connection though Frankfurt, we spent a couple of days in Cairo getting to know the other children in our group, and I getting to know the other moms. With an injured tourism sector just beginning to rebound in Egypt, we visited the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx with few crowds, giving the kids chances to discover the Land of the Pharaohs closely with our local leader Walid, an Egyptologist, always prepared with patience, humor, and snacks — many, many snacks.
While the group traveled together, every day Brady and I could see the sights on our own. At the Valley of the Kings he wowed me with his knowledge of burial chamber construction, the gods represented in the hieroglyphics that filled the colorful walls and ceilings, and what was really behind that King Tut Curse (moldy food?). There were no family dynamics at play, no brothers to fight with, no dinners to worry about cooking. I was able to give him my full attention and let his curiosity lead the way.
I also realized how important it was for Brady to share the experience with other kids. Overnight on the train from Cairo to Aswan, some of the them gathered in a compartment to play cards, and at the hotels they had instant friends to swim with. I eavesdropped as they swapped stories from their respective homes, discovering words they knew for “bathroom,” or how to haggle a better price for stone scarab beetles in the souk.
Traveling one-on-one gave my son and I the time to focus on the awe-inspiring experiences of Egypt and create special memories together. When things got hard, we turned to one another for solutions, and I was able to show him how to handle adversity, embrace new experiences, share kindness, and learn to understand the depth of the world around him, something I know he will carry for many more sunsets to come.