Lessons in Perseverance: How Travel Made Our Kids Stronger

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Lessons in Perseverance: Travel and Children

Bad luck, bad health or bad timing. Any one of these can deliver a hefty blow to one’s travel itinerary.
So how about all three? In our first month on the road, we we visited by the entire trio of travel bummers, all within the course of two weeks.

  • On our first day in Taiwan, S was hit by a scooter while crossing the street. We were in the emergency room before lunchtime.
  • Later that week, we ate something that had gone off  — probably squid — and we all got food poisoning. Keiko and I were functional, but the kids had to go to the hospital (the receptionist welcomed us back) for an IV to rehydrate since they couldn’t keep anything down.

  • Just as they were both fully recovered, one of the biggest typhoons of the season, Typhoon Usagi, enveloped southern Taiwan, keeping us in the apartment for most of the week.

Are these complaints? Nope. I was actually grateful.

Obstacles are Inevitable

Please don’t call the social workers. I am neither sadist nor masochist, and I want my kids to be happy and healthy. And believe it or not, these pitfalls were an excellent (and unplanned) step in the right direction.

Of course I’d prefer if misfortune never befell us, but life doesn’t work that way, and the sooner the kids understand this, the better. There are many lessons kids should learn while traveling, and I consider these recent pitfalls to be important lessons in perseverance.

Obstacles are inevitable in travel. They’re baked in. Trouble and complications and can happen at any time, whether you’re on the road for a year or a weekend. You must learn to deal with all manner of adversity, and I believe that each of these early setbacks will prove to be a nice inoculation for the bumpy road ahead.

Emergency Room – Scooter Accident

The scooter that hit our boy was only going about 25km an hour, so it only knocked him to the ground. It scared the bejeezus out of him (and us), but he didn’t even have a bruise.

The guy that hit him immediately pulled over and insisted he go to the hospital with us, where he and his girlfriend stayed until we left. He payed for the X-ray, as well.

Another Hospital Visit – Belly Problem

The kids’ first experience with food-borne illness was while we were in Tainan, staying at an apartment right next to a hospital (that receptionist might be wondering about us).

Hospitals in Taiwan are clean and modern and the staff were kind and some some basic English phrases, which relieved the kids (Hospitals can be extra stressful when you don’t understand what’s going on).

Nature Strikes – Typhoonn Usagi

Typhoon Usagi was stronger in the south of the island, but wasn’t very intimidating in Taipei, where we went next.

On top of that, we had just moved into a great apartment and just enjoyed staying in, watching movies, eating takeout from the nearby night market and teaching the kids how to play backgammon.

Still Grateful

I know this all sounds like so much Polyanna bullshit, but I’m serious: we were lucky this happened, and happened now. If such mishaps will befall us — and they will — then let’s get the initiation over with while we’re surrounded by modern facilities and nice people (FYI: Taiwanese people are really, really nice).

Any of these bumps in the road could have been much, much worse. Our boy could have had broken bones — or worse. We could have been camping when food poisoning struck. Ditto for the Typhoon. These minor inconveniences may save them from major problems down the line.

Want your daughter to be careful with fire? Let her burn his finger once. Want your son to be careful in dodgy traffic? Let him collide with a 125cc scooter at an intersection. The way I see it, our kids just got a 3-for-1 deal on life lessons, all without serious injury.

Adapt to Different Traffic Rules

Both kids now understand that Japanese and Western traffic rules do NOT apply in Taiwan, and they act accordingly. They are incredibly cautious crossing the street, looking left and right, searching for oncoming motorcycles, even when stepping onto the sidewalk (scooters here, too— welcome to southern Taiwan).

Our boy was on the back of a scooter again the next day. That’s him pointing at the hospital he went to (with the orange roof) in the picture above.

Bad Bellies Helped Kids Adjust

Bad bellies are a fact of life for the kind of travel we do. Despite being a little over-cautious of what they ate the week that followed, the kids quickly adjusted back —both psychologically and gastro-intestinally — to devouring delicious street food.

They’ve already fallen in love with some of my Taiwanese favorites (oyster pancakes, papaya milk, and yes, BBQ’ed squid on a stick). Now they’re actually more willing to try new things. S has even ordered stir-fried frog and a durian milkshake…and liked them (well, the frog, anyway).

Enjoy Life Rain or Shine

When we tired of staying indoors, we grabbed our rain ponchos and planned a day out. It looked like it would stay that way all day, but we were determined to push ahead anyway. Inclement weather would not hinder our fun.

We enjoyed a few hours of indoor activities and umbrella walking (there are lots of fun things to do in Taipei with kids), and soon we decided to take a go bold and venture further from the city. Not long after we jumped on a bus, the sky opened up to the view you see below.

Lessons Learned

I don’t know if this is what Paul Tough means about when he talks about “grit,” but I certainly think that there are lessons in perseverance to be learned here.

One of the many reasons we decided to take this trip is that we wanted our kids to learn how to adapt to life’s ups and down. We wanted them to learn how to alter their expectations when necessary and to stay positive when something doesn’t work as planned.

Those are skills everyone needs, and travel seems to me to be one of the best ways to learn them. It makes the days — and weeks — when everything works according to plan that much sweeter.

What have been your family’s lessons in perseverance? Any comments are welcome! Or if you’d rather directly talk to me, don’t be shy to contact me.


  1. So glad to hear that the kids are able to see things the way you would hope they would, as part of the trip not as something that spoils it. I’m also quite taken with the idea of all the hospital staff welcoming S, as if he’s Norm walking in to Cheers.

    • Thanks Simon! Actually he has been welcomed back to many other places. We all have: any restaurant or juice stand that we return to, that call out to him “帅哥!” (“hey handsome”).