Cultural Education

"Extraordinary people are rarely the result of average circumstances."

Kyrsten serving in the Dominican

Most teens today are bored, unmotivated, selfish, and do not seem to have a passion for life. Did you know that the word teenager or "teen" was not even used until the 1930s - 1940s? (source) Prior to that, one was considered a child or an adult. Have you ever wondered why our grandparents were mature enough to be married at 16, become mothers, run a household and divorce was rarely heard of? My own grandmother was married at 14, had 9 children, and helped on the family farm...all without therapy, medication, or complaining. This was considered a "normal" life.


Fast forward to our current generation. We have seen an increase in teen depression and suicide, obesity is the norm, and there is a current sense of entitlement. So what is the solution? (that could be a book!)


My theory: Our teens need purpose!


How does one raise an independent and responsible young adult who is prepared for life with a strong purpose to follow after their destiny?


One of the best experiences to give your teen is international travel through educational trips, missionary trips, or family trips.


Learning to navigate an international airport and customs-life experience!

The Many Benefits of International Travel:


1. Although technology is available around the world, international travel allows a break from the daily computer, TV, or phone time.


2. It allows one to learn and embrace another's #culture. It's one thing to read about the lives of others, but very different to experience the daily life of another culture...especially tasting all of their foods!


Ukrainian dinner...we had no idea what we ordered as nothing was in English-we tried everything!

3. Depending on your location of travel, it will give your teen a sense of gratitude. Our daughters spent several weeks in the Dominican Republic on a missions trip caring for street people, while they (my girls) lived in a tent with no running water. Talk about an experience!


4. They will learn to save and budget. Traveling is not cheap. Our kids have had to work extra jobs and participate in various fundraising to earn their money towards mission trips. Elizabeth had to make a travel budget for items needed and expenses while in Ireland. Finance class 101! Read: Working Teens Learn Life Skills.


5. One must learn to make an itinerary. When traveling abroad they have had to learn bus routes, deal with the time change, and follow a plan. They learned to book airline tickets, how to obtain a passport, and work with others....much like "real life."


6. Traveling is not always simple. #International travel allows your teen to gain problem-solving skills.


7. Traveling abroad forces your teen out of their comfort zone. They may not be surrounded by all their "besties" and must learn to make new friends...even those who may not speak the same language. They may be challenged to do things that they have never done before.


8. Global traveling will build your teen's #confidence. They will quickly learn to navigate a new city, travel public transportation, and communicate their needs.


Teens are capable of soooo much more that we give them credit for. They are full of energy (oh how I wish I could bottle it up!), determination, and dreams. Let them go for it!


When Lauren and Kyrsten were teens they went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. They had to live in a very hot tent, shower with a hose, and eat whatever was provided. They came home with stories of children who begged for a slice of bread, how families were living in trash dumps, and how women had no prenatal care and often gave birth on the street. They returned from their trip with an entirely new perspective on life. Somehow those $60 jeans were not that important anymore. Kyrsten went on to start a local food bank to feed the homeless in our area. Traveling can spark a purpose!


Lauren serving in the Dominican

Patrick, Caleb, Kyrsten, and Elizabeth spent two very hot summer weeks in Alabama serving a group of Ukraine orphans....none of which spoke English. They had to step outside of their comfort zone. They lived in a cabin with other teens, prepared activities for the orphans, painted cabins and taught bible lessons. They even participated in a MUD RUN to raise money for the Ukraine orphans. What an experience!


When we went to Ukraine to adopt our "new" children we took our biological children on our trip. We thought it was important for them to embrace the culture of their new siblings. We wanted them to observe first hand the orphan lifestyle. Our goal was to allow them to shift their perspective and see life through another's viewpoint.


Ukrainian orphan summer camp

Our trip to Ukraine was not easy. English is NOT spoken, the time change was brutal, and the food was very different. We slept on hard mats, had to get on trains at 3am just to travel to see the "new" kids, and learn all about money exchange. We learned that coffee is not their norm, hot showers did not exist, and people were not warm and fuzzy. Talk about a great cultural experience!


Navigating trains in Ukraine-it was a challenge!

We also took out the time to learn about their history while traveling to various places. We tasted so many new foods, went to the markets, and gain a new outlook on the Russian/Ukraine issues as well as forms of government. "Living" education at its best!



Our children have traveled to Paris and visited the Notre Dame Cathedral (before the tragic fire), toured the Centre Pompidou, went up the Eiffel Tower and drank lattes and ate pastries at the Laduree Paris.


Walter and Caleb in Paris

They have visited Amsterdam, one of the most exciting cities in Europe with a culture that reaches back over a thousand years! They were shocked to realize that its residents use bikes as their main form of transportation...cars were rarely seen. They took a memorable boat ride down the canal to see the stunning historical center and visited the home of Anne Frank. Geography and history will never be the same!


This week we sent Elizabeth to Ireland to enjoy a semester of college abroad. She completely prepared, paid for, and organized her own trip. While in Ireland she will have to meet new people (none of her friends went on this trip), discover a new culture and hopefully make lifelong memories. During her visit, she will #travel to England, Scotland, Iceland, and various other countries. This mama is jealous! (But I already booked my flight to visit her!)


Elizabeth getting ready to board her plane for Ireland

I realize that traveling is expensive. There are other ways to add a little culture to your home and give your teen a chance to expand their horizons.


One way is to become a host family. We were blessed to host a teen from Venezuela for an entire year. She didn't know any English upon her arrival...but wow, did she learn quick!


A fun, and yummy way, to learn about other cultures is tasting foods from all around the world. I am so blessed to work with many nurses from various cultural backgrounds. I have paid them to make some of their delicious food for our family to taste (I know my cooking limitations). My children have eaten delicious Filipino Pancit noodles, enjoyed "real" Russian Borscht (apparently mine is not so good), inhaled Argentine Empanadas, and just this week enjoy some traditional Ukrainian foods...all from nurses that I work with.


The benefits of international travel are endless. Our teens need to see the #world around them, learn from other #cultures, and be inspired. They need to get away from video games and find a purpose for their life. And galloping the globe is a great training ground for adulthood.


Patrick, Elizabeth, and Kyrsten soaking up some European history

Have faith in your parenting. Remember, we are raising adults, not kids.

Where have you and your family traveled to in the U.S and abroad? Let me know in the comment section below!


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About Me

Welcome to our home, my name is Michele. My husband, Walter, and I have been happily married (most of the time) for 28 years. My husband is the Pastor of Strong Tower Church while I work as a Critical Care Nurse. Together, we have been blessed with 10 beautiful children.

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Michele Donnelly

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