What my 10-year-old brother thought would be just a fun vacation to México last summer, turned out to be a totally different experience – in a good way. Here’s how hanging out with his cousins in México for three weeks, completely changed his mindset and attitude about the type of lifestyle he has in the U.S…
One thing my little brother noticed about his cousin’s lifestyle in México was that they ran errands by themselves almost every single day… by horse or by foot.
My brother’s younger cousins in México are constantly running errands for their parents on their own even though they’re 10 years old. Since they don’t have a car to travel, let alone any sort of license because they’re so young, their form of transportation is either their feet or their parent’s horse – if they’re lucky. For my cousins in México, it’s normal for them to go out to the crowded mercados and buy everything their family needs, and then carry everything back home on their own. Keep in mind the streets in my mom’s pueblo in México aren’t paved how they are in the U.S. Drivers don’t stop at every stop sign they see, and drivers are more aggressive, making it far more dangerous for children to be out on the road.
And when they’re not running errands, they’re working every chance they get – before school, after school, on the weekends, and during their breaks from school.
My little brother noticed this when he was playing with one of his cousins and then he said to my brother, “I need to leave now, I have to go to work.” My brother thought this was strange and silly, responding, “Work? You can’t have a job, you’re little!”
But to my younger cousins in México, it’s not strange or silly at all. Having a job around the same time that you’re in elementary school is completely normal. Since his parents’ income on its own is not enough, he has to make sure to pitch in for basic needs. And if that means that he has to cut his free time short, and stop playing soccer with his cousins because it’s time for work, then that’s what he’ll do.
However, no matter how many hours my brother’s cousins are working, or how much money they’re earning on their own, they always remain extremely humble.
Since it was my little brother’s birthday during the same month that they were visiting México, they decided to have a small party for him in my mom’s hometown. My little brother said it was the best birthday party he’s ever had – mainly for one reason: his cousin Edgar had saved all of his money from an entire day of work and used it to buy my brother a pair of brand new socks for his birthday. Socks! Maybe my brother has received larger and flashier gifts in the past, but the fact that his cousin had saved his money from an entire day of work and used all of that money to buy him a gift, meant everything to my little brother.
And all of this served as a bit of a wake-up call for my brother.
My brother quickly realized that his responsibilities as an elementary school student in the U.S. were nothing compared to his cousin’s responsibilities in México. While my brother sometimes complains about three pages of homework, and simple chores like folding his bed, his cousins were walking from school to work every day of the week. While my brother sometimes complains about not having the trendiest clothes or shoes, his cousins were wearing the same outfit for an entire week. And the more my 10-year-old brother hung out with his primos, the more he started to appreciate what he did have in life, rather than complain about what he didn’t have.
Even though my brother went on this trip expecting a to have some fun during the summer, traveling to México was a humbling and eye-opening experience for him. And this is what makes traveling so enriching and important.
If you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel, do it! If my 10-year-old brother was able to gain a valuable shift in perspective from this trip, imagine how eye-opening and enriching visiting another country can be for you.