jayswimmingJay taking a dip in a saltwater oasis near the Libyan border.Like many families with school-aged children, we recently returned from a spring break vacation. We needed a break from the long Chicago winter — a little bit of warmth and relaxation and, of course, some swimming.

What is it about swimming that makes kids so happy? It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s an Olympic pool at a luxury resort, a small spring-fed lake in Wisconsin, or one of the great oceans of the world — if you can swim in it, my kids are in their element.

This trip, I chose to lounge by the pool as Jackson (12), Jay and Becky (14), and our Japanese exchange student Yuichi (17) splashed their way through our vacation. They are all good swimmers, so my main priority was to make sure they didn’t disturb the other guests. Watching them swim and play, I thought about the wonder of water and how water recreation is such a global phenomenon — for kids of all ages.

Those of you who know our family, know that we are seasoned travelers. After a four-year hiatus prompted by a very unpleasant plane ride when the twins were two and Jackson was an infant, my husband Doug and I were eager to hit the road again. And the kids are happy to tag along — as long as there is the promise of swimming.

Over the years, those swimming experiences have taken many turns. We have played in local public pools in Japan, where it was easy to spot my American children in a sea of black-haired Asian swimmers. We’ve been doused by a waterfall and a simultaneously drenching monsoon rain in Chang Mai, Thailand. Once, we jumped off a fishing boat into the muddy Amazon shortly after catching piranha, and we have even squeezed in a quick dip at the Heathrow airport hotel pool during a six-hour layover on our way to Africa.

In Egypt, we were forced to make a beeline for the pier after spotting a giant stingray while snorkeling at Sharm el Sheik. Still in Egypt, Becky and I were the only girls in sight jumping off the masonry edge of Cleopatra’s pool in Siwa, among several dozen school-aged boys, all taking a break from the 110° heat. While swimming in the Nile was discouraged, the kids spent every afternoon joyfully doing cannonballs into the cruise boat’s postage-stamp-sized pool. In Morocco, each riad (or courtyard home) had a beautiful pool, which I suspect were designed more for aesthetic purposes than natatory ones, but which provided us with a wonderful place to relax after a busy morning of touring. And closer to home, our northern Wisconsin farm has an 80-acre lake where no amount of algae bloom will prove too daunting to prevent my kids from taking the plunge.

Along the way, we’ve learned always to pack a swimsuit, because you never know when a perfect little swimming hole may present a temptation too great to resist. This year, our travel destination is Mongolia. We’re not sure how many swimming opportunities we’ll find, but we’ll be prepared. Like many of you, we’ve discovered the joys of swimming in global waters — both figuratively and literally. Have you dipped your toes into an exotic pool, or are you looking for ways to expand your horizons? We’re always interested in hearing about your goals and experiences.


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