For more than a decade I've been writing this Family Matters column, about family-friendly places and travels with my daughter. But just as children grow up and move on, it's time...

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For more than a decade I’ve been writing this Family Matters column, about family-friendly places and travels with my daughter.

But just as children grow up and move on, it’s time for this column to do the same. Today is its final episode.

Over the column’s life span, my daughter has changed from a toddler to a teen. I’ve been widowed. And the big world outside our little family? Sometimes it looks like a storm of catastrophes, making it tempting to stay home and hide under the covers.

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But we’ve traveled on, and our trips have given us good times and a respite — and clarity.

On a family trip in the Southwest, I strode along a desert path extolling the beauty of the red-rock cliffs that rose above us. My young daughter, scurrying to keep up, paused to study a trail of ants.

I tried to hustle her along; I had a long list of places to sightsee after our walk. But Stephanie wanted to see what was at her feet.

So we sat and watched the ants. There were hundreds of them, marching in intersecting columns, struggling through dust and over pebbles.

For a half-hour, she stared at the ants, spinning stories about where they were going as they disappeared under a boulder. I sat in the warm spring sun, listening to the wind and her sing-song voice, telling of underground ant highways and secret rooms. It was a be-here-now moment I’ve always remembered, when a child showed me how to appreciate what was right in front of my face.

Travel has been an escape, too, and not just in good times at a beach or in Disneyland.

For my husband, travel memories took him far from our living room where he sat fighting waves of cancer-medication nausea. He talked of mountain villages in Nepal and the wild coast of British Columbia, where orcas swam alongside his kayak. In his hospital room, he had a photo of himself kayaking, silhouetted against the deep blue of a fiord. That’s me, he told the nurses and doctors. Not this.

Not all our family trips were worth remembering. Sometimes we melted down from too much togetherness. Sometimes almost everything went wrong, from crummy hotels and canceled flights to surly tour guides and pickpockets.

Yet somehow it always was worth it.

True, our family budget suffered. New couch or a plane ticket to somewhere?

The trip always won. So our furniture and car are secondhand, our home improvements minimal.

Now, as my daughter grows up, travel — and a good education — are the best things I can give her.

Through traveling, she can see the people and places she learns about in books. She can learn to expect the unexpected, and roll with it. And I hope it will turn her into a citizen of the world, with an open mind and an open heart.

Me? I’ll still be editing and writing about travel, including family trips, just in new ways in the New Year. And watching my daughter travel through life.

Kristin Jackson: 206-464-2271 or kjackson@seattletimes.com