Mike Iskandar is the founder of Time Travel Journeys, a program aimed at helping middle-schoolers let go of their worries and see the bigger picture of their lives.
Mike, you take children on time travel journeys. That sounds exciting!
It is! With Time Travel Journeys we help tweens and teens experience their full potential, based on their past and their possible futures. The goal is to turn their self-doubt into self-love.
How does that work?
First, every kid designs their own time machine to take them back and ahead in time. Together, we go on a chronological journey through the phases of their life. We start with the baby years, then the preschool years and the elementary school years. Then, we travel ahead into high school and college. We also explore potential career paths and life adventures. The children create profiles of who they were and who they want to be for every phase. They also do activities that help them experience each of the phases. For instance, they play with playdough, build a pillow fort or interview a college student. Then, the kids write letters the different versions of themselves. This way, they discover their appreciation for the playfulness of their childhood and the inspiration for their future selves.
The exercises are both playful and practical. We tell the children: “We’re going on a time travel journey, a virtual road trip!” So while there is a lot of depth behind it, for the children, it’s mainly an adventure.
How did you come up with the idea?
When I was in my late thirties I realized I had to nurture my inner child. I decided to revisit my childhood years and it turned into a project. In the year leading up to my 40th birthday, I interviewed 40 people from ages 1 to 40 back in the school community where I grew up in. I had conversations with a one-year-old, a two-year-old, and so on – all the way up to a fourty-year old. I tried to capture the mindset and emotions of each of these phases and it helped me reconnect to my younger years and understand who I was, who I am and who I want to be. It was an incredibly journey. I began writing a book about my experiences, but ended up creating a course helping children.
I waited a long time to explore my best qualities and I don’t want to see other 12-year olds struggle for 25 years. Obviously it’s not like they’ll have it all figured out after this program, but it will give them tools to shift their perspective and see their own greatness. Kids are so much more than they think they are.
Why are time travel journeys so powerful?
Kids can have a very narrow view of themselves. Especially around middle school years. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and feel overwhelmed. Kids struggle with self-doubt, anxiety, insecurity… even depression. After the playful years of early childhood, they get to a phase where they have to deal with peer pressure and stress.
Reconnecting with their early childhood helps kids rediscover their creativity, curiosity and playfulness. When they extend their vision into the future, they see the excitement of college and the adventures of adult life: landing their dream job, travelling the world and so on. Seeing this bigger picture helps kids become more compassionate towards themselves.
Another thing I love about this program is how it highlights shared experiences. Some kids might not talk to each other in daily life, but then in the course of the program they discover they used to have the same favorite toy when they were young, or they discover they both want to be music producers or marine biologists.
In the end, a big part of the program’s strength is that it gets kids out of their present worries and gives them a break from being 13.
We all need a break sometimes. Would this work for adults too?
For sure. When I used this as a tool for myself, I discovered my qualities from early childhood are incredibly important for living a happy life as an adult. Things like staying playful, using my imagination and letting go of what other people think. These are golden qualities little kids naturally have. When you revisit those years you really remember what it was like to be this way. That’s so powerful!
On the other hand, when you look ahead you find your vision for what you want to be doing. You imagine your future and go wild with it like a child would, without restricting yourself by what’s possible. This aligns with things like the law of attraction and mindset development.
So yes, the combination of past and future is definitely a powerful tool for adults as well. It really shows you everything you can be, harnessing the power of your imagination.
Any advice for those working with children?
Being 12, 13 or 14 is an exhausting job. Kids can really use a shift of perspective. Ask kids questions allowing them to escape the present moment for a while. Allow them to dream. This really helps build a connection between you and the children.
One mother told me how their son had the ‘grunt phase’ and would respond with “ugh” to pretty much any question: “How was your day?” “Ugh.” “What do you want for breakfast?” “Ugh.” This type of conversations can be like running into a brick wall. Does that sound familiar? Instead, try suggesting things like: “Let’s pull up some old videos of when you were four years old and talk about your favorite memories from back then.” This type of exercise sparks fun conversations, allowing the kid to forget their worries!
You can also work with the future. Questions like “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or “What’s one of your bucket list adventures?” shift the focus of the conversation and truly help the kids see the bigger picture of their life.
Of course, I also train others to use this program. If reading this, you think your school or youth program might be a good fit, I’d love to get in touch!
Want to know more about Time Travel Journeys?
Check out the Time Travel Journeys website!