Live Life Adventurously
“Owwwoww!” groaned my eldest as she staggered out of bed that first morning. “It hurts so much! Hurry up! I want to do it all again!” We were on our first ski trip as a family, and she hadn’t wanted to stop, racing her dad to the last lift of the day, tumbling down breathless and giggly into the snow, as the light waned. We declared it a success.
When you have young children, it’s easy to imagine that your life as a world traveller has come to an end. Apart from anything else, the sheer volume of luggage you need to pack for a toddler is enough to steer you towards a volvo estate and a lifelong pass for Butlins! (And I’m not knocking Butlins – it’s an awesome week of fun, but it’s not pushing the frontiers, is it?) Adventurous travellers could be forgiven for trying to curb their bucket list when they start a family, but actually, with a bit of planning it’s totally doable, and might just end up being the holiday of a lifetime.
We’re adventurers, me and Jason. We’ve skied in a dozen countries, taken road trips along glorious coastlines in America, backpacked Thailand and the Australian outback, climbed mountains, and dived shipwrecks. We’ve taken rickety buses down forsaken lanes in pursuit of real dwellers, and the most amazing food. We’ve travelled in tiny aeroplanes, shared living space with monkeys, and watched lions tear apart buffalo just metres from our faces. It’s been exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure. But our travel adventures have been the most important part of our lives. Who doesn’t want that for their kids?
So how do you do it? How do forge ahead and create children as hungry for travel adventure as you are? Well, it may sound flippant, but you just do. As Monica from The Travel Hack declares, “Life doesn’t stop when you have a baby,” and if you were adventurers before, then toning down your wanderlust is just going to make for frustrated parents. Here’s how we’ve created adventurous children:
Lessons for Living Adventurously
Ok so it’s boring, but this is what’s going to make it all work. All parents know that kids don’t do well when they don’t have what they need. All it takes though, is a bit of planning. Our motto has long been plan to be spontaneous. We think ahead, we do our research, we choose our trips after thorough review, and we pack for all eventualities. Then whatever the day throws at us is something we can embrace. Even two hours on a toboggan run when the fog came down didn’t phase these two – because I knew where the best hot chocolate was at the end!
Face your fears, and your kids will too. Take challenges, push yourself, try new things. I learned a long time ago that saying no is often easier, and safer, but it limits life. Say yes, and even if it’s not for you, you’ve learned something, met someone, or found a new passion. My daughter embraces every new opportunity. Some of it she doesn’t like. Most of it, she loves. Her life is full of experience, sensations, emotions. It’s wonderful to see, and I never want her to stop.
Wherever you go, ask what you can do there, and what you can make of it. Be curious, and explore. Sometimes it’s a den, others it’s a memory. Just occasionally, it’s a defining moment.
Pushing your limits is the only way to discover what you can do – what you’re good at, what you love, and who you are. I tell my kids to try, especially my son, who is a thinker, who worries a little bit more. I hold his hand, and we do it together. The look on his face when he realises he’s done it is a highlight of being his mum. Adults should do that too. Take deep breaths, step into to the unknown, look down, really look, at everything. Learn, everywhere you go. You will surprise yourself more often than not. In a good way.
Wherever we go, we try the food. We are a mixed bunch in our family. We have traditional eaters and we have gourmets, but all of us love to see what other people are eating. It’s this inquisitiveness around food that has expanded my daughter’s taste buds to love spice, and led the Bug to eat lobster, sushi, and even grasshoppers! Don’t be afraid of a country for its food. There will always be bread, or rice if you’re stuck. But more often than not, you’ll be left with a plate of rice to eat, whilst your six year old devours your ginger chicken stir fry!
Enjoy the moment. Whatever it is you’re doing, do it fully. Engage with it, taste it, feel it. You planned this, and you organised it. Now relax and go with it.
It’s easy to worry when you have kids, but you know what? They will tell you when they’re too scared to go further. When my daughter climbs, my husband has learned to keep quiet about how high up she is. He catches his breath, and he stands underneath, to catch her if she falls. She never does. And he’s learning to enjoy trees himself.
Never let fear stop you giving something a go. Do your research, pick the people with the good reviews to help you plan it, then strap on the safety equipment and throw yourself headlong into the fun.
Sometimes the harder route takes you to the most wonderful discoveries. Like the ramshackle bus to nowhere that gave me the greatest meal of my life; and the struggle to swim against the current, that yielded this stunning sand dollar for my eight year old to marvel over. Family, just like travel, is often hard work. But the prizes are so worth it.
Where we’ve been inspires our future plans. As we learn to ski better, we dream of bigger challenges; the memory of crystal waters make us yearn for more beautiful coral reefs. We make big dreams for our travel bucket list. We may never achieve them, but if we never conceive them, we’ll never even step down the path towards them. And who knows what we might find along the way.
Wherever we go, we wonder about who has been before us, or what will come next. Like the time we found this lost bear on a beach in Somerset, and the day we were dive bombed by a hungry seagull. Things often don’t go to plan in life, but we always have a good story to tell when we come home.
A trick I learned from my husband: it’s easier to stick to the people you know, but it’s way more fun to meet new people. Once again, the harder option is usually the most rewarding. You learn so much from talking to the people of another place, whether it’s how to make the best French toast, or where to find the turtles today. People are what makes a life, and the more you step into their world, the greater the discovery.
The best holidays – in fact, the best Sunday afternoons! – are those where the Wifi isn’t working. It’s far too easy to get distracted by telling the world about your perfect lunch, and forget to savour it. Sip the wine, steal a chip, relive the day’s adventures with your family. The memories will be all the more vivid for it when connectivity resumes.
Lie Down in the Long Grass
Take time to see things. Be outdoors whenever you can. Notice the light, the colours, the smells and textures of your world. I know that sounds hippy, and it is, but it came from somewhere, and it makes such a difference to your experiences. When you travel, your senses are alert to everything new. Do that every day with your kids, and they will wonder at the world.
Because food just tastes better outdoors, cooked over a fire.
Turn the Furthest Corner
Because you never know what you might find…
Strive to Learn
For me, if I’m not learning, I’m going nowhere. It’s hard work to learn, to continuously push your boundaries. So much easier to rest on your laurels, satisfied. But that doesn’t last long, and boredom sets in. Keep looking for things to learn. Give your children a hunger to know more, to achieve more, and they will know a journey that will last a lifetime.
Do it with Love
Whatever you do, wherever you travel, do it with people who get you, who make you laugh, and love life. Adventures make memories. Share wonders and new discoveries with your family, and you’ll take home more than just a tan. We talk about our favourite holidays together for years after we’ve returned home, reliving special moments. It’s what makes us a family.
Do it Together
Because any adventure worth having, is worth sharing…
This post is an entry in to the Trips100/Family Adventure Company blogger challenge. The #whatsyouradventure challenge will see one lucky family take the trip of a lifetime to Cambodia. My husband adores South East Asia, and has longed to take the children. I’ve never been, but if my youngest’s love of asian food is anything to go by, it will be the start of a new love affair for the whole family. Wish us luck!