Adventuring as a Family
Six pairs of hiking boots. Boots that have taken us to to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko in Australia, the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland and Sydney’s southern gem, The Royal National Park. These are boots with stories. Stories where we’ve laughed, cried, taken a few risks, learnt some lessons, conquered fears, trusted each other and become closer as a family.
Mine was a childhood spent outdoors in the backyard and beyond. Weekend bush walks, long weekend road trips and school holiday travel. I have great memories of new friends made in camping grounds that after days of swimming, sand castle building, night walks with torches and sharing secrets became best friends. Addresses were always exchanged and sometimes a letter followed. Good times in our big old second-hand canvas army tent. Yes, one of those with no flooring. When it rained my dad would dig trenches around it.
My siblings and I still laugh when we talk about the trips we took in the station wagon, always packed to the rafters. Some stories have even made it into wedding speeches. These are family folk stories, adventures shared that are relived time and time again. The kind that we are creating with our children, fodder for their ‘when I was a kid’ stories.
There’s plenty to learn as a kid, but out on the trails, in the bush, by the ocean, in the wonder of the natural world, life lessons are learnt. A landscape where resilience is built, persistence is practiced, relationships are deepened and an appreciation for our environment is easily fostered. I agree with Rumi, in the quiet, we hear ourselves, our true selves. In this modern world, the quiet of the wild is a place for presence and connection away from the temptations of technology.
As I write this we are at the beginning of a big adventure, our biggest. We are slow traveling in Europe. Since January we’ve been in Ireland, the kids are completing a school term here, and just last week we picked up our motorhome. We sold our possessions, rented out our home and decided it was time to live this dream. Quite a contrast to the city life we left in Sydney! Of course this is just one way to adventure. Adventure can happen on the way to school, after school, on the weekends and at home it’s all about making the time to say ‘YES’.
Find Some Sticks
Yes, sticks. A walk to school or a stop in the park can easily become an adventure when kids play with sticks. The National Trust has revealed the humble stick as a must-have toy as part of their 50 Things To DO Before Your 11 ¾ campaign. A campaign launched after research showed that children were spending only half as much time playing outdoors as their parents did when they were young.
We love sticks! On this day last weekend, our first ‘park up’ in our new motorhome the boys were playing wood collectors. The next day they built pretend wood fires and cubbies. A stick fort prompted imaginary battles.
Any time our youngest is walking to school or to the local shops he always looks for a stick to use as a walking stick, a light saber or a fishing rod. In his mind, a stick is good for just about anything. Just give a kid a stick - they’ll do the rest.
(Please respect any nature reserves or protected areas, as any natural items shouldn't be removed or damaged, in these situations teach your children the importance of micro environments)
Climb a Tree
The proud tree, climb them, let your kids climb them. I have always presumed that kids could climb trees but during our time living in the city I’ve learnt this isn’t always the case. It is a learnt skill and if kids are not given the opportunity they won’t learn.
Climbing a tree is an excellent way of negotiating risk and making decisions. Can I step over there? Can I jump from here? And when they do, they add just a little more into their self- esteem and confidence stores.
Life is filled with times where we need to step up and sometimes we need to jump with a leap of faith. That’s is how I look at the importance of tree climbing, plus, it’s FUN. This stunning tree is in the domain in Sydney just asking to be hugged…oops climbed.
Get out in Nature
A UNESCO report (2008) talks about the importance of education and empowering young people to commit themselves to sustainability rather than simply expecting our young people to fix the the world they are inheriting. Getting out into nature gives kids the chance to discover the world around them and understand the importance it will play in their lives.
While travelling we have decided to to become a take 3 for the sea just grab bits family. Kids are always up for a challenge or a game with a score and so the invitation to take on this challenge was greeted enthusiastically.
In collecting for the environment they’re all questioning the ‘over use’ of plastic in society and this leads the way to question our own practices as adults. We also found a way to do something that mattered by protecting and raising ocean awareness while we travel. Again, our youngest: “Can you believe some people kill animals by throwing their rubbish on the ground. Why would people even want to kill animals?”
Go for a Hike
Hiking as a family is my number one adventure. I have the best memories of our family hikes, from short local walks to longer overnight trips with uncles, aunts and cousins into the Victorian country. For years after the families stopped hiking my brothers and cousins kept up the tradition of the Melbourne cup weekend hiking trip.
I do chuckle when I think back to our ‘Griswold’ style family camping. We never had any proper gear. No layered technical fabric, no down jackets. It was K-Mart sleeping bags and home-made tracksuit pants for us. We all survived though, and I would say we thrived.
Finding somewhere local to take your kids for a hike is probably easier than you think. You can start out in nearby parkland. Just duck off the path and into the trees for a bit to up the adventure factor for the kids (and maybe source some good sticks and collect some rubbish ;).
Usually, the most difficult part is simply making the decision to go. When we have a gap between sport seasons or other regular commitments, we plan our hikes and set dates. Whatever other invitations come up we decline as we are already busy. Busy hiking.
Holidays are a great time to hike. Watch closely as you start. A few hundred meters in niggling and complaints will give way to chatter and friendly banter. As the challenge dials up, the fun and comradery kicks in. Then, as you hit the end of the trail encouragement is shared, heroic stories are recounted and the feelings are of pride, achievement and contentment set in. A few snakes (the sweets, not the slitherers) will go down well too!
Take a Break
While out hiking take the time to stop and do nothing for a while. It is amazing how quickly and easily kids will find a way to interact with their natural environment. ‘Eco-art’ they told me “was the best art ever”.
This was a water stop while out hiking The Blue Gum walk in Sydney’s Berowra Valley National Park.
A water break where the water was first swigged and then poured on the rocks to make paint. Five kids (one extra) aged between 4 through to 12 deeply engaged in their natural environment without prompting, creating art.
Kids are budding scientists. I love watching how tactile and inquisitive my kids are in nature, always feeling different textures of bark, turning over rocks to looking for animals. A rock pool on a coastal walk will be brimming with things to discover. Just last week my kids found sea horses and rocks that could be used to draw on asphalt. We’ve also made garden fertilizer from seaweed collected at the beach.
There is treasure to collect in nature and I haven’t met a kid yet that doesn’t have a bower bird tendency. I don’t have a pram anymore but when I did it was always full of leaves, feathers, shells, dried up flowers…treasure.
Adventure with kids is about having fun, stepping out of the routine, and spending time together. It’s about instilling a lifelong passion for the outdoors and the real world while creating an opportunity to experience quiet and stillness in their increasingly busy lives.
Don’t wait, go PLAY outside.
Connect: The She Went Wild adventure expo opened up a whole new world of adventurers to us. Mums who hiked, cycled, ran, rock climbed; it was exhilarating. There is a tribe of women who adventure through life.
Subscribe: to publications and blogs that encourage adventure. Looks for tips on finding family friendly adventures near you.
Choose: Get inspired by filling your social feeds with people like Caro Ryan, the unexpected outdoors chick who says ‘YES’ to adventure.
Join: Hook up with companies like Journey Outdoors in Nature or search for local bush kid classes in your area if you need some rewilding education. Join a local bushwalking group if you need companions.
Our family is currently on a slow travel adventure in Europe and you can follow our adventures on Instagram @frances.antonia