[Guest Post : Linda on the Go]
When I attended last year’s ProBlogger conference it was a whole new world for me. As with all things new, it’s always nice to see a touchpoint – something of the familiar – in a completely foreign environment. I found that familiar something with the lovely Linda Anderson from Linda on the Go. I was fascinated how such an adventurous soul managed through the changes that starting a family can bring. I asked her to share some of her thoughts with us here, to help inspire ‘the next generation of adventurous souls’ and to show that just because you have little people in your life, your outdoors life doesn’t have to grind to a halt.
Raising the next generation of adventurous souls
My Dad loves the outdoors and shared this love with me as a child. In winter we would be cross country skiing, at Easter we would be found camping at places like Croajingalong National Park or by the Snowy River. Pleasures were simple, I had a friend my age and we would entertain ourselves for hours making an art gallery on river rocks using charcoal from the fire, toasting marshmallows was a treat and it didn’t seem odd to use a trench as a toilet.
Fast track to meeting the love of my life, Geoff. We met at the YHA at Pittwater (NSW). We sat around a camp fire late into the night talking about travel and the rest, as they say, is history. Our courtship included setting off around the world for 365 days, our careers on hold, to satisfy our desire for adventure and travel. We hiked the full Torres circuit, independently, in Patagonia (Chile); we climbed Jebel Toubkal in Morocco; camped by the river in Blois (France); and camped illegally behind a bush near the Red Sea in Jordan because we were too poor to pay to camp at the official resort. These experiences reflect the kind of travellers we are – independent, adventurous and travellers who prefer to explore the outdoors rather than the city. We married several years later and our honeymoon was 5 weeks independent trekking in Nepal.
Fast track to today, we are now the parents of three beautiful daughters aged 6, 3 and 2 years old. It was a shock my system to adjust our travel and outdoor pursuits after having our first baby and it became more challenging with the addition of each child. As a parent I am committed to sharing a love of the outdoors and of travel with my kids, I see it as an investment in our future as a family and for them as human beings. I would be lying if I said it was easy at this stage of their lives but I think we do pretty well.
So, what does adventure look like now?
Our destinations have become ‘safer’ and we always make sure we have access to good quality medical facilities. We still try to go places that many families don’t but I tend to organise a lot more of the details such as accommodation, ahead of time – less spontaneity. In the past 6 years we have travelled a lot in Australia and New Zealand but have also taken the kids to Bali and Sabah. July 2014 sees us heading to France for a month with the kids, this will be the longest trip we have done so far with them. I can’t wait to give my girls a taste of Paris, eat croissants every day, take them hiking in Chamonix and to see the Chateaux that inspired Sleeping Beauty.
I will never forget the day we went shopping for a “family tent” after the birth of our first baby. We knew we wanted a few more kids so wanted to invest in a tent that would cater for a growing brood. I also wanted something that we could spend hours in, with sanity, if we were camping in rainy weather. It was really hard for us to go from a little two man tent to what felt like a mansion. The first time we went camping I refused to camp anywhere we could drive to, I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. We invited another family who had a child the same age to come with us and share the tent. We picked a campsite in Bouddi National Park that you had to walk 750m from the carpark to campsites. Now with three young children I have totally succumbed to campsites we can drive into, but still only camp in National Parks. One day I look forward to introducing them to the beauty of hiking into a campsite.
My biggest lesson so far is to always camp with at least one other family or adult. Camping with such young kids is high maintenance and having extra pairs of hands around make everything much more enjoyable. Trying to set up our family mansion tent and keep three little kids safe is too hard for two of us to juggle, when they are older and more independent it will be much easier!
I am a strong believer that to raise children who will love to hike, you need to invest time and energy into going on walks that meet their capabilities not yours. When they are babies it is easy, strap them into a Baby Bjorn and off you go.
Then when they are bigger we pop them into Macpac Vamoose carriers which works until they are around 2.5-3 years old. The Macpac carriers have great harnesses which make then perfect for long hikes and a good amount of storage allowing us to carry jackets, food and other day walking essentials in them.
After that, they actually want to walk for themselves and I see it as my role to let them. This means choosing short but interesting bushwalks. It means walking at the pace of a snail and being willing to stop and look at every interesting rock, stick, leaf or animal poo. If children are going to love the outdoors they need to be allowed to experience their own discovery of what it is.
You will need to get really creative about keeping kids motivated when they are tired … songs, games, bribes, a secret stash of jelly snakes … you will need it all. And of course we are now at a stage of mixed ability. Our 6 year old actually walks very well and has completed 3 hours hikes (which is a lot for a little kid). Our 3 year old is too heavy to carry in the Macpac for long so she has to mix a bit of walking with a bit of carrying. Our almost 2 year old is very happy up in her Macpac as long as you keep moving, but once you have let her out for lunch it is a fight to get her back in.
I dream of being able to take all three girls to the Himalayas one day or to hike the Torres Circuit again. What we do with them now is an investment in that dream.
Grown Up Adventures
These have pretty much disappeared for the last 6 years but hopefully they will appear a little bit more now our girls are growing up. Last year my husband and I had a chance to climb Mount Kinabalu, 4095m, in Sabah. It was such a big deal for us – we were really unfit when we made the decision to do it and had only 10 weeks to try and change that. We didn’t manage a single bushwalk in that time but we did a lot of suburban walks with a child in pack to clock up some kilometres. We had to leave our girls back at the hotel for two days with a close friend – in the weeks leading up to the climb I experienced some unexpected emotion around this. I suffered quite bad altitude sickness towards the end of our first day and I really did not know if I would be able to attempt the summit, so to stand on the top with my husband was a truly amazing feeling.
What advice to I have for adventurous outdoor souls who might be embarking on the journey into parenthood? Know that life will be different, your adventures will change for a while but that’s OK. They don’t have to stop, simply flow with the different stages of your life. And what a gift you have as a parent, to share your love of the outdoors with your beautiful children. Remember they won’t always be little and one day they will be able to do everything you can and more. Until then, enjoy seeing the outdoors through their eyes … it is a beautiful thing.
About the guest poster
Linda Anderson is an adventurous soul who also happens to be Mum to three little girls. She is the founder of Linda on the Go (previously the popular directory and blog, Mums on the Go) and frequently writes about Family Travel for Expedia. You can follow Linda and her adventures on Facebook or Instagram. Thanks so much for sharing Linda. Do you have any experiences or tips for hiking with kids? Please share them below.