Adventures with Children

My Instagram feed is full of amazing pictures, stunning places, exciting adventures. Be it trail running in Bhutan, climbing in the Faroe Islands, fast packing across Norway, or canoeing down the Yukon River, these images, and the accompanying stories contrast abruptly to my day job, and my children’s school days. While these images inspire me, fill me with awe, motivate me to plan my own adventures, the reality is rather different.

Let me explain. These incredible, extraordinary adventures seem unobtainable to an ordinary person like me, and in the end, the inspiration and motivation leads to very little actual adventuring. Selling up and moving to the Dolomites will always be just a dream. With bills to pay, children to school, pensions to build, guinea pigs to feed and clean out, school holiday child care to provide, family holidays to pay for, its never going to be easy to escape for an expedition or a solo trip away. Those will remain the preserve of the professional adventurers and athletes, the explorers, the journalist, the young, and those with few ties.

This might explain why I see very few adventures with children across my social media, or on TV. It seems, very few have a family focus. Okay, it might just be that I’m following the wrong people, so if you have any recommendations, let me have them. On the other hand, it might just be that there aren’t many family adventurers out there. Of course, there are some families that have taken a year out to travel, others who have sold up to live the dream, but it all seems a bit all or nothing.

Alastair Humphries pioneer of the Micro Adventure movement has done some great work looking at microadventures with children, and this has really helped me reframe our approach to adventures.

We’ve made a conscious decision to work out how to make some of the weekend an adventure. Not every weekend mind you, some weekends have to be spend doing laundry and cleaning. A few hours on the local heath squelching through bogs, walks out on Dartmoor, bike rides, canoeing trips; these adventures feel limited, but in fact gift us excitement and memories. The excitement of slippery granite; the memories of boots full of swamp water; ‘taming’ wild ponies (well, stroking them); finding letterboxes tucked away in unexpected places. These adventure mean that when we return to the 9-5, we have memories that make us smile, new ambitions to plan more.

On one hand, it would be easy to be an armchair adventurer, vicariously enjoying friends’, acquaintances’ and strangers’ expeditions, and, not do very much about it, for whatever reason (I think I’ve probably used them all). On the other hand, we could thoughtfully reframe the sporadic adventures we do have, and make a commitment to have more.

And that is indeed a the plan for 2018.

We have some great ideas in the planning for 2018, sea canoe trips and wild beach camping (being members of the local canoeing club actually puts this in reach), some overnight camps, exploring further afield, dark skies photography and so on. And, I will do my best to write about them here, and in doing so, hopefully demonstrate to other ‘normal’ families that while there are obstacles to getting out there with your children, those obstacles can be overcome.

8 thoughts

  1. Sounds great Tobit. I’ll look forward to reading about your family adventures and feasting on the photos. I’d love to do more micro-adventuring with my wife and son and hopefully you can provide some inspiration!

    1. 🙂 thanks Jon – the pressure is on then we look forward to sharing them

  2. Tobit this is great. And damn and blast those pesky holiday snap show offs who go climbing. Twerps. Off the top of my head: Menna Pritchard is a friend who’s ‘living the dream’ with a young family uprooted to chamonix to make films (‘Magnetic Mountains’); and Tanya Perrett is a (or at least was a) single Mum working as an International Mountain Leader around the globe. More well known – I like Sonnie Trotter. Good luck with the balance

    1. thanks Mark, damn and blast them indeed. I’m still rather jealous of your Faroe Island trip! I will check those folks out 🙂

  3. That’s great Tobit. I was in a similar place when my kids were young, and had similar wishes. When they were very young I often went rock climbing, but I quickly realised, as they became old enough to share it, that this didn’t really work for them. Too much hanging around and things you weren’t allowed to do. So I switched to playing hide and seek at rocky places, or finding adventurous (for us) rocky ways to scramble off beaches . Hawks Tor on Bodmin Moor was our favourite place. That worked much better. Our big adventures were going to Lundy Island (with a tent that had the wrong poles!), where we just walked around, stroked horses noses and sat in deck chairs at the top of the old lighthouse, and scrambling along the shore and then up and out at Porthguarnon Cove in West Penwith. Later, when the youngest was fifteen, we took three of them for nine days of hiking on the mountainous GR20 path in Corsica. They still talk about it now, especially about the rainy times, and appear to have entirely forgotten the entirely forgettable last night that we spent in a fancy hotel. They also seem to remember with great fondness the several camping holidays we had in West Penwith, where we never seemed to have quite the gear of others on the camp site, and in each of which the first adventure was to find out if we could erect the various tents. Micro-adventures are a great idea.

    1. thanks Mike 🙂 really interesting reading and really helpful – it sounds like you got the balance right. I especially agree with you about finding your own version of adventurous – that is really important.

  4. This is exactly one of the reasons I am buying a cottage in the Peaks. I think a large obstacle, for me anyway, is trying to organise an adventure that requires hours of driving to get to, and from, first. Living in Suffolk means I am miles from anywhere. But when we do go, I have found having a dog increases the pleasure tenfold for Charlie. He is her fellow adventurer and makes a hike along the edges so much more fun. Perhaps that is just an issue I have being a single mum – I’m pretty boring wihout a furry friend to liven the proceedings! I agree entirely these are fantastic memories the children will remember and can’t wait to do more with Charlie. All the best for your future adventures x

    1. thanks Kate 🙂
      Accessibility is key, thats for sure, and being closer to the wilderness is a huge advantage. As to having a furry friend to share adventures with, I see I am going to need to start training our guinea pigs…
      I think you, and Mike both touch on a really key point – building memories is such a good thing to do.

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