So much of my adventure focus in recent years has been about children. As my own two kids grow and form, I’ve tried to spark and encourage their inherent adventurous spirits. It’s a primary reason that I live where I live, in easy touch of mountains and water.
It was a goal that began early, with a five-month cycling trip across Europe when my daughter was four and my son was three, towing them in trailers for 3500 kilometres through France, Switzerland and Austria, then across the Alps and Dolomites into Venice. It was as much a statement of intention – that children could fit into an adventurous lifestyle – as an attempt to sow seeds of intrigue about the world and exploration.
In the photo above we were well into the journey, heading into Austria, with the mighty peak of Zugspitze on the German border behind. We were following what was purportedly an ancient Roman route across the mountains, though it turned out that the parallel cycling route hadn’t yet been completed, so through Austria it degenerated into cruel, steep and loose tracks – mountain biking with a child trailer was perhaps our own unique sport. For periods of time, the tracks were too rough and we’d have to get off and push. At those times, the children would climb out of their trailers and walk ahead, rolling stones and rocks off the track in their own beautiful attempt to smooth our path. We’d rise over passes where trackside logbooks had stamps with which the kids could ink their hands (as below). Suddenly, they felt like explorers not passengers.
There were many times the effort and the whole family-intensity thing nearly did my head in, but I now think it was possibly the greatest gift I’ve ever given my children. This morning over breakfast we talked about that trip because I’m forever interested in what they remember of it. My daughter recalled the jet-lagged night in Biarritz when she tried to plait her Barbie’s hair at 3am, only to turn it into dreadlocks. I remembered the questions about which language bees spoke in France. My son was too young at the time to be able to remember anything now except our stories of the journey, which he subsequently claims as his own memories.
But even if he doesn’t remember, I’m certain the seeds of adventure and confidence in the outdoors took root in both of them that year. Last summer I hiked for a week with my daughter – then nine years of age – across the Overland Track, with an ascent of Tasmania’s highest mountain thrown in as her party trick. My son has his sights set on the same hike, with competitive hopes to do it at a younger age than his sister.
They now push me to do things – to climb mountains, to ride, to run – rather than the other way around. Hopefully one day they’ll take me in tow across a continent somewhere.