Do you ever stress about planning that perfect hike? That it will be too much for the family, or too little? Do other families inspire you with their epic hikes but for some reason you think what they do might be a bit much for you and yours? This week adventure mama Monica Miller has some thoughts about letting that kind of pressure go. Here’s Monica…
To some, hiking a few miles into a campsite with a child on your back might sound like a feat only attempted by the bravest of souls. To others, it might sound like old news! In the same way that there is no true “one size fits all” in the clothing world, there is also no “one size fits all” when it comes to outdoor adventures.
There is no one recipe for success, especially with kids in tow. As a parent, you have to do what’s right for your family. You have to “hike your own hike”. But what does that mean?
I often find myself scrolling endlessly through photos on Instagram, feeling intimidated, thinking that maybe I’m not really an “adventure mama”. I see all of these parents on wild adventures with their children and convince myself that the hike we did last weekend was really just a stroll. I don’t bag peaks, climb crags, hit the slopes, paddle arctic rivers or thru-hike a world-famous trail with my toddler in tow.
Does that mean I can’t call myself an outdoor parent or an adventure parent? Heck no! And actually, when I took the time to chat with all of those parents that I deemed “way more adventurous than me”, they all started in the same place I am right now. They were intimidated by someone, they were inspired by someone, and they were taking baby steps to bigger adventures.
The advice that they all gave when I asked was to start within our comfort zone and work from there. Their advice to me was to hike my own hike. And now I’ll pass that advice along to you, with a few pointers of my own…
How to “Hike Your Own Hike”:
- Find your motivation. What is it about the outdoors that makes you want to spend more time there? What is it about the adventures of others that inspires you most? What is going to get you and your family out the door? Ask yourself those questions and then find your adventure.
If you love waterfalls, chase them. If you love eating al fresco, pack a picnic. If you love the water, head to the beach. If you love quick and easy, hit up the backyard or local park. This is about you and your family, so keep it that way!
- Start small. What is a “normal” or “average” outing for you and your family? That is where you want to start. You will not find success on a multi-day canoe-camping trip having never set foot in a canoe or a tent. There is no shame in a backyard campout, and in fact that can be more fun than a backcountry campout. It may help to have a lofty goal in mind to direct your adventures along the way, but you’ll want to start where you are and work up to it from there.
- Be prepared. Where are you going? How much food and water will you need? What gear should you bring? A little research beforehand is a great idea, especially if you’re heading somewhere new or kicking it up a notch. You can ask around for advice, suggestions, tips and tricks, and you will feel so much more confident for it. We always bring a First Aid kit, a flashlight, a whistle, a map (or cell phone), a little more food and water than we think we need, and layers. I would rather have something and not need it, than need it and not have it.
- Get everyone involved. If your partner or children are at all reluctant, get them involved in the planning! This is a really easy way to lighten the workload for yourself. Our 16-month old son might not be capable of choosing a location, running a Google search or carrying his own pack with some of the necessary supplies, but he does love to help get all of our gear our and pack our daypack.
Getting everyone involved is also a great way to ensure that everyone is hiking their own hike. You might think you’re ready to ditch those proverbial training wheels and ramp up the adventure factor, but perhaps not everyone feels the same. And the opposite could be true as well. Which leads me to my next point…
- Read the “room”. Are you feeling it today? Are your kids? There is no shame in calling it quits and trying again another day. Outdoor adventures should be light and fun, and knowing when to turn around can help to keep them that way. We are working with unpredictable humans, both big and small, and changing weather patterns.
Listen to your instincts, listen to your fellow adventurers, do what feels right for you and your family. There’s no one at the summit handing out a prize for pushing through the seventeenth tantrum or hiking in a hail storm, although I wish that were true.
- Learn from your experiences. Each adventure is preparation for the next. If something went really well, take note of why and try to recreate it next time. If something went terribly wrong, take note of that as well. I have running notes on my phone of packing lists for hiking and camping, trails we like and don’t like, gear we need to invest in, times of year to visit or avoid certain places, clothing we need at certain temperatures and so on.
“Epic fails” are bound to happen; being outdoors is all about making mistakes and learning from them. The trick is to embrace the messiness and the bumps along the way, but find a “take away”. What did you learn this time that will make the next adventure even better?
- Take pictures. This takes me back to the first point, finding your motivation. What is more motivating, more inspiring, than looking back at photos of your own smiling faces and wanting to capture more moments like that? Nothing that I can think of. Get a little snap happy and take pictures of your kids, yourselves, your favourite places, the things you love most about being outdoors. And then look at those pictures often.
What is my advice to you? Find your own epic. Hike your own hike. And share your adventures to inspire others.