We get this question a lot, usually from people who don’t know us very well, whenever we mention that we’re doing something crazy like taking our son, Johann, kayaking or backpacking or that we’re traveling somewhere together. “Why?” The question is almost always accompanied by a bewildered expression on their faces. When we answer them, we get a “Good for you. I could never do that!” And, in response, I can’t help but ask “Why not?”
As a couple, my husband Ryan and I have always tried new things and pursued active outdoor experiences, travel, and adventure. For years before we had Johann, well-meaning friends and acquaintances would warn us about how our lives would stop when we had kids. And, we always said that when we had kids, our lives would not stop, because we would simply bring them along on our adventures.
Our son Johann is eighteen months old now. To name just a few of his adventures so far…he has hiked over a hundred miles with us (lashed to either me or Ryan), visited more countries than either Ryan or I had before we turned eighteen, gone camping and backpacking with us multiple times, eaten more strange and new foods than either of us had while we were kids, gone kayaking with us a few times, and gone swimming in pristine but frigid alpine lakes and two of the world’s oceans.
We know Johann is only one tiny kid, and our family is still growing, so we know it will get harder. But, so far, none of this has been easy. A lot of it has been challenging. But all of it has been worth it. And, our adventures will not stop. We have set these priorities, and accepted the risks that have come with them, so we get to continue doing the things we found fun in our pre-baby days only now in family-mode.
But it’s not just about fun. It’s bigger than that. It’s also about the pursuit of lifelong learning. Our kids are going to learn more from actually doing these things right alongside us, than by just reading about them or watching others do them. Learning doesn’t stop either. We learn new things every day, and we want to set the right example for our kids.
It’s also about simple purposeful living. We try hard to organize our time and budget around the things we value most. This is the reason we have no debt, and why we live below our means so we can instead save up for more meaningful things like world travel. It is why we cook and eat dinner together at the table every night we’re home. It is why we read books together and separately every day and love our local library. It is why I became a stay-at-home-mom, why we don’t have smartphones and don’t pay for TV programming, why the cars we drive are eight and fifteen-years old and fully-paid-for. It is why we grow a backyard garden and are slowly converting our lawn to all edible landscaping, bit by bit. It is why we use cloth diapers on our kid (which we’ve found to be a far cheaper and more environmentally-friendly alternative to disposables), and why we get joy from giving to and serving others. It is the reason we get outside so much (because the best entertainment and exercise is simply being in nature and it’s free). Someday, we hope our kids will form their worldviews based on these values, which allow us to have such a richly fulfilling, and high quality of life.
Another question we often get is “Why now? Why not when the kids are older?” The answer may be different for you, but for us there’s no time like the present. We have our health and energy now, and we like being able to establish momentum and figure things out while Johann is so young and forgiving. And, we like being able to go places now while he’s not yet tied down to a school calendar, and have the freedom to explore places at less crowded times and in the off-season. And, we want to take him places while he’s small and relatively easy to manage. (We’ve already seen the difference in air travel and miss how easy it was to fly with him when he was a sweet, immobile, squishy infant.)
But more importantly, we want him to grow up like this. We want to expose him to as many different experiences as possible now. We don’t know how big of an impact this is having on him, but he’s absorbing and learning so much right now…new environments, new foods, new cultures, new languages, etc. So, at this very impressionable age, we absolutely want our child to sample more than he will find within the four walls of our home, our town, our state, our country even.
This blog was born to document our journey, our lessons learned, our experiences, our challenges, and to offer support and encouragement to fellow new parents, parents-to-be, and anyone who is looking to get outside and explore the world with little ones and less stuff and enjoy it.
We don’t have all the answers, but we’re figuring it out as we go. Your motivation to get outside with your kids might be different than ours. Your interests might be different than ours. You might have a unique why. But if you’ve got little kids in tow like we do, our struggles are the same. And, we’ll walk alongside you.
My point is this: Use your why as momentum to do the things you really want to. Don’t be afraid to fail, and learn. There will be risks. Aren’t there always? I mean, I could get hit by a car while walking down the street. There is no prescription, or one method. Every parent, every family has to forge their own path in pursuit of the life they want, not just for their kids but also for themselves, and not let fear hold them back. We’ve seen “lives stop” for many parents, and if there is fun it’s usually a kids’ activity. That’s not wrong, but it’s not a good balance. It’s one reason I started this blog: To encourage and support you to get outside with your little ones and enjoy it. And, you don’t need to bring your whole house along, either. It is possible to do it simply, with less stuff. We don’t want our kids to change us, but we want to influence our kids to explore and appreciate the wonder that is in the world. These are some of our reasons. This is our why.