Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

When I advocate family adventuring, I mean outdoor adventure involving nature. What a surprise it was to apply our outdoor adventuring to an urban setting and find that we all really liked it.

Of course it wasn’t just any city, but Vancouver during the Olympics. Backpack of snacks, clothing layers, and water (just as we’d take hiking) – check. Sense of readiness to play I-Spy-Something-New – check. Willingness to walk many miles – check.

Not many trees did we see, but it was inspiring people-watching. We saw a couple women in Netherlands team jackets, whole families faces painted and dressed in Canadian flags, a juggler in checkerboard pants. We smelled the Olympic cauldron burning, heard spontaneous renditions of the Canadian anthem, felt the chill emanating from the Robson Square outdoor ice rink.

While driving to and from the SkyTrain (public transportation into the city core), the kids noticed the purely Canadian species they’d been exposed to while watching the Olympics on a Canadian television channel, like Tim Horton’s. We didn’t stop there, but we did at Petro Canada to buy some commemorative Olympic glasses. Now we can drink orange juice in glasses adorned with the Olympic inukshuk, and remember how great it was to have the Olympics next door.

Oh wait, they aren’t over yet. We’re ready to get tickets to some Paraolympic events. How could we not want to cheer sledge hockey players, and Paraolympic skiers?


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Olympic Valentines

We are an outdoor adventuring family. We’d rather do than view, so our old television mostly resides in a closet in the basement, occasionally pulled out for use with an old VHS videotape. But with the Olympics happening just over the border from us, we hauled that heavy relic up to the living room and discovered that we can get a Canadian channel that has almost non-stop coverage.

We watched the opening ceremonies (wow!) and played What Country Will Be Next as the alphabetical parade of nations was shown. Who knew that Ghana sent an athlete and that Iran would participate? We’re also liking the Games as covered by Canadians compared to how we imagine they are getting covered by American stations. The Canadian station has commercials for British Columbia, and shows entire heats of long track speed skating when there aren’t even any Canadians in the race.

While I woke up twice in the night thinking sadly of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili who lost his life Friday morning, being more connected to the Olympics is pretty inspiring. Wayne Gretzky carried the torch in the same rain that was falling that night at our house.

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While the Seven Natural Wonders of the World is probably a well argued list, my daughter discovered sevennaturalwonders.org‘s list this week. She was surprised and delighted to discover she has experienced two of the seven: the Grand Canyon (USA) and the volcano Paricutín (Mexico).

I say “experienced” because we didn’t just take a look, we hiked them for hours and days, got dirty with their rocky dust, and marveled from many angles because we were involved for many hours.

Oohing and ahing outdoors together is an aspect of family adventuring you can experience almost anywhere if you look and listen. Try your neighborhood and region for easier access, as there are many wonders beyond the supposed Seven. In fact, the organization has sublists by continent as well.

What do they name as the Seven Natural Wonders of the World? In addition to the Grand Canyon and Paricutín, they cite the Aurora Borealis, Victoria Falls, the Great Barrier Reef, Mount Everest, and the harbor of Rio de Janeiro. My daughter thought our family ought to try for the Aurora Borealis next.

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A friend and I carpooled to Rick Steves’ Travel as a Political Act talk, taking our combined 11, 12, 13, and 15-year-olds. Not many others in the audience brought their children, and I had a moment part way through where I thought, “am I being a good parent?” We don’t usually talk about some of these issues with our kids: the Iranian widows and mothers grieving their loved ones killed in the Iran-Iraq war knowing Iraq was funded by the USA, the results of the Netherlands’ marijuana policies compared to the USA’s, or the price of braces vs. providing a well to a community that has to walk to their water source.

I cringed at a couple of Steves’ generalizations, but mostly admired his willingness to speak up on issues, suggest we can learn from other cultures, and get involved in improving our own. The two younger kids in our group felt his presentation was a little confusing, but the discussion with all of the kids since hearing the talk has been worth taking them. Policies and politics are confusing, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid them. I used to have a bumper sticker that said, “Think – it’s patriotic.” If I want my kids to think, I make need to make sure they have access to real info to think about, just like if I want them to be savvy in the outdoors, I need to give them opportunities to navigate or put up the tent.

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Rick Steves feels like a neighbor, since we both call this corner of Washington State, USA home, but he’s also a neighbor with a global heart. While I’ve used his Europe Through the Backdoor books for trip planning, I’m particularly interested in his more recent speaking out on travel as a political act.

I know our family’s international travels – bicycling in Europe and Canada, backpacking in Mexico –  have added meaningful experiences to my kids’ becoming adults engaged in their world. I didn’t set out to make them political, just thoughtful, and with more information than they might get in school. Now my son is taking Spanish in middle school and has facebook friends in several countries, while my daughter is a sixth grader involved in her school’s social action club. I’m proud of them.

Rick is speaking in our community later this month, and my family will be there. After discussions of Haiti lately, thinking globally means also admitting to my kids that travel is complicated and political. Travel has shaped our worldview, and should shape our action as well. We’ll hear what Rick has to say, and continue those family discussions.

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Arms Up For Adventure

Standing atop something, like a rock or a mountain, somehow lends itself to throwing one’s arms up like Tour de France racers crossing the finish line.

I’m not sure if it is the accomplishment of the climb, the joy of the height, or the connection of being outside, but whatever it is we’re celebrating.

Happy new year, and happy new adventures to all.

Hope in 2010, you too will be atop or across something that makes you want to put your arms up in accomplishment, joy, and connection.

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Inspired by Others

Sometimes you read about other folks’ adventures and you feel pretty darn inspired. Being of a family who often travels by tandem bicycle, I am drawn to couples and families traveling similarly. We’ve been following Family on Bikes as mom, dad, and twin eleven-year-old boys pedal Alaska to Argentina (they’re past Panama now), and today I read about a European couple who rode for several years from Germany east. They bicycled Iran, India, Indonesia – wow.

Now they’re back in Germany with their baby daughter, and like adventurous parents everywhere, starting to think about family adventuring someday. The article that got me thinking is on the Times Live, out of Johannesburg, South Africa. I could relate to what the he said about really living while on the road, and how they felt welcomed by so many people as they traveled. It’s an amazing world out there. And important to share that and show that to our kids.

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