Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

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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P7310543Four years ago, I was leaving the grocery store a few blocks from my house and noticed a guy waiting outside with two backpacks. He looked like he’d been hiking. Figuring the other backpack belonged to his partner who was probably inside the store getting food, I strolled over, and inquired about his trip.

Turned out that Mike and his girlfriend Emmy had just hiked the Pacific Northwest Trail across the North Cascades and hitched a ride into town. I promptly invited them to my home for showers, dinner, use of our washing machine, and a tent spot in our backyard.

They accepted and we walked to my house – where I introduced them to my family, my husband covering his surprise at sudden guests. Interesting and interested college students, they were fun visitors and headed off the next day by bus towards Seattle to eventually get back to their college on the east coast.

They were among the first travelers we’ve had stay with us, followed later that summer by a bicycling Dutch couple, and most recently our first warmshowers guest this past June. And in turn, we have met people while adventuring who have shared their hospitality with us.

This week we came home from a swim at the lake to find a note and a bottle of wine at our door. Emmy and Mike had stopped by, “just passing through on our sailboat and remembered you and your kindness.” They left no phone number or directions as to where they might be moored, so we didn’t have a way to thank them. I’m so sorry we missed seeing them, but we’ll just have to enjoy the wine and toast them, travelling, and saying hello to strangers.

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p7220170On Thursday night, we presented “Seastacks, Sandcastles, and Saints: Bicycling 1500 miles of the Pacific Coast with Kids,” through our town’s bicycle travelogue series. Not only did we get to relive our trip while preparing the photos and getting our information together, we got to inspire the 60-some people who came. At least they seemed inspired when asking questions afterwards!

For me, another terrific benefit was hearing the kids speak about their experiences. They each took a couple areas, like elephant seals or the Redwoods, and added their perspective as well as what they learned. It was a series of proud parenting moments to hear my daughter telling everyone about why elephant seals have big noses and what she was thinking about while building a particular sandcastle. Likewise, when my son explained how it felt to bicycle the Avenue of the Giants among those huge trees, and how he got to see a hammerhead shark at the Monteray Bay aquarium.

If you ever have a chance to relive an adventure in this way, do it. Presenting to inspire others is a worthy contribution, and revisiting your trip helps you learn something new about the experience. I learned from my kids during our presentation, and they learned about how to speak in front of a group. The adults did more of the speaking, but the kids made the trip – and the show.

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imagesI met a future bicycle touring adventurer today. She’s graduating from high school this June, and inspired by my friend Jennifer Bradbury’s young adult novel Shift, is planning a three-week bicycle tour. We had only met thus far in the virtual world of e-mail, so it was great to see her for real in a coffee shop. We dissected Bicycling The Pacific Coast: A Complete Guide Canada to Mexico, and spent time detailing gear, thinking about routes, talking fitness goals, and getting her connected to resources.

And there really are a bunch of great resources out there for the first-time overnighting self-contained bicyclist. The Adventure Cycling Association has a number of worthwhile on-line articles, plus great photos and maps, and the Crazy Guy on a Bike website inspires with information and trip blogs. In our community, there are workshops to help bicyclists learn gear and maintenance put on by local shops as well as the city’s program encouraging folks to bicycle, Everybody Bike.

Now that I’m an official mentor for my teenage mentee’s project (yes, complete with signed paperwork for her Senior Project filed at her high school), I am reminded of the value of each one teach one. Sure she can read up on bicycle touring, but it helps to know someone who’s ahead of you on the road, so you can ask questions and think out loud with someone. Or see their gear. Our next meeting will even include a tour of my garage for that purpose.

I love that she’s dreaming of adventuring. And that she’s inspired to grow from someone who has bicycled 14 miles in one day, to someone who will successfully ride hundreds of miles down the coast, camping along the way. And sometime later, her enthusiasm and can do attitude will probably inspire someone else to give an extended bicycle trip a try. I love that too.

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