Last summer, I was fortunate enough to share an amazing adventure with my wife and 2 kids on the Salmon River in Idaho. What made it amazing, was sharing with my family a passion for what I do and what takes me away from family life at home. For any of us with families, that time together away from the everyday schedules of school and work is special.
We had been planning this trip for a couple of years with a number of friends who I had worked with in Nepal a number of years ago. Far from that fancy free years of our lives, we now had a different focus on our lives, but that didn’t mean we still didn’t yearn for adventure, for us and our kids. With eight kids ranging in age from 5 -13 years old on the trip and 12 adults, we were in for some fun, but also plenty of relaxation. Kids hopped from raft to raft, swam small rapids and with kitchen duties shared, it ensured that the parents got a bit of a break as well. That and amazing story teller Jill, who had the kids hanging on her every word from stories from all over the world. It’s these wonderful people who help us provide amazing role models for our children.
Given the amount of time children can now spend on devices such as iPads and iPhones, you see them really flourish when they actually experience ‘real’ adventure with kids of a similar age. At each camp after the kids had helped unload the rafts, they were off playing in sand and water. They were always going to be happy. On one morning at camp we flipped over a raft and spent the morning running down the sandy beach, sliding on the wet raft floor and into the river. Tell me that doesn’t sound like fun for parents and kids alike! Evenings were spend around the fire telling stories, listening to Paul on the guitar and just lying down under the stars with your family and falling asleep to the gentle sound of the river.
Like all parents, safety was paramount. With a few simple rules like wearing pfds (personal flotation devices) when near the river, adult supervision in the kitchen, it was all very mellow and easy. Like us, our kids also surprised us. Whether it was jumping in and offering to do the dishes or trying inflatable kayaking for the first time, all of the kids (and parents) didn’t want the trip to end!
As I often do when I am on the river, I had plenty of thinking time. One of the aspects of a family trip that really struck me was it empowering the children to analyse and accept ‘risk’. A concept that has almost been taken away from many children but also an important lesson in life skills. We can be warned about everything, from ‘minding the gap’ on the tube in London to watching our step over some rocks on the Zambezi, but empowering children to take those steps, all the while analysing the ‘risk’ to them is a very valuable life skill.
We have had many older children come with their parents to rivers such as the Zambezi, whose season coincides with school holidays and half term. Despite this river having a fearsome reputation, children from 15 years who are confident in water, will be exposed to incredible white water, beauty, beaches and wildlife. Such a trip, we have been told by many parents, is one of the best experiences they have ever had as a family. Although they won’t admit it, your teenagers might even think you are cool! Adventuring as a family is truly special.
by Hamish McMaster
Hamish McMaster is the Water By Nature owner. He has spent the past 25 years exploring and playing on the world's great rivers. He still loves nothing more than getting out there and sharing adventures.
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