When you look back at your life, can you pinpoint what made you the adventure lover you are today? Did your parents take you on overseas trips, instilling in you a love of travel and exploring other cultures? Did your brothers treat their little sister as one of them, including you in their tree-climbing and camping expeditions? Your experiences when growing up probably played a big part in influencing the ways you see the world and the things you like to do as an adult, and having a childhood full of a variety of experiences and challenges is both exciting and character-building. With that in mind, what are the best ways to foster a spirit of adventure in children?
What does the word adventure mean to you? It could be hiking through the Himalayas, or it could be visiting a Michelin starred restaurant for the first time. Both will be unforgettable, full of the wonder of the new, and experiences that will educate the mind and enrich the soul. So hiking and dining would both qualify according to that definition. The essence of adventure is to experience something different and unknown, to do things you have never tried before, and may not even be sure you’ll like. There can be an element of danger to some adventures, but danger is not a prerequisite of adventure. The idea of a psychological comfort zone that we build around ourselves to protect us from real or imagined harm has taken hold over recent years and is a concept often referred to when talking about challenging ourselves and achieving our goals in spite of our fears. Going on an adventure requires you to push through your comfort zone into a place where you may be putting yourself at risk, in the hope that you will instead find exhilaration and enjoyment. The risk could be that you will end up on a Nepalese Yeti’s supper plate, or you’ll waste a week’s wages eating tiny amounts of over-rated weeds and sous vide goat’s liver. Very different kinds of risk, but the adventurous know that there’s also a probability that you will feel exhilarated by the awe-inspiring majesty of Everest and the thrill of achievement when you complete the hike, or that your taste buds will explode with pleasure at the extraordinary taste sensations of a fine dining experience.
The dangers of adventurousness
There are countless news reports and feature articles discussing the over-zealous approach to health and safety in modern society. Many’s the cry of “It was better in our day!” when kids were allowed to play near abandoned mines, be out after sunset without an adult and cycle on busy roads with no helmet. There might have been more freedom in some respects, but there was also more danger. Parents are naturally protective of their offspring and want to keep them safe, but need to be careful not to over-protect them to the extent that they are unable to cope with adversity and are unprepared for the challenges life will inevitably throw at them. The best approach is to follow a median path between the two extremes – take good care of your child and don’t expose them to unnecessary or avoidable dangers, but encourage them to get stuck into life and all the wonderful experiences there are to be had.
Thinking back to your childhood, try and emulate your parents’ approach to raising you that enabled you to foster a sense of wonder and interest in the world. Take your child traveling as much as you can, to as many different places as you are able. If you can’t travel overseas very often, visit museums and exhibitions that will give your child a taste of what it’s like to live in sub-Saharan Africa or the Steppes of Russia. Get your child involved in after-school clubs, especially Guides and Scouts, where they will get involved in a variety of exciting and educational activities. Summer camps are a rite of passage for American children, and there are many excellent camps where kids can engage in outdoor activities in beautiful rural surroundings. They can go climbing, camping, orienteering, swimming, learn to build shelters and make campfires, and live in a totally different environment away from their familiar home and family. Camp is not just for the summer either, for example, your child could attend TAC Sports March Break programs.
Adventures at home
You can’t always be taking your child to special events and exotic locations, so think about what you can do at home on a regular basis to nurture their curiosity. There are online resources and TV shows that can open up whole new worlds to children, and no shortage of channels and services devoted to exploring the rich variety of life on the planet. Projects that can be done together in the evenings and weekends can cover all sorts of new and exciting topics, from fashion shows to building robots, and are a great opportunity to spend time with your child as well. Walks and cycle rides exploring new territories and landscapes, nature trails and wildlife watching; all encourage children to look at the world in new ways and be aware that there is more to life than screen time.
Your role as a parent is to love, care for, protect and educate your children, preparing them for life in the adult world. It’s easy for this role to go a bit too far and for parents to want to control their children and direct them on certain career paths or into lives they see as being most fitting. If you want your child to be themselves and be happy more than you want to be able to boast about how successful they are to your social circle, you need to let them express themselves and find their own voice as they grow up. Show them as much as you can and talk to them about anything and everything, but let them find their own path and start to look for their own adventures.