The Family Travel Association has assembled a remarkable family-travel brain trust to guide our development – advisors on our board and other councillors, members and partners with many years of travel thought-leadership. Over the coming weeks and months, we will share a bounty of wisdom from their decades of advocacy for and hands-on practice in family travel.
Following our inaugural piece by Keith Bellows, Emeritus Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic Travel, this week the spotlight turns to Kyle McCarthy, Member of the FTA Board and Editor of Family Travel Forum, as she examines the parenting of everything.
Forty-four per cent of American households camp regularly was the statistic that may have startled me most at a recent presentation of “Outdoor Hospitality Trends” by Kampgrounds of America (KOA).
As camping has always been associated with my greatest travel adventures, sense memories swirled through my head. I could feel the pressure on my finger as I nervously traced a tent shape in the sand for the Syrian goatherd who found me hiking one morning and wondered where I had come from. A nomad, he too had traced a triangle for his home. We laughed trying to pronounce each other’s names and had tea by his campfire.
My new husband and I had hiked hut-to-hut in the Presidential Range of New Hampshire, getting to know each other’s footfalls and pace. I could hear our son giggling in his backpack at the elk we saw from the trail at Point Reyes National Seashore in California, feel his squirming butt in between our zipped-together sleeping bags as he tried to settle in for the night.
Life in the outdoors, like the travel it takes to get there, is work. We learn to do more with less, conserve our resources, be flexible in our expectations, be grateful for whatever “home” we return to. We parent nature, protecting what we love and giving back to nourish it.
Family travel, like being in the outdoors, awakens every sense, introduces new ideas, teaches right from wrong, broadens the mind and heart to welcome all fellow beings. Travel is the empathy of everything and the understanding of – maybe not everything – but the recognition of how important understanding is to a family life.
And with that, I reminded myself how hard it was to get our son outdoors, away from a screen, as he grew older. How parenting became diplomacy, leading the way for a million personalities wrapped in a small frame; how we learn to accept aspects of everything that surprises us in our children. The outdoors is more constant; it never fails to embrace us whenever we embrace it.
KOA’s survey found that 55 per cent of today’s campers are multigenerational groups. Just as camping has grown to include multi-million-dollar RVs side by side with Gortex tents and sleeping in minivans, play in the outdoors has become precious, whether it’s at the local playground or in the Himalayas.
Will our son be a glamper – someone who books the fully stocked cabin with ensuite bathroom and laughs at the muddy young children peering out of tents? Only time will tell.
Being outdoors and travel ignite curiosity, change us, help us grow. On each trip, a new version of our offspring emerges, one we get to know better and appreciate more, a fellow traveler with his own insights and role in helping make the world a better place.
That is the magic of family travel; it is the parenting of everything, one and the same journey in life.
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