On Adventure Traveling: Family Edition

On Adventure Traveling: Family Edition

Sitting here now over a month after being home from our epic Hawaii trip, I can’t help but feel a bit of the same melancholy I felt five years ago at the end of our New Zealand trip, as there were quite a few parallels between coming home from that trip and this one. Both involved really rather epic travel itineraries that included long, overnight layovers in California. Both involved a lot of moving around, in a way Ariel and I had not experienced since we went to Alaska the same year as New Zealand. Both involved the completion of a long term main quest priority, getting to see “Middle Earth” in person vs finally getting to my 50th state.

And even though our traveling party was much larger than our New Zealand trip, my dad and Jacob were really on-board with our adventuring lifestyle. Of course it helped that we were staying in very nice accommodations at the end of the day, as opposed to whatever was on the way, but we still had some very very packed days – and Jacob was really a champ about it, in a way that we could not have relied on in advance. Now we know – he truly is a Kapoano.

Jacob really came into his own on this trip, making it much easier for us all to do more adventure-style things than we had since before he was born.

That’s actually probably the feeling I most felt in common with New Zealand. When Ariel and I visited Mount Sunday, we stood at the top of what looked like Edoras from the Lord of the Rings films. In that moment, surrounded by the incredible fantasy-like landscape, 10,000 miles from home, after mastering driving on the “wrong” side of the road, having hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, it felt – to me at least – that we had reached the peak of our traveling prowess. We could do anything. After about a decade of part-time adventure travel, I felt like I had mastered the genre… AND that I had the right partner for it.

Not quite the top of Edoras, but here we were, as a family, at another major film location.

Perhaps ironically, we reached that peak right at a time when I knew our adventure travel days would be numbered, at least temporarily. And so they were, as the following year we had Jacob, and our ability to spread our wings, going to far-flung places all over the world was quite curtailed by having a newborn to raise.

I had a similar feeling standing on the side of the Piilani Highway, taking in the incredible sights, once I realized we had gotten past the difficult portion of it. Jacob was sleeping in the car, Ariel was with him, my dad was taking pictures off to the side, and I was just standing in the wind on the edge of a cliff. I just took a deep breath and had this moment of immense satisfaction, like for the first time in five years I was finally back where I wanted to be. The knowledge that we are able to do this again, now as parents – with our amazing son – made me feel like we had reached a new height in our adventuring career.

I had the perfect partner, and after five years we had another member of our travel party who not only was along for the adventure – he actually contributed to it in ways we couldn’t expect.

Finally we can pick up where we left off, but instead of feeling like I missed out on five years, I feel like we are actually better off now than we were then.

My amazing travel partners.

It also helps that we went on a bunch of mini-adventures over those years with Jacob, starting pretty much as soon as he got his shots. This had the effect of getting him used to the idea of plane travel, airports, sleeping in strange beds, seeing strange sights, from when he was not even 5 months old. It also went a long way to scratching my own itch of needing to get out and see new places. One of the worst parts of the pandemic for me, was being confined to the East Coast, and mostly just the tri-state area. I do love the forests – I really do – but I would often quote Bilbo to Ariel when he said “I want to see mountains again Gandalf, mountains!” And I’m sorry to say, what we have within an 8-hour drive of NJ, can hardly be called “mountains”. Like the Shire, we have wonderful forests galore, but our “peaks” are rounded, glorified hills.

And while it is true that having a child meant making some sacrifices. For example, we weren’t able to visit Volcanoes National Park, which effectively ruled out visiting the Big Island – one of the main things I wanted to do in Hawaii. But so what? In exchange for that, I got to see my son dancing to a luau, and got to take a selfie with him above the clouds in Haleakala. The Big Island isn’t going anywhere (well technically it is, but VERY slowly), we’ll go back when he’s older.

Not to be overlooked – bringing a grandparent along when you’re going somewhere with a kid is pretty clutch. Built in babysitter!

Now we are looking forward to our next trip, likely to Iceland to see some real mountains, finally. We don’t have time for a 2+ week experience, but as a relatively short getaway it seems like the perfect opportunity to put our newly upgraded team (minus my dad this time) to the test again.

The question on my mind now is, will that moment on the Maui coast end up being like our moment on Edoras? Have we reached our high-water mark again for a while? How long will this newly-cohesive family adventuring unit continue on?

Not exactly Carlsbad Caverns, but maybe one day I’ll go there with Jacob like I did with Ariel?

While I can’t be sure if this is to be our last hurrah for a while like 2017 was, what I do know is that having our son along for the ride now is one of the greatest joys I’ve ever experienced. And I know that if we can do it, so can anyone. Adventure travel doesn’t need to stop when you’re a parent – it doesn’t even need to only be limited to you and your partner. With some effort and practice, you can certainly bring your kids along to the most special moments in your lives – and having them with you will actually make them better.

Just make sure they’re ok with dealing with airports and the various travel annoyances, because… there’s no getting around that…

When I first started traveling on my own, I thought there was no better way to do it. The freedom. The not having to answer to anyone. Then I met Ariel and found out she complimented me in ways I could never imagine.

Now we have Jacob and he brings a whole new perspective to our traveling party. I never would have thought, standing alone on the prairie, over a decade ago that I would actually WANT a child to come with me on one of these trips. And sure, it’s nice sometimes to think about going off on our own without having to account for his needs.

But just like the time I went off on my own without Ariel, it just would be the same without him!

So that’s it, our adventure party officially has three members.

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