When we travel with our families, it’s easy as parents to get caught up in the logistics of making it a vacation to remember. Go here. Do this. Eat that. Shoot video. Facebook about it all to your friends. Rinse, repeat. And so on.
Sometimes, however, the best way to appreciate your handiwork is to sit back and let your kids take from the trips what they want. You might be surprised by what they latch on to.
I was reminded of this recently on an “outdoor adventure” with my girls. It was at a local park, not far from our Northern California home, but we had made a big deal about spending a day hiking, and built the entire morning around the process of making lunches, packing up the backpack and dressing for a day in the wilderness.
At first, the day played out like any other hiking trip—baby on my back, doing her best groaning Sasquatch impression; toddler up ahead, owning the trail like an ultra-marathoner ten times her age.
Then, suddenly, the Big Girl stopped short, and looked up, and stared.
One minute passed, then another. After the third minute, I asked her what she was looking at. Her response: “That hole of blue through the trees, Daddy. It’s peeking. It’s pretty.”
For the rest of the afternoon, no matter how many oak trees and flowers and ferns and beetles we saw, all she talked about was that hole of blue. That night, when her mother asked about our adventure, only the hole of blue made the cut. We drew pictures to detail our experience, and hers was—you guessed it—a hole of blue. It was as if nothing else on the hike even registered.
The lesson, of course, is simple: Once you’ve put your kids in a new environment, get the hell out of the way.
The best part of family travel is putting children in situations to experience new sights and sounds and flavors for themselves. Sure, you can guide where they go from there. But seeing where they take themselves often is more fulfilling for everyone involved.