Holy shit… I'm a mom.
I never thought I would ever say those words. Since becoming a mom, I've been adapting to a new "normal." I've been surprised at how simple this has felt in some ways, as I've gotten used to my daily routine. On the other hand, I've also been surprised at how challenging this has been in other ways: resigning from my job, getting used to the loneliness (yet never being alone) that goes along with being at home with an infant. And did I mention lack of sleep?? Luckily, I've had an amazing support system with Brian and our families really pitching in to help. One of the things I have struggled with, is how to continue being outside and doing the things that I love. I have always been a planner and I love having BIG plans in store. My bucket list includes exploring the jungles of Belize and Costa Rica, climbing Kilimanjaro, bagging some 14ers here in CO, skiing Europe and Japan, backpacking Peru and New Zealand and taking a motorcycle trip to Alaska. No problem, right? Except now I have a 12 lb, super-cute tyrant dictating my life. The lofty goals are still there, but I've got to A. figure out how to go on adventures with a mini-me and B. teach a mini-me how to go on adventures and appreciate exploring and trying new things. Enter "microadventures."
I read a blog a while back (which I sadly cannot find again!) about the challenges of going on adventures with kids. The author suggested paring down adventures into smaller, bite-sized chunks for little ones and simply appreciating the joy of being outdoors. A microadventure might be something as simple as a hike to a local lake or camping in your back yard. I have come to absolutely love this idea of microadventures. It seems much more manageable with a little one and it's nice to keep it short enough to have a bail-out option. And honestly, as much as we have to train little River to do things with us, we also have to train ourselves as parents how to get out safely and be prepared for dealing with River in the mountains!
We are starting small and working our way up to bigger and better things. We started with short hikes. We can usually keep River happy (or asleep) for about an hour on hikes. Longer than that and we need to build in breaks for diaper changes, feeding, stretching and just chilling. We took River on his first camping trip at about 2 months old. We didn't plan for the bitter cold night we encountered, but we learned how to keep River warm and happy through the night in a tent and entertained through the day. Having a hammock is pretty key for soothing River when car camping. We also spent the summer working to get River out on the water with a mellow float trip down the Colorado River and a several trips out on the paddleboards this summer. We are embracing microadventures through exploring our own backyard in Summit County. Some of these trips have gone better than others, of course. Our first longer hike with River, down Vail Mountain, resulted in an epic meltdown that extended our hike over an hour and we barely made it back before dark. He got too hot in the carrier and too hungry. Lesson learned: Never push on through a feeding and take breaks to cool off. He also had a huge meltdown on the paddleboard once when I was out with a group of friends. Lesson learned: Plan adventures around naptimes and be ready to bail out from the group if needed. Then there's the time he woke up half the campground, screaming his head off at 2am. Lesson learned: Keep my sleeping bag open for quick and easy access, so I'm not fumbling around in the dark.
Even if it doesn't go perfectly, we learn something every time we go out with River about what he can and can't do and how to make it go more smoothly for all 3 of us. While we aren't summiting mountains any time soon, we ARE getting outside. Even if I have to stop 3 times on a 30-minute run, we are still getting outside. Even if everyone at the boat launch stares at us when River screams about his life jacket, we are still getting outside. We get a little better and can stay out a little longer every time we go out, so we are slowly figuring out how to make adventuring fun for all of us.
My next microadventure is completing at 30-miles in 30-days challenge with Hike It Baby. That challenge should give me tons of practice, in both the stroller and the carrier. We are also planning a family nordic tour to a backcountry yurt this winter. It's a short ski in and we can take short day trips out from the yurt. It's so important to me to foster a love of the outdoors and adventure in little River, so I am embracing the concept of microadventures. Microadventures will grow into big adventures before long!
There are tons of resources out there for getting little ones out on adventures, but these are two of my favorites:
Here's a list of great ideas for microadventures, from the microadventure blog Now on Earth: http://www.nowonearth.com/microadventures/
Tips for taking kids on microadventures, from adventurer Alastair Humphrey's blog: http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/12-tips-for-microadventures-with-children/