My Eritrean friend looked at me for a long time and then said, “Only white people do crazy things.” Well, that’s up for debate, but I had just told him that in addition to going backpacking the coming weekend with my 12 year old daughter, my 14 year old son would be backpacking by himself. To my friend who had grown up in war torn Eritrea, doing anything “dangerous” by choice was crazy. Rock climbing, backpacking, sky diving…these things that “white people” do for no reason and yet endanger us were beyond his understanding.
After a couple fabulous days in Seattle, we had jumped the Puget Sound and were on Hwy 101. We would essentially follow it for over 1,000 miles to San Francisco with lots of planned and unplanned stops along the way. Always make unplanned stops. Spontaneity really ramps up the travel experience.
Backpacking with kids is immensely rewarding. For me and for them. I encourage anyone with kids to try it. Start them young, start them slow. And know their limitations. But don’t be scared. They can do so much more than you think. So can you.
I have backpacked with my kids dozens of times, and never once with another adult, or a man, or a gun, or cell service. Sure things go wrong. But no one is going to get eaten by a bear or fall off a cliff. Overcoming the inevitable mishaps is part of the journey. And the confidence gained by accomplishing, conquering, and persevering is lifelong.