Long family road trips, hikes and adventures – it sounds like a childhood out of a storybook. And yeah, it was pretty damn good. But not always.
To set the scene a bit, my parents met cross country skiing, and bonded over a copy of Jon Krakauer’s novel ‘Into Thin Air’. They were both avid hikers and had spent large chunks of time travelling, within Australia and internationally. So as soon as I popped out, I was thrown straight into the Baby Bjorn and indoctrinated into their outdoorsy lifestyle.
When I was eight, we had our first of many big family road trips – six weeks of traipsing around South Australia. We explored national parks, small country towns, and many local bakeries.
I adored the beaches – the salt and the waves, the mysterious rock pools, catching crabs, and doing gymnastics ‘performances’ on the sand. The campsites were fun, especially those with campfires, and I was happy to spend long hours in the car, writing storybooks with my little brother.
But there was one part of these holidays that I couldn’t stand. Walks.
‘I wanted nothing more than to lay in our tent, out of reach of the blood-thirsty mozzies, and devour my latest haul of books from the nearest op-shop.’
Not surprisingly my parents were itching to explore the beautiful surrounds, meaning it was never long before I’d be dragged on yet another walk that seemed no different, and no less boring than the one before.
Mum and Dad got creative when luring my brother Jeremy and I on walks. Their most successful method was the promise of food. An icy pole or chocolate bar waited at the end of most walks, and after really big days we were occasionally treated to a Magnum or Cornetto.
Despite this, these outings often ended in tears.
Why? Because we were regular kids and neither of us liked walks – they were slow and boring, and we much preferred be stick fighting or swimming.
But slowly things changed. My interest in walking was initially piqued when on my first overnight hike to Johnstons Hut, near Falls Creek. Jeremy and I used our school bags as backpacks. We spent hours in front of the campfire, burning pieces of grass. I loved it.
Spurred on by our enthusiasm, a return trip was organised with our cousins, another roaring success that led to a series of overnight adventures, culminating in the five-day Overland Track in Tasmania.
Although I enjoyed these adventures with my cousins, I was happy for them to remain relatively few and far between, and still loved nothing more than spending a whole day indoors, lost in the chapters of a novel.
When I was 11, this all changed.
Abby and I met through our brothers, and spent a day building a cubby house made of sticks. After that, we were essentially stuck to one another, and I had found myself an adventure buddy.
Abby’s enthusiasm for the outdoors and my timely obsession with the Hunger Games saw us spending endless hours exploring the hills behind our homes. We tried snaring rabbits, eating wild plants, and making videos of ourselves shooting bows and arrows. We didn’t have much success, but we did have a great time.
Suddenly hiking was no longer a chore, and instead became something I really enjoyed. Abby and I assimilated into each other’s families, tagging along on as many adventures as we could.
We began making our own plans, day-tripping through the mountains, and signing up for all the outdoor ed camps as we could find. But it wasn’t until we were 16 that we were allowed to do our first proper trip – just the two of us and Abby’s cousin Lucas.
Three nights in the bush. Our adventure began with a 60km uphill ride on mountain bikes, towing our huge hiking packs in a bike trailer, causing us to routinely lose balance. Utterly exhausted, we camped the night at Mountain Creek, before hiking up Mt Bogong the next morning.
Throughout this adventure, we tried our absolute best to make as many mistakes as possible.
‘We used butter and pancake mix that was collectively eight years out of date, chopped wood in bare feet, slept under a tarp on the ground that left our sleeping bags sopping, and ate largely undercooked veggies and pasta for meals. It was so much fun.’
When you grow up with adventure parents, there often isn’t room to make mistakes. Hike rations were weighed to the gram, our packs filled efficiently with everything we needed – nothing more, nothing less.
There were watchful eyes making sure we lit the fire properly and didn’t burn ourselves in the process. While I was taught how to do things properly, it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to make my own mistakes that I could truly appreciate the fun that could come from spending time in nature.
My parents gave me the skills to adventure in the outdoors, and for that, I am so incredibly grateful. Yet it was finding a like-minded pal to go exploring with, to make mistakes and memories with, that really cemented my love for the wilderness.
Thank you, Mum and Dad, for dragging me along on your adventures. Thank you for inspiring me to explore this crazy world in all her beauty. Thank you for raising me as an adventure baby.