A group of four British women, ranging in age from 59 to 72, have been ticking off the world’s most famous adventure travel destinations. The foursome, who call themselves the “Ladies with Altitude” are featured on the BBC program - Fast:track - and are part of what is statistically our culture’s traveling-est age group.
People over 50 now account for more than half of tourism spending. As one of the ladies explains, “When you reach a certain age, I think you suddenly feel like you need to cram a few things in.”
The financial success many of the the baby boomer generation have enjoyed is part of the reason for the explosion of older travelers, but on BBC correspondent explains that another reason is that the baby boomer generation didn’t travel as much when they were younger as people do today. Taking time off before college, or traveling after college before settling down is accepted today as normal, even encouraged by many parents and educators.
One of the Ladies with Altitude said, “Everywhere we go, we meet people our age, and it’s absolutely brilliant!”
And another added, “I want to see as much of it as I can, while I can, while I’m still fit.”
The correspondent explained, “They don’t just do sun and sand holidays, they really want to go places, to explore and see the world.”
Here at CMH Summer Adventures, the enthusiasm many older travelers have for adventure is no surprise, nor is it really new. Since the 70s, we’ve been hosting adventure travelers of all ages, but older travelers are the ones who encouraged us to begin heli-hiking and develop a comfortable and relaxing mountain adventure program that is not available anywhere else in the world.
In recent years we’ve tailored our programs to appeal to younger Generation-X travelers, with via ferratas, glacier treks, and adventure trails that include ziplines and other safe but adrenaline-inducing fun, but the core of CMH Summer Adventures has always been perfectly suited for older travelers who want the adventure without the discomfort.
The surprising thing at CMH Summer Advenures is not so much that older travelers like adventure, but that the adventures we design for younger travelers, like the via ferrata, end up being a highlight for older travelers as well. And the adventures we designed for older travelers, like heli-hiking, have become popular among younger travelers thanks to the helicopter providing complete immersion in alpine beauty without the crowds, dusty trails, parking lots, and tourist towns.
In many ways, CMH Summer Adventures is where the generation gap disappears. It’s where grandparents and grandchildren, parents and kids, can - and do - share common adventures and return home with common memories of the best times of their lives.
Calling all families! Wanting your kids to turn off the television, shut off the x-box and step into nature’s ultimate playground? CMH Summer Adventures is offering family focused heli-hiking trips consisting of a three day escape into Canada’s pristine alpine meadows. Experience untouched wilderness feet-first in the Canadian Rockies.
With ‘nature deficit disorder’ on the rise in children, their mental and physical health is at stake. A CMH Family Adventure means you and your kids can have fun and stay active, while being completely immersed in the great outdoors. From sliding down snow-covered hills, to dipping toes in glacier fed lakes, there is no shortage of excitement. Guaranteeing big grins and glowing faces, our CMH Family Adventure leaders ensure each child is experiencing an engaging and educational trip. By incorporating games and activities throughout the day, your child will see nature in a new light. Family trips aren’t just for the youngsters. Teenagers, and those with a penchant for adrenalin, will have the opportunity to zip-line across river gorges; traverse a two story tree-top ropes course; rope up for some glacier trekking; or clip in to a via ferrata and summit a mountain peak.
If breathtaking mountain views, carpets of glacier lilies, and the tranquility of the atmosphere aren’t enough to fill your imagination, think of the quality time you will enjoy as you embark on this exceptional adventure together. You and your family will unwind, spend time exploring the land, connect with nature and create memories to last a lifetime.
CMH Family Adventures are available at both the Bobbie Burns (July 24 - 27 and August 8 – 11) and Bugaboos (July 27 - 30 and August 11 – 14). So put down the cell phone, pull up your hiking socks, and head outdoors this summer for a family adventure of a lifetime.
To learn more about CMH Family Adventures give us a call at 1-800-661-0252 or visit www.cmhsummer.com. Nature’s playground awaits.
“No screens,” he said bluntly.
“What?” I replied.
With young children of my own, I had asked a friend of mine, Michael, who works as a “life coach” helping adolescents and their parents, what he felt was the biggest issue for families these days.
Michael didn’t even pause before explaining himself: “Keep them away from screens as long as you can. For some reason, kids don’t do well processing their world through computer screens - of all sorts. The feedback is too fragmented and they don’t learn to work through issues.”
His words have stayed with me, but I don’t know what to do about them. The advantages of a digitally connected family are obvious. I want to know where my kids are, if they change plans, if there’s a problem, and if they want to get ahold of me. I also see that the modern world orbits around a touch screen to the point of overcrowding the available bandwidth; and families, already a threatened institution in the western world, don’t need another reason to avoid spending time together.
I want my kids to use technology, but I don’t want it to stunt their interpersonal skills. I hope they’ll learn to filter the buckets of worthless information online from the golden kernels of learning, opportunity, and self-improvement. I don’t want to hide them from the world, but I don’t want to have a text-based relationship with them either.
I know I’m not alone. I’d guess many parents are in a similar quandary.
My only strategy is this: immersion in nature at every opportunity. For me, the natural world - be it going fishing, or hiking up a spectacular mountain ridge - makes the screen-based parts of life seem incredibly shallow. When you’re surrounded by 365 degrees of natural stimulation tickling every sense known to man, suddenly a palm-sized touch screen seems like a pretty insignificant window on the world.
A progressive school in the United States, featured in Richard Louv’s bestselling book Last Child in the Woods, intentionally avoids computer-based school work until high school. The school gives them a break from, as Louv explians, “the electronic impulses coming at them all the time, so their sensory abilities are more open to what is happening naturally around them.”
The specifics don’t seem so important. Be it an unforgettable guided mountain adenture, or just playing catch in the nearest park, the natural world offers something that the computer world doesn’t even come close to providing.
Computers are great. My wife and I use them every day. Our kids like them too. I don’t plan to lock up my screens, but I do plan to give them every opportunity to see that the sweetest experiences the world has to offer don’t come from a computer screen.
What do you think? Are screens getting in the way of your relationship with your children?
Photo of teens finding their own bandwidth on a CMH Summer Adventure.
It all sounds good in the advertising, but precious few family holidays could really be classified as "perfect". Here are 5 qualities you'll find in the perfect active family vacation:
1. Easy Planning and Logistics
While complicated, challenging family vacations can be good for building character and making for long-lasting memories, they also can be far more stressful and exhausting than just staying home. In this complicated modern world, you don’t want to return home form the holidays feeling like you need a holiday.
Instead, the nicest holidays are the ones where you make a single call, catch a flight, and the rest is taken care of by leisure-time professionals who make your vacation a healing, refreshing, exciting, easy time from the first to the last second of the experience.
2. Intimate times together
While many family vacation packages provide kid activities for the kids, and adult activities for the adults, but not much for the whole family to experience together and with shared enthusiasm and excitement.
The mountain environment, especially when managed by professionals with decades of experience, is an ideal setting for families to have a common experience, complete with challenges, breakthroughs, relaxation, beauty, isolation, and personal growth for everyone.
3. Memorable times apart
Everyone in the family needs a little of their own space as well as intimate times together. The best holidays provide chances for the adults, teenagers, grandparents and young children to spend time on their own age group’s ideal activities, exercise, conversation, food, drinks, and atmosphere.
The perfect family holiday offers challenges for whoever wants it, peaceful respite from the daily grind for whoever needs it, and an inspiring life experience for everyone.
4. Excellent food
The best meal for an 11-year-old is very different from the best meal for a 40-year-old. The ideal meal plan on a family holiday would provide a breakfast of cereal for the children and eggs benedict for the parents; a lunch of PB&J for the kids and Thai chicken wraps for the parents; and a dinner of pizza for the kids and Cordon Bleau for the adults - all with personal consultation to make sure everyone gets the right kind of culinary experience.
5. Safe adventures for everyone
We tend to think of incredibly thrilling experiences as being potentially dangerous, and therefore not appropriate for the whole family. While this may be true in some cases, the best holiday is both exciting and safe, giving everyone in the family an experience they will remember fondly for the rest of their lives and sending them home safe and in better health than before they left.
I challenge anyone to find a family travel package that fulfills these 5 aspects of a perfect family holiday better than a CMH Family Adventure. Every family I’ve ever met at CMH has unequivocally stated that the CMH Family Adventure was by far their best family adventure travel experience ever. Still need convincing, watch this video on CMH's Family Adventure program.
Photos of CMH Family Adventures in the Bugaboos and Bobbie Burns by Topher Donahue.
Spending time in the natural world gives kids a powerful tool they can take with them for the rest of their lives - a sort of personal barometer that uses life’s pressure’s to sense the storms before they arrive.
After paying my dues as an outdoor educator, a climbing guide, and a father, here’s a quartet of the rewards I’ve seen kids reap from spending intimate time with nature:
1. Overcoming seemingly impossible challenges. Sure, every student encounters personality conflicts or challenging assignments, but the very structure of school is to present students with bite-sized steps that will result in an education. Even extra-curricular activities and sports present challenges that are designed precisely for the age, size, and strengths of a given child.
During outdoor activities, on the other hand, the goal can be overwhelming. Hiking up a long mountain ridge is a perfect example. You start out, and within a short time you are out of breath, your legs are tired, and you look up to see the summit appears even farther away than it did from the start! All your internal calculators then come to the same conclusion: we’ll never make it. Yet somehow, hours later, you do make it. Mountain sports provide an incomparable cycle of facing the impossible and ultimately finding success.
2. Interpersonal conflict never pays. In school, conflict often ends in a no-win scenario of who’s right, who’s wrong or who’s in charge.
In the mountains, it is painfully clear that everyone is on the same team, and conflict will obviously not help anyone, so even very young children realize that conflict almost never results in a solution. Who are you going to get mad at, the mountain?
3. Results and challenges are not always measurable. In school, we take tests and get grades, play games and either win or lose, attend class and progress to the next grade.
When outdoors, one part of an adventure gives you an indefinable, indescribable, incalculable ability to take on the next part. For example, on a hike you approach a hill that looks nearly vertical from a distance, but once you are on the hill you realize the hill is not vertical after all, the footing is secure, and hiking up it is perfectly reasonable. Then when approaching the next hill, an even bigger and steeper one, you have the experience from the previous hill to draw from and you know that, even though you’ve never seen this particular challenge before, that it will likely be a more reasonable challenge than it appears from a distance.
4. Complaining doesn’t solve problems. Some students (and parents for that matter) learn to use general complaints as a way to work the system without actually facing the root cause of a problem.
Let’s say you are on a world-class hike in the Canadian Rockies with a mountain guide and your heels are beginning to hurt from a new pair of boots you just bought before the trip. The problem solving method would be to tell the guide, “my heels are hurting.” The guide stops, pads your heels, the problem is solved, and you continue hiking through some of the world’s most spectacular mountains. If you complain without solving the problem, your feet hurt more and you have less fun.
As one experienced parent said, "Complaining doesn't make the weather better, the trail shorter or the food magically appear."
At the heart of many legendary outdoor programs, including NOLS, Outward Bound, and our own CMH Family Adventures, is a quest to give kids and young people the opportunity to learn from the outdoors in a fun, safe, professionally managed environment. While our CMH Family Adventures are primarily a memorable and fun holiday for the the entire family rather than a traditional outdoor education program, the mountains are still great teachers and most kids leave the CMH Lodges with a whole new respect for their world and their own family.
Photo of sibling interaction, during a week in at CMH Bugaboos when every parent and child in the lodge had the best trip of their lives, by Topher Donahue.
With four year old twins, an insatiable appetite for outdoor adventure, and a camera in my pocket most of the time, I’ve discovered a few key aspects of photographing kids to avoid burning them out on either outdoor adventure or having a photographer for a father - as well as getting better photos.
One: Keep it with you! This is the hardest one of all. If you don’t have a camera, you’ll never get a good photo. I get asked all the time, “Which camera should I buy?” and the answer I always give is, “The one you’ll carry with you.”
These days point and shoot cameras are so good that I often leave my D-SLR at home when I’m just playing with the family. Instead I stick a Canon S95 in my pocket. The little camera is insanely good, and even has a ring on the lens that feels like an old-school aperture ring that appeals to my pro photographer tendencies, but can be customized for different purposes - or ignored in the auto setting if you don’t want to deal with it. Even the newest iPhone sports an 8mp camera. My stock agency, Aurora Photos, recently started accepting camera phone photos. Sure, D-SLRs take better photos, but point and shoot photos are better than no photos at all.
Two: Get down and turn on your flash. Kids have big heads and are really short. If you stand up to shoot, they end up looking like popsicles. I take many shots of my kids without my even looking at the camera. Instead holding the camera low while playing with them and shoot blind. Sure, I get lots of poorly framed photos, but the ones that work are unposed, the kids are playing hard rather than making ridiculous faces at the camera, and they often don’t realize I’m even taking their photo. The flash will add light to the shadowy areas and make the difference between an ok photo and a great photo.
Three: Get outside. Every chance you get. This is the most important one of all. Get out for both little local adventures as well as family-friendly adventure travel. Not only will your kids suffer less of the nature deficit disorder that Richard Louv writes about, but you’ll have more chances to get photos with nice light, spectacular settings and happy kids. My kids have graced the cover of the Patagonia catalog, but the vast majority of my kid photos have something wrong with them: boogers on the cheek, fashion chosen by a grumpy four year old, bed-head hairdos. But it doesn’t matter. These photos are for me and my family, not a photo editor or the fashion police.
Four: Back them up. Store your photos on duplicate hard drives, with an online photo service, or both. If you’re leaving your family photos on your computer, or even on a single hard drive, you’re inviting disaster. Hard drives are so cheap these days that there is no excuse for having only a single copy of your images. I store a hard drive outside of my house so even if my house burns down I will still have my photos.
The ultimate trip for family adventure photography is a family adventure in Canada with CMH Summer Adventures. Just imagine painless access to some of North Americas most beautiful and remote mountains with professionals taking care of the details...
Getting kids out the door is never easy. I have four year old twins, and when we go anywhere we are at best a slow moving rodeo.
Going on a hike, while simultaneously managing the rodeo, borders on the ridiculous. But once we’re out there, the twins have the best time imaginable and always seem to come back a little stronger, smarter, and more confident in their world.
I’m always asking other parents for any tricks they use to get the most out of family hikes. Here are four of the best tricks I’ve heard about, and the pros and cons of each one:
1. Leave Skittles, M&Ms or other treats along the trail and make the whole outing into a scavenger hunt for candy.
- Really exciting for the kids.
- Makes the miles pass easily.
- Keeps the kid’s blood sugar up.
- The inevitable blood sugar crash.
- Getting back to the trailhead after the crash.
- The dental work.
2. Go off the trail and hike in a big (or small) circle around your vehicle so you are never far from it.
- Easy retreat when the hike is no longer fun for the kids.
- By hiking in a loop, the scenery is always new.
- Getting off the trail lets the kids explore.
- Off trail hiking can get rough – pick the right area.
- Getting lost – you don’t want to tell that story to your spouse.
- You’ll feel like you’re getting nowhere – not easy for the goal-oriented parent.
3. Let the kids lead.
- The kids learn to pace themselves.
- Increases the sense of discovery.
- They taste the freedom and responsibility of leadership.
- You’ll be stopping more than hiking – but it’s also good for parents to slow down, pet the flowers and smell the elk.
- Dirty knees – they’ll have you crawling around looking at every bug in the woods.
- You won’t stay on the trail for long – forget about making it all the way to Expectation Falls.
4. Go heli-hiking on a CMH Family Adventure.
- There is always an easy way out (think twin engine jet helicopter) when it’s not fun anymore.
- Lots of other kids for hiking and playing inspiration.
- Professional guides to make sure your adventure is just right for the entire family.
- Your kids will think hiking is always going to be the most fun thing they’ve ever done.
- Going back to the real world after the best family vacation ever.
- Trying to think of an even better family trip the following year.
Do you have any tricks for getting kids out on the trails, into the wilderness, and away from their playstations, cell phones, and televisions?
Last summer, on the Bugaboos helipad, I met a family of 10 from Toronto representing four generations on their way to share a CMH Summer Adventure. The youngest, Cooper, was not quite two years old, and the oldest, Helen, was 90 years old. Afterwards, I tracked down three women from the family to find out how the trip went for everyone. Helen Pattison, Barbara Hepburn, and Sarah Hepburn-Smith all took time to share the experience of having a family adventure with four generations.
TD: What made you decide to go to the Bugaboos?
Barbara: My husband and I were looking for a special way to celebrate my 60th birthday. I didn’t want a big party – what I really wanted to do was something special with my family; my husband, three daughters, three sons-in-laws, 3 grandchildren and my mother. My husband and I love hiking, so we all decided that we would like to go hiking to celebrate.
But what kind of hike can you do with three children and a 90-year-old? So I went to my computer and started to “google” and the CMH Family Adventure came up! It seemed perfect…an adventure we could all share.
TD: Can you tell me about the most unexpected part of the experience?
Barbara: The sheer thrill of riding in a helicopter over some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, as well as the comfort and beauty of the lodge. The accommodation was better than I thought it would be.
Helen: The wonderful staff took me to the top of a mountain for a picnic lunch. It was so enjoyable to see the hikers go by and sit and enjoy the scenery. They even thought of bringing lawn chairs for us to sit on!
Sarah: There are two things that were unexpected.
- First, I knew that I would enjoy the hiking but I had no idea what a high it would be. I felt as if I was on top of the world and that I could conquer anything. It's been a motivator since I've been home to capture that feeling in everyday life and remember how good I felt.
- The second unexpected part of the trip was the overwhelming feeling when I watched my two older kids take part in the kids program. It was as though they grew up before my eyes. The first full day of hiking we were on the helicopter departure just ahead of the kids group so they waved us off as we took off in the air - I was overcome with emotion at the idea of leaving two of my babies behind to go off on their own adventure. I had the same feeling again on our last day of hiking when we saw their helicopter land and watched all the kids get out with their guides and start off on their hike. They did it themselves and loved every minute of it.
TD: What was the highlight of the experience for you?
Barbara: There were so many…
- Having my whole family share such a special experience with me- seeing everyone’s faces on that first helicopter ride is an image that will stay with me for a long time!
- The opportunity to talk and walk with each family member.
- The beauty and the majesty of the mountains…what a privilege.
- Bum sliding, boot skiing, seeing and learning about the mountain flowers.
- Helicopter rides and sitting in the front seat!
- Friendly, knowledgeable guides and staff.
- Great food.
- Wonderful kids program that kept the 5-year-old grandchildren busy and happy thus making their parents and grandparents happy!
- Being with all my family in such a beautiful place.
- Seeing the full moon rise over the Bugaboo spires and stream into my room.
- The wonderful people who work at CMH
- The great food.
Sarah: Having four generations in a remote mountain lodge for three days was pretty amazing. What was even more amazing is how happy and engaged everyone was. Nobody was tired, in a bad mood or worrying about work or other everyday life challenges. We were all there together for the hiking and the mountains and we enjoyed every minute together.
TD: Of all your family trips together, how does this one compare?
Barbara: This was a trip of a lifetime!
Helen: At the top of the list!
Sarah: We have been very fortunate to take some great trips together but this was the best one hands down. What made it so special is that there weren't any distractions. We weren't in a city or town where the group could break up and do their own thing at times. It made a huge difference in the amount of time we spent together.
TD: For a family who is thinking of a CMH Summer Adventure, do you have any advice?
Barbara: No advice…just enjoy.
Helen: Go and enjoy – you won’t be disappointed.
Sarah: Go for it. It will be the best thing you have ever done. When we started looking at this trip I was worried that the age of my kids would be prohibitive. I needn't have worried. CMH thinks of everything from making a special meal for Cooper, to playpens, to kids-sized hiking books.
And I loved being able to have an adult dinner while the older kids were involved in an evening program. I would put Cooper to bed at 6:45 and then join the other adults for dinner - as a mother of three small kids, being able to eat and talk without interruption was divine!
Have more questions about a CMH Summer Adventure? Give us a call at 1 800 661 0252.
By now, everyone has heard of 16-year-old Abby Sunderland’s effort to sail around the world and 13-year-old Jordan Romero climbing Mt. Everest. Blogs, talk shows, and print media are buzzing with criticism and praise for the teen adventurers. It is easy to see both sides of the controversy.
On one hand, the effects of isolation on the sea and the lack of oxygen at altitude on the developing teen brain are not well understood. The parents who publicize these children’s efforts appear to be capitalizing on their children’s risk taking.
On the other hand, teens are capable of so much more than our culture gives them credit for. The very shelter we smother them with might also be stunting their growth and causing issues in other ways. By the time most kids from developed nations are teens, they will have spent as much time in front of the television as Abby has spent in a boat and Jordan has spent wearing boots.
One could argue that the expense of Sunderland’s rescue was unnecessary. Another could argue that the expense we’ll bear in the future, in the form of health problems caused from a diet of junk food compounded by an Xbox lifestyle, will dwarf the cost of any ocean rescue.
Some have said that Abby Sunderland’s parents should be tried for child abuse. It could just as easily be argued that any parent who uses the television as a baby sitter should face the same charges.
Kids doing exceptional and controversial things are nothing new, but we’re in the infantile stages of reality television, social media, and blogs like this one. My hope is that our wickedly powerful, but still painfully clumsy, modern media machine will not stifle these kinds of ambitions. Kids need to have the freedom to pursue their dreams without the keyboard pundits tossing anonymous rants at them. When a teen goes too far, like the 13-year-old Dutch sailor recently blocked from a solo voyage, authorities step in with or without our rants.
For most teens, the best approach lies somewhere in between. Encourage teens to pursue a bit of outdoor adventure - with professional training when needed - like sailing, surfing, mountain biking, climbing, skiing or hiking. Encourage them to avoid the all-too-common sedentary lifestyle that young bodies and minds were never meant to live. The real issue here is not the few kids who are pushing the limits of adventure, it’s the millions who have never tasted adventure at all.
I just read one of those books that could change the world. Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv, is a best seller of such magnitude that its implications will send ripples through families, universities, and - hopefully - our entire culture.
In it, Louv coins the term “nature deficit disorder”, and gives the reader a shocking view into the wide range of issues today’s children face and how many of the issues can be blamed – at least in part - on how little direct contact with nature they have compared to earlier generations. The book opens the floodgates of contemporary studies that are in the process of proving that our electronic, indoor, hyper-compartmentalized lifestyles are liable for issues including ADHD and obesity – and that time in the natural world has therapeutic potential to help with the very same issues.
The other day I watched my twin three-year-olds grow hyper and irritable as a spring snowstorm prevented even a short play in the garden. It seemed obvious that the time outside was crucial to their learning and happiness as I reread a few of Louv’s best lines:
“Increasingly, nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear – to ignore.”
“As far as physical fitness goes, today’s kids are the sorriest generation in the history of the United States.”
“They (researchers) say the quality of exposure to nature affects our health at an almost cellular level.”
“Pediatricians now warn that today’s children may be the first generation of Americans since World War II to die at an earlier age than their parents.”
“The CDC found that the amount of TV that children watch directly correlates with measures of their body fat.”
“A study of Finnish teenagers showed that they often went into natural settings after upsetting events; there, they could clear their minds and gain perspective and relax.”
“There is a real world, beyond the glass, for children who look, for those whose parents encourage them to truly see.”
“Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle maintains that each hour of TV watched per day by preschoolers increases by 10 percent the likelihood that they will develop concentration problems and other symptoms of attention-deficit disorders by age seven.”
“I was intrigued by the way children defined play: often, their definition did not include soccer or piano lessons. Those activities were more like work.”
“Typical Americans spend 101 minutes in their car daily, five times the amount they spend exercising.”
“Time in nature is not leisure time, it’s an essential investment in our children’s health (and also, by the way, in our own).”
“Two-thirds of American children can’t pass a basic physical: 40 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls ages six to seventeen can’t manage more than one pull-up; and 40 percent show early signs of heart and circulation problems.”
Louv reveals that even our playgrounds, parks, and arenas are not providing the experience in the natural world that has nurtured children’s development since the beginning of time. And the Internet, while a gateway to the world in so many ways, is entirely devoid of the very same sensory experiences that nature supplies in abundance: the smell of a pine tree; the deep vibration of a wave crashing into a rocky shore; the tickle of a cool breeze blowing off a snowfield.
For adventure travelers, skiers, mountaineers, hikers, farmers, gardeners, sailors, surfers, people like us in the business of providing exceptional experiences in the natural world, or anyone who finds time in nature is essential to their health, "Last Child in the Woods" puts to words something we have been feeling for a long time.
Photo by Topher Donahue