Raising the Next Generation of Adventurers

In a generation dominated by smart phones and social media users, it’s no wonder parents have trouble getting their kids to unplug and go outside.

Growing up, Boy Scouts introduced me to backpacking, rock climbing and whitewater paddling. This laid the foundation for many of the activities I enjoy to this day and love to share with friends and family.

I took my three nephews to Peru for their high school graduation in hopes the trip would instill a sense of adventure that they would carry throughout their lives. Their ‘adventure education’ began when they were small and would spend a few weeks with my wife and me each summer. Over the years, I introduced them to sea kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, biking, zip-lining and hiking We celebrated this adventure lifestyle with our trip to Peru in 2014. Even as college students, they still call and ask if they can come visit for the chance at another adventure.

Setting out on the Inca Trail

Setting out on the Inca Trail

My niece came to visit us in the mountains of western North Carolina where she developed a love of hiking. She has since acquired her first pack, and we are contemplating her graduation trip in 2020. The destination at the top of the list…Mount Kilimanjaro!

Every time I go home to visit family, the first question from my niece and nephews is “Where are we going hiking?”.

Adventure doesn’t have to be halfway around the world. It can be found right out your front door.

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Here are a few tips to get your favorite kids on their way as the next generation of adventurers:

  • Disconnect – Kids want to hang out indoors because that’s where their technology resides. Ditch the smart phones, tablets, game consoles and TV for the great outdoors.
  • Schedule time outside – It doesn’t always have to be a big trip. Everyday activities serve the same purpose. Hike at the local state park, picnic, or plan a spontaneous scavenger hunt.
  • Be an active role model – Sedentary kids typically have sedentary parents. Kids with active parents tend to follow in their footsteps.
  • Start early – I remember kayaking with my twin nephews when they sat in the front of the tandem boat and picked up floating seaweed along the intracoastal waterway.

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  • Build curiosity – A friend came to visit with her nine-year-old son. After a long day of hiking, we sat outside on the deck talking sports, but the conversation turned to constellations as stars began to appear. After much discussion and pointing out some of the more familiar ones, he retreated inside and grabbed his iPad. He downloaded a stargazing app that aligns with the sky and identifies stars, constellations and planets. We continued this each night during the remainder of his stay.
  • Gear up –  It doesn’t require a lot of expensive gear to get the kids out the door, so start simple. I sport some of the best gear on the market now, but I remember the early days of loving the outdoors long before my closet contained technical apparel and gear. Grab a day pack and head out the door.
  • Include your children in the planning – I have a good friend whose nine-year-old son came home one day after seeing a mural of the Seven Summits (the highest peak on every continent). He committed to climbing all seven and did so before he turned sixteen (setting world records in his quest). His dad and step-mom listened to his aspirations and gave him the gift of YES!
  • Plan around school breaks – A family friend brought her three kids (9, 11 and 13) to see us during spring break this year. We spent a week enjoying the New River Gorge. We’re already making plans to spend their 2017 break touring the southwestern National Parks.

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For more inspiration, check out these good reads:

Outdoor Parents, Outdoor Kids: A Guide to Getting Your Kids Active in the Great Outdoors by Eugene Buchanan

Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Yearlong Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks by Michael Lanza


Clay_Abney_BioClay Abney is a PR guru and freelance writer living in the ‘wild and wonderful’ state of West Virginia where he spends his days trail running, mountain biking, hiking and working when the mood strikes. At 45 (the new 25), he still competes in multi-day adventure races and is always looking for his next great adventure!

Clay Abney