Finding Adventure as a Father
Teva speaks with Mattie Gould, a passionate Dad who shares how simple micro-adventures with the family can be just as fun and memorable as the bigger ones.
At six years old, I took my son out into Namadgi National Park for his first overnight bikepacking trip. The weather was wet, the trail was a little unsuitable and there were more than a few times he wanted to go home. But despite all this we felt like we’d had a grand adventure.
Growing up in the English countryside, I spent a whole lot of time outside. Climbing trees, riding bikes, playing football and exploring the local woodlands; it was idyllic. One of my fondest memories is of a family bike ride on the Scottish Island of Eigg, racing to the crest of a mountain with my older brother as our parents rode gently behind. For years I’ve remembered this bike ride, the Tour de Eigg as we affectionately called it, and I always felt like it was a big adventure - one that perhaps inspired my current love of cycling adventures in adult life.
However, as we planned a family trip to the UK this July, we looked into recreating the Tour de Eigg with our own two children. A short bit of googling later, I discovered that the Isle of Eigg is actually only a couple of km wide, with just one road traversing from one side to the other.
And I love this discovery!
I’m not in the least bit disappointed to discover that this great ride of my childhood was barely two kilometres long and probably over in half an hour. If anything it makes the memory all the better.
Mostly I love this revelation because it reminds me, as a parent of two young children, that adventures don’t have to be epic in length, activity, or location. Making an adventure memorable can be invoked by a spirit, an essence, an energy. Adventure is an enjoyment to be cultivated and created and can happen at any time, anywhere.
When our son was born, nearly eight years ago, I was lucky enough to take over the reins as a stay at home dad. Heading out to the local playground was all well and good, but I was always much happier taking him out on the bike into a bit of (semi) wild nature. Sticks, rocks, trees, puddles and all the great natural elements became our playground - although he still enjoyed a good man-made playground every now and again.
As he got older, we started adventuring further afield from our home in Canberra. Camping trips at the beach, snowboarding and camping in the mountains, and riding our bikes everywhere we could. We had multiple trips together, just the two of us and as a family. And then our second child arrived and things slowed down a little.
With a new baby on the scene, one that needed multiple naps, feeding, nappy changes, and more of the same on repeat all day; coupled with our now five year old going to school every day, the camping trips and journeys to the snowfields slowed down somewhat. We started having a quieter time. And then came covid, lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Much like the abridged version of the Tour de Eigg, our adventures were once again reduced to a few kilometres.
So while we keep grand adventures in mind, we’re looking more often at the adventurous spirit and the spirit of adventures. These adventures look like short bike rides, picnics in local wild spaces, rocks thrown in the lake and camping in the back garden. And one of our favourite activities, rushing out at sunset to look at the colours in the sky.
For a time, our adventures were small in scale, micro-adventures, but we kept in our minds the dream of bigger adventures, waiting for small windows in time to escape deeper into nature to camp and journey and explore beyond the backyard and into the great wilds again.
Since the world has opened up again, we’ve been able to return further afield. A second bikepacking trip has happened, with plans for a whole family rail trail in Spring, mountain camping has returned - although the tent is bigger and the car is starting to get packed even fuller. But most importantly, we continue to find opportunities for micro-adventures close to home, usually by bicycle and nearly always involving a local wild space where we can make our own adventures.
Written by Mattie Gould @mattiejgould