Experience the great outdoors! Be one with nature! Revitalize your spirit! Live the effectual stretch!
"I want to go camping," said Bryce.
"Yes!" echoed Beatrice.
"Mama doesn't go camping, girls," said Daddy.
"Nope, no camping," said the Mama. "But we can go to Paris."
"That's not camping."
"To some people it is."
"I don't want any parrots," said Beatrice.
"Not parrots -- Paris. Like Paris, France. Ooo, la, la," said Daddy.
"That's where I want to go," said the Mama.
And so it goes. One African safari nearly 20 years ago with one of her best friends and the Mama just can't do the tent camping thing. This was a year after we'd met and I was green-eyed with envy for sure. Of course I wasn't too disappointed when I learned that diarrhea had swept through their camp for a few days challenging the notion of "resetting the mind and spirit." Nothing like a good colonic in the presence of Mount Kilimanjaro to then be confined to your sweltering tent for a few days.
I shouldn't complain, though. Around the same time I had gone on a business trip to Barcelona and Paris (ooo, la, la) and did not get sick. However, I did go out of my way to during a dinner event in Barcelona to run down to the beach, take off my shoes, hike up my pant legs and put my feet in the Mediterranean Sea.
For years as a child, our family went tent camping every summer at Huntington Lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, south of Yosemite. Real tent camping. Dirty, cold at night, cooking meals over a fire (and a Coleman stove), fishing and hiking and exploring glorious tent camping. One year I had what my Mom called sand crabs on my head. To this day I'm not sure if that's what they were -- or if they were sand fleas, or sand lice -- but whatever they were, I got 'em good. All over my head. Buried deep in my scalp under a blanket of sandy blonde hair.
There were no medicinal shampoos at the lake store, only turpentine. For those who have never had this very special liquid poured over open wounds on their head, you have no idea how "alive" it makes you feel. To this day I remember how much is stung and throbbed. And how much I cried. But no matter what, it never wiped away the happiness I felt fishing for rainbow trout or exploring a mountainside of granite rocks and all the various Sierra Nevada pines filling me with the amazing scent of adventure.
Decades later and we're off to another annual trek to Lake Tahoe, the Big Lake as the girls first called it. We're not literally camping per se, but we are hiking and swimming and visiting with family and experiencing the great outdoors in a mountain range over 100 million years old. We did take the girls on a beautiful mountain hike to Eagle Lake, just above Emerald Bay. It's only about 2.5 miles round trip, but that's the most the girls have ever done in any one stretch. And thanks to perennial hiking family members Uncle Brian and Aunt Julie, and the Mama and the Daddy, the experience motivation moved them along.
Research shows that "experiences" are critical to happiness, healthy connections and relationships. In fact, "one study...even showed that if people have an experience they say negatively impacted their happiness, once they have the chance to talk about it, their assessment of that experience goes up."
This is why invest in experience for ourselves and for our girls. It's the effectual stretch as I call it -- to push ourselves to learn new ways to see and understand our individual and collective worlds, and to expand beyond what’s known and comfortable in ways that produce desired yet diverse, highly personalized and usually effective results. This could mean the literal extremes of big success or failure, or those incremental leaps and lapses in between that give our daily journeys sustenance for mind, body and spirit.
Happiness and healthy connections, kids. That's what I'm talking about. And we impress the same approach and attitude on our daughters, teaching them to embrace experience -- to be bold yet aware, to protect themselves but not live in fear, to keep getting back on the bull like they own the beast, horns held tightly in hands. This includes exposing them to travel, new locales and people, experiences that we hope will shape their adult lives and those they interact with for the better.
We may never literally all go camping together, but we're certainly going to treat each new experience like a camp out -- to embrace the wilderness around us and the sky above -- and live the effectual stretch.