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Heather Greenwood Davis, her husband, Ish, and two sons, prepare for an adventure together (Photograph courtesy Heather Greenwood Davis)

Family Time: Raising the Bar on Adventure

Before my kids came along, my husband Ish and I thought we were adventurous people. We weren’t about to do anything crazy like scale cliffs, bike-ride into oncoming road traffic, or bungee jump, but we were usually willing to try new things and experience life as it came at us.

Having children changed that.

Suddenly things felt a lot more risky. What if something happened to us out there? Or worse, what if some horrible parenting decision we made led to harm coming to one of our kids?

The result: A very nervous ride home from the hospital with our first born–and several years of baby-proofed rooms.

But by the time “number two,” another boy, came along, things changed for us again.

They weren’t content to live in the bubble we had happily built inside our home.

They wanted to get out there–to touch things, to meet people–and were more than happy to endure the bumps, bruises, and germs that came with it.

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Cliffside on the via ferrata course in Saguenay, Quebec (Photograph courtesy Heather Greenwood Davis)

And we parents dutifully followed along–even though it sometimes seemed like our sons were magnetically drawn to whatever scared us most.

With every “C’mon, mom!” and “Look what I can do, dad!,” they drag us out of our protective shells a little bit more.

Our trip around the world would’ve been a lot tamer without the boys along.

When we asked them, then aged six and eight, what they wanted to do along the way, their answers ranged from swimming with sharks to skydiving. (We’d been hoping for “See the Eiffel Tower.”)

Though we nixed these ideas, letting them swim with seals in the Galapagos and ride in a hot air balloon in Egypt instead gave them self-assurance and energy. And seeing that inspired Ish and I to join in the adventure ourselves.

Last spring in Saguenay, Quebec, we not only rode along the picturesque pathways of the Blueberry trail, we agreed to tackle 700-foot fjords with the boys in the lead on a via ferrata course (essentially mountain climbing, sideways) with Parc Aventures Cap Jaseux.

Once we were out there something magical happened. The grins beaming back at us from our boys as they scaled the glacier-carved cliffs (with a backdrop that made it unclear where the icy water stopped and the deep blue sky began) lent us, the parents, the confidence to keep up.

The high fives and bear hugs when it was over almost erased the all-consuming fear of watching the people who are most precious to us in the world hang, hands-free, off the face of a cliff.

Our willingness to be led into new adventures has been a blessing and a curse.

With every exploit, their thirst to try more–to push further–grows.

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The zip line (Photograph courtesy Heather Greenwood Davis)

That’s how we ended up on a family group tour to Costa Rica with G Adventures and found ourselves agreeing to hop on a zip line followed by the “Mega Tarzan swing” in Monteverde.

When we arrived the boys took off with the other kids while us parents struggled to keep up.

By the time we got to the end of the zip-line course the boys were nowhere to be found. They’d already done the swing, one of the guides informed me. Did I want to go next?

With a heavy sigh, I prepared to sail, channeling my inner Tarzan, through the trees. Only it wasn’t that kind of swing.

Suspended 150 feet above the Earth I had about five seconds to realize that the two boys had in fact done a free-fall bungee jump and, thanks to a light shove from the guides, I was about to join them.

My screams shook birds from the trees.

And when I landed, heart pounding, tears streaming down my face, the boys rushed out to meet me.

“That was awesome, mom, “ they shouted as they slapped my back oblivious to the look of terror frozen on my face.

“What are we doing tomorrow?”

Heather Greenwood Davis, husband Ish, and sons Ethan and Cameron, were recognized as Travelers of the Year by Traveler magazine in 2012. Watch highlights of their adventures on Follow Heather on Twitter @GreenwoodDavis

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