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Trekking and camping with children in the mountains teaches them to experience the world through new eyes. It also teaches them a lot about themselves.
It has been a few years since I’ve been going for treks to the Himalayas. Last year my then 12 year old daughter joined me for a 7 day Himalayan trek to the Great Lakes of Kashmir. It was not an easy trek even for us adults, and as the only child in our group (and going by our discussions with the soldiers at the army posts, possibly the youngest to go on that trekking trail), she too found it challenging in some parts. The previous year, my son had been with another group for a trek to Auli in the Uttarakhand region of the Himalayas. Before that, we had been taking our children for shorter treks in the Sahyadri mountains in Maharashtra.
By the end of the Kashmir trek, it was truly an eye opener for me to watch my daughter manage herself through all the excitement, challenges and jubilation of the trekking and camping experience. I could see from up close, the fabulous life lessons that these experiences have to offer children and us.
“I can’t possibly walk for so many hours!”
“What if I can’t eat or drink anything they serve me there?”
City life brings its share of frustrations for children and for parents, as nature spots are reduced and opportunities to experience the open environs are limited. On one hand, children’s absorption with mobile phones, games, television and online media are making them more house-bound. On the other hand, avenues for out-of-home activities are limited to venues such as malls, restaurants and cinemas.
Being disconnected from nature and outdoor activities, accompanied by an increasingly protected lifestyle among urban children, is limiting our children’s capabilities to adapt to different situations – both physically and mentally.
The mountains offer exciting terrains for climbing uphill or running through lush green meadows; walking through slush, or leaping over boulders; crossing over or wading through streams. The experience of camping means packing and unpacking every day, tucking into sleeping bags at night, sharing a tent with others, and eating what everyone is eating, and much more.
The experience of trekking and camping in the mountains is a great way for children to expand their physical and mental faculties and have loads of fun while at it. Children develop a stronger resilience and endurance as they begin to appreciate that not only can they physically handle a lot more than they thought they could. But they are also capable of being responsible for themselves and adapting to a variety of conditions that they otherwise have not been exposed to.
Often in the midst of the mountains, Nature also achieves what most of us struggle with: get children to unplug from technology, soak in the beauty and develop a personal connect with their surrounding. Some treks incorporate offbeat routes and stays in mountain villages that help children gain an insight into how people lead their lives in remote places – how their houses are built, how their sheep and goat are grazed, how for many, their ways of life have remained unchanged for centuries.
There is an entire range of experienced trekking groups to send our children with, and several locations to choose from.
Here are some ways you can get them started. Whether or not you as parents have been trekkers, you can still get your children started on experiencing the wonders of trekking. Younger children can be encouraged by giving them a taste of the outdoors in nature spots in your vicinity. Start by heading out for walks in and around nature parks, hills, ponds or lakes around you. Middle school children can take on short treks – either day long or overnight treks. Older children can take on 5-7 day treks. If you are unable to join them yourselves, sign them up through trekking groups that have strong experience in conducting these treks.
So get them started on trekking and watch the “I can’t do this” and “I can’t do without this” convert into a can-do attitude.
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