My husband and I have a profound love for the outdoors. Going back to when we started dating in college, we’d find any moment we could to escape into the wilderness and get back to nature. Once we had our two children, we knew we wanted to instill this love and respect for Mother Nature within our little ones. The great John Muir, naturalist, and preservationist, said it best, “ In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
We purchased and framed a large map of the United States showcasing all the National Parks. Mapping out our destinations with the kids and letting them pin the parks as we go, has given them a way to connect with our adventures on a deeper level. They can own this experience themselves. Our first destination? The Badlands located in South Dakota.
We rented a cabin with fifteen acres in the middle of what felt like nowhere. It. Was. Glorious. The only traffic jams we ran into were cows lazily making their way across the gravel backroads. After a busy day taking in all the sites and hiking endless trails, a home away from it all was much needed. The stillness and sounds of Elk bugling and coyotes howling were a reminder that this is their home and we are merely guests stopping by for a visit.
From the rough, jagged landscape of the Badlands to the third largest underground cave in the world, we did it all. Stopping by the National Park visitor center, we purchased two passport books for the kids to stamp after visiting each park. They earned their badges to become junior rangers and pledged to preserve and protect these places so future generations can enjoy them.
Our son triumphantly climbed the mountainous terrain of the Badlands and called himself, “The Mountain Man.” To see the confidence in a young boy who was recently struggling to assert himself among older new friends at school, was pure relief. He was proud. There was no judgment about who could do it better.
Our daughter, although older, was confronted with feelings of intimidation and fear when climbing the steep, sandy hills. “You can do this. Keep going,” we’d say. Only to be followed by her response of fear but, soon exhilaration as she stood at the top in awe of her abilities.
Taking the time to unwind, let go, and discover nature in a new way, restored a peace that is often hidden by the hustle and bustle of daily life. No wifi or working GPS. No schedule to follow or feeling tethered to our phones to check work email and post family photos on Instagram. It was a welcomed break for us all.
As we left the state to venture back home, we were no longer the same people that arrived a week ago. Taking the time to discover the natural phenomena of Mother Nature, was like medicine to our souls. We needed a reminder of the real things in life. Bring us back to what’s important. Leave the chaos of everyday living and bring a little bit of the outside, within.