Mom Chronicles: Hints from the road

Are Little Kids Happy with Long-Term Adventure Travel? A Mother Gives Her Take

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Heidi and Reuben have two adorable little ones under the age of 5, and right now they're in the final stages of a big ol' bike ride as a foursome from their home in Ontario, Canada through the U.S. and Central America to Panama City, Panama. By the time they roll into their driveway, they'll have pedaled over 20,000 kilometers and spent a year on the road. Today Heidi addresses something that's on her mind: outsiders assuming her kids aren't happy. She originally posted this on their blog and they've been kind to let us re-post it here. Follow their blog at
— Mark Stephens,

Rolling through numerous small towns each day for the last eight months, we encounter a lot of new people, and they are often very curious about our journey. Most of the time the questions asked are pretty much identical, and fired off in roughly the same order. The most frequent questions being:

  • Where are you going?
  • Where have you come from?
  • Do the kids like it?

The first two are easy, and if you are reading here, you already know the answers. The last one is a bit different, and I’m still trying to figure out what people really want to know or what their intentions truly are in asking. Half the time, the question is directed to Eden, who usually gets shy and turns away quietly or burrows her head into my leg without answering. Later, when I ask her privately if she’s having fun or likes the bike trip, she smiles and nods. One of our bedtime routines is a daily review, discussing all the things we did that day. At the end, I ask her what her favourite part of the day was, and usually she can’t pick just one thing.

"We are trying, like most parents, to love our children and care for them in the best way possible — even though our choices and methods may be different."

The difficulty I have with that third question lies in the insinuation that the kids are not enjoying themselves, or are being harmed in some way. Perhaps people assume that we ride hard all day and take few breaks. Perhaps they assume that children need to be stationary in order to feel stability. Perhaps they assume our kids are always asking to stop and go home. There seems to be a lot of assumptions. The truth is, the pace of the day is set by them – when they need a break off the bikes, they let us know.

So, lets answer the question honestly. Do the kids like it? Well, simply put, this is just life right now as they know it. It’s comparable to asking any child: “Do you like living in a house and playing with your toys and eating at the dinner table?” I don’t think a toddler knows how to answer those types of questions. First of all, they don’t even make those types of decisions– their parents do. They receive stability, happiness, and comfort from their parents, they don’t create it. On days when Reuben and I are frustrated or discontent (out here on the road — or at home), we end up with frustrated children who argue or whine because they do not yet know how to effectively deal with their emotions. On days when we as parents are happy, content, slow to anger and patient, we generally get similar results from our children.

Bike touring with children is just like life at home with children – it takes more time and energy to complete ordinary tasks — to allow for the job of teaching and nurturing and loving and playing along the way. Talk to any parent – when children come along, life just moves at a different pace. If you try to continue on with the same attitude or pace as you did before you had kids, you (and your children) will end up discontent and unhappy with the goals you set for yourself. You’ll end up unable to accomplish your goals within the standards you had set or within the time frame you had allotted.

We are trying, like most parents, to love our children and care for them in the best way possible – even though our choices and methods may be different from many other parents. We are attempting to teach our children values about living simply; giving and loving generously to people they meet; caring for people and the world we inhabit; all while prioritizing people and relationships over material possessions. We want their comfort zone to be wide, and include the world and every culture and person in it.

Right now, life is on the road traveling by bicycle, and the kids have adapted beautifully. In less than 5 months, their life will be back at home, and a little less mobile. We plan to live that life at a pace that’s comfortable for our family, and we will take the same efforts to provide stability and happiness as we do now.

Check out this family's trip route:


+3 / 0
# Erin 2012-04-28 11:55
Yes! We get all the same questions for our Alaska wilderness expeditions, including people believing that our kids must be unusually tough or somehow out of the ordinary. But any kid feels that their life is ordinary, whatever and wherever it is.

This is what I wrote about it when my first was a baby: "...Maybe he’ll grow to love the outdoors. Or maybe not. He’s too young to tell us, and too young to decide. And maybe wondering about the impact on Katmai is the wrong question altogether. Katmai has joined a family of adventurers, therefore he comes on adventures, adapting to the circumstances of his birth like every baby everywhere. The three of us are happy, and Katmai has never known another way." .
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Mark Stephens
0 / 0
# Mark Stephens 2012-05-01 00:13
Excellent link, Erin. Thank.s
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Ben lannoy
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# Ben lannoy 2012-05-09 11:03
This has been something we've turf with for some time! We have a 3 year old and a 2 month old. It may still be tricky with our newest but we haven't seen a holiday in almost 6 years through fear of disruption!! Ridiculous I know but after reading this I think things will have to change!
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