Grand Adventures

How tuning in, turning on, and dropping out every once in awhile may be the best thing for all of us.

March 2012

It’s a fact that children inspire a sense of wonder and joyful awe in adults. Watching dandelion fluff disperse or seeing a frog’s throat expand with a two-year-old or a five-year-old is simply better than doing the same activity alone or with another adult. That’s the simple truth.


As kids grow older, though, they seem to lose some of this wonder. I’ll never forget the first time my kids noticed a ladybug and didn’t exclaim—and how much it surprised me that it didn’t surprise them. Some of this is simply a result of a shift in attention: Now they’re in awe of the inexplicable forces of love, or wonder about distant galaxies. But it also seems to me that, as preteens in 2012, some of their life energy has dimmed. They’ve reached the age when sentiments and feelings start to get corrupted—by other’s opinions, by expectations, or by life experiences that make one more cautious. And, yes, they’ve succumbed to the inexorable siren song of bright computer screens.


On a recent evening, I sat on the couch and watched my two kids, aged 10 and 12, and I realized I felt nervous. It took me awhile to identify why, and then it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard them be delighted by anything, or cry out in awe, or seen their eyes light up in surprise recently.


It might be the natural progression of things—we can’t go around our entire lives exclaiming at every frog we see, I suppose—but right then I decided if there’s one thing I could, and should, give back to them (a re-gift, so to speak) it would be a way to prevent the loss of that wonder. I wasn’t exactly sure how to do that—I’m an expert at nothing, really—but I had the idea that some sort of action is critical. This is the age when, perhaps, the neurons start firing in paths that will ultimately determine our approach to the rest of our lives.


So I sat there, wondering if there was a way to sidestep most of that desensitized, routine-ridden existence, and if so, how I could make it happen? And that’s when I decided to embark upon one of our vacations, the kind of trip that my kids have come to call Our Very Grand Adventures.