My wife and I are avid hikers, and we’ve raised our girls to embrace the outdoors as well. Back in California, no day is complete without a tromp in the woods near our house. Here in London, though experiencing “woods” requires more of an effort, we get the girls out and about to breathe fresh air as much as we can.
This is one of the reasons why all four of us were so excited about spending Thanksgiving in the country (at Four Seasons Hampshire). It’s also why I didn’t bat an eye when L requested a hike after sundown one evening last weekend.
Our goal for the evening journey was simple: Hike well-marked pathways as far as we could in 30 minutes, then turn around, return to the resort and have hot chocolates in the library bar.
To guide the way, L took her ladybug flashlight; I bugged the concierge for a “torch” (that’s what they call flashlights here) of my own.
The walk started quietly; as her eyes adjusted to the darkness, L was focusing intensely on watching her steps.
Once we were startled by a braying horse, however, the mood lightened considerably. We quizzed each other on whether certain twinkles were airplanes or satellites or stars. We reminisced about our favorite parts of the day we spent in nearby Farnham (hers: Watching Christmas carolers; mine: Lunching in a 500-year-old pub). We even shared our favorite stories about the Baby, a.k.a., her little sister.
After 30 minutes—probably 1.5 miles in all—we turned around as planned. With the manor house looming on the horizon, L realized we likely were the only people hiking in the field at that moment, so she shared a perfectly normal (for a 4-year-old) request:
“Dad, it won’t bother anybody else. Can we please listen to Taylor Swift?”
Normally I have a strong No-Artificial-Sounds-in-Nature rule. On this night, however, because we were the only people in the field (and, of course, because she asked so politely), I relented.
L was delighted. She skipped. She twirled. At one point, she screamed along with words I hope she doesn’t understand for a long while (I think the song was, “Dear John”). And about halfway back—I kid you not—we spotted fireworks exploding over the trees on the edge of the property.
In that moment, my daughter described the fireworks as “magical,” “unbelievable,” and “amazing.” We now have been home a week, and she still uses those same words when talking about the hike.
To be honest, I do, too.
Those 60 minutes were the best 60 minutes of my Thanksgiving, and arguably the best 60 minutes I’ve had in a long, long time. These are the moments we as parents live for.
Could we have had the same experience at home? Maybe something pretty close. But being in a faraway, foreign place enriches every aspect of moments like that one, and the richer those moments, the better.