I was appalled that my son wanted an iTouch iPod for his 10th birthday and even more surprised when I found out that most of his friends in our middle class town already have iTouch iPods! This is yet another sign of our high-tech times.
While new technology can bring us together over great distances via email, skype, texting, and more, it also keeps us from truly communicating and connecting on a very basic, necessary level.
I’ll give my son Ethan some credit though – he, my 13-year-old niece Lindsay, and I gave up all our electronics for a week this summer during our Grand Canyon Expeditions adventure (GCEX) and had a blast discovering simple pleasures together instead. Yes, techno kids of today CAN go cold turkey and CAN have the trip of a lifetime! The scenery and experiences during our Grand Canyon Expeditions trip were so unique and awesome that both Lindsay and Ethan never focused on what they were missing (electronic toys) from their home routine. Instead they were awed by the beauty of the Grand Canyon as well as the fun they had had in a natural yet exciting way as we went rafting the Colorado River.
Here are some of the simple pleasures we truly enjoyed during our adventure:
Yes, you can get your toughest critics – teens, tweens and kids – to be enthused! The scenery surrounding us as we were rafting the Colorado River IN the Grand Canyon for a week was so spectacular that even the teens on our GCEX trip thought it was “awesome!”
Each day, GCEX guides took us on group hikes. Surprisingly, the many teens on our trip were always the first ones following the leader to a beautiful vantage point for viewing the grand scenery. There was never any grumbling about how hot it was or that they were tired. Instead, the teens and tweens were totally happy simply walking and hiking in nature.
Adults and teens alike also bonded each time we hiked to yet another pristine waterfall. Whether it was simply squealing with delight together at the cool water splashing us or taking photos of each other peeking from behind the waterfall, we connected in a fun way at every waterfall stop.
Millions of dollars are spent each year by families who attend indoor and outdoor water parks. Conversely, the entire clan on our trip LOVED the natural waterslide at the Little Colorado River. I never heard one “this is boring” the entire two hours we repeatedly allowed the water to take our bodies gently over mini-rapids on the Little Colorado.
But even more ever-apparent and basic than the natural water park was the daily evening sky that was illuminated by countless stars and a glorious full moon. My son noticed it all right away on the first night when he said, “The Grand Canyon and a full moon; it doesn’t get any better than this!”
Relaxed Daily Routine
As a divorced, custodial parent of two children, I lead a very hectic life. Admittedly, sharing a leisurely dinner together is a rarity. So I really cherished relaxing over breakfast, lunch AND dinner daily with my son and niece during our GCEX adventure.
The relaxed camp life we experienced – when not on the rafts – allowed us time to even read for a change. On a few occasions, Lindsay enjoyed getting away from the group and serenely sitting on a rock near the Colorado River with a good book.
The lack of television, phones, computers and electronic games afforded us time to talk and play simple, yet fun and interactive, games such as cards. In fact, these popular nightly games attracted most of the teens/kids, including yours truly. It made me feel like a kid again to have the chance to unwind over a lively and competitive game of cards.
Accommodations: Back to basics
I’ve cruised on about 40 ships with my kids, so it’s safe to say we do enjoy “bells & whistles” when we travel. But what was so heartening was that we also got into the simple accommodations of our GCEX trip: a tent that fits two, a sleeping bag, and a pad for under our sleeping bags. That’s it!
While it took me the longest to adjust to these camp life accommodations –I had never camped before — I frankly started to look forward to when I’d briefly wake up during the night. It was during these moments of pure silence that I celebrated the simple yet awesome beauty of the star-filled sky above me.
Other Simple Pleasures
The guides on GCEX trips do so much with so little equipment. For example, a few times after dinner they read from the journal book of John Wesley Powell, who was one of the foremost Grand Canyon explorers in the 1800’s. While I thought the kids would be yawning the whole time, instead Ethan insisted we order Powell’s book as soon as we got back home so that he could read additional details.
Another pleasure we enjoyed bonding over was spotting heart-shaped cactus and rocks. Lindsay and I were amazed at how many cactus and stones in the shape of hearts we spotted while in the Grand Canyon. We’d never seen this anywhere else. Actually, we felt like we were following a trail to simple pleasures that touched each of our hearts.