Walking for young and old: Multi-generational walking....by Julie Mundy

There’s an urban myth about there being no point mixing age groups on walks, as each age group wants something different. The myth goes that the littlies are all, ‘my legs hurt – will you carry me?’ from the moment they leave in the morning; the teenagers are all, ‘so when is the action starting?’ and ‘I can’t get wifi out here!!!’; the parents are spending all their energy chasing after the kids; and the oldies are saying, ‘leave me alone to plod along in my own time’ and ‘my knees don’t do hills’.

That’s not my experience though, and with a bit of planning and forethought (as well as a healthy dose of compromise), it’s not so hard to come up with a win-win situation.

I’d like to share my tips that I’ve learnt along the way - to ensure people of any age group can enjoy themselves – and get the most out of any walk:

Under 10 years old: When my kids were younger, it was all about keeping the daily distances short - and interesting. Creeks to splash in, plenty of shade, rocks to climb, animals to find. We’d also include lots of breaks, exciting lunches, and the promise of a café or swim mid way (or at the end) also helped a lot. On longer trips, we’d ensure rest days every 2 or 3 days, when the kids could just hang out. Sometimes I’d also devise treasure hunts along the way, or put the kids in charge of taking photos or video.

Over 10 years old: As the kids got older, we’d get them involved in the planning of the walks we would do - even choosing the location, navigating and taking responsibility for planning our stops. Building in some variety and other activities also really helped too – a bit of canoeing, or ropes work; river crossings and treetop walks – are all are a lot of fun, and give a great buzz. Most importantly, we’d get them to bring a friend or two of the same age – it’s amazing what a bit of peer support can do to boost their enjoyment of a trip.  Still, keeping the distances short is key, but of course by the time they are in their mid-teens, they can run rings around their parents, and as they get older, are increasingly up for a challenge - so be careful not to underestimate them!  My 17 year old daughter undertook a 14 day, 240km bushwalk, raft and canoe from Mt Kosciuszko to the NSW coast, along with 7 other friends and one ‘adult’ leader. The sense of adventure, achievement and sheer joy she and her mates got from this amazing achievement had them coming home ten foot high and feeling invincible - so be careful not to sell them short of what they are capable of.

Adults (of mixed ages & fitness levels): A few years ago, I walked the Great Ocean Walk with a few friends - most of us young mums eager to have some ‘me-time’ after years of sleep deprivation.  Included in our group were some of my friends’ mums who were in their 60’s - but who (of course) put us younger ones to shame!  There were a few things which helped in making this trip a success: collectively, we decided to go for the soft (and well deserved!) option of shuttling in and out each day - staying at a nice B&B with a hot shower and delicious dinner, and (most importantly), only having to carry our day packs. We also all agreed on reasonable distances of between 14 and 22km a day, so we could go at our own pace. Sometimes we walked together, more often in pairs, or individually, and meeting up at the rest breaks.  This ensured that everyone had a great time, got what they wanted out of the trip, and that each person was able to walk at the pace which worked for them - without feeling like they were holding each other back.

The other thing that helps make for a good multi-generational walk is understanding each other’s fitness levels. While we all know that the fitter you are going into your walk, the more you are likely to enjoy it - my reality is rarely as good as my intentions - so planning a walk where you all agree on daily distances you are comfortable with (perhaps building over the days as you all build up your fitness), and understanding each individual’s preferred pace and how to accommodate that is important – check though and don’t assume!  I recently did the Larapinta Trail with a woman in her 70’s who ran rings around me!

What’s next for us: This year, my daughter and I decided that we’d create a tradition – doing a long distance walk each year (or two), to ensure we still get some time together doing something we both love, far away from the maddening crowd. 

Our first big challenge will be next year - when we take on Wandering the World’s Portuguese Coastal Camino in July.  We’ve decided to do this with some other mother and daughter friends – which was important to us so that we have some company while we walk at our different paces (my daughter is the hare and I am definitely the proverbial tortoise!), and that each generation has some company to chat with along the way.  We can’t wait, and now that we’ve made this promise to ourselves our bucket list is growing by the minute!

Julie is the author of a series of walking guidebooks and an inveterate traveller and walker. 

Wandering the World specialises in creating and tailoring exceptional walking, trekking and touring holidays in some of the most beautiful places on earth. This includes both escorted small group travel, as well as individually tailored itineraries for privately organised trips.

We are passionate about sharing the places we love and offer our expertise to ensure our travellers enjoy rich and rewarding travelling experiences. Wandering the World select authentic and comfortable accommodation and our itineraries are focused on immersing travellers in the local culture and uncovering the hidden gems of a destination. We are committed to ensuring our travellers have a trip of a lifetime.

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