Why are outdoor travel and recreation experiences such awesome ways to build memories?
Lasting memories are built from things that stand out in our minds.
The natural world is so full of beauty, drama, fascination, majesty, intricacy, variety. It captivates our senses, our minds and our emotions.
The wonder of experiencing a new outdoor destination and the satisfaction of visiting a familiar one are both wonderful.
The joy of doing an activity we enjoy or learning something new that delights us is wonderful, too.
Not Just Vacations, but Adventure Trips
I grew up vacationing in the outdoors with my parents and siblings. I remember several road trips with our pop-up camper, including an epic one to the Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park when I was in high school.
And then, after college, I spent two different summers volunteering at a Christian wilderness discipleship camp in northern Minnesota.
As part of each session, we brought kids into the Boundary Waters on 5-10 day wilderness canoe trips. And I’ve since gone on other canoe trips with our family and friends.
These types of outdoor adventure experiences are unforgettable—whether the memories are from great times or really hard times!
If you’ve never gone on an outdoor adventure trip—some kind of multi-day excursion that tests your mettle—I encourage you to do it at least once in your life!
There’s something about experiencing all of nature’s wonderfulness with others that connects you, and keeps you connected. Especially when you make it a habit.
I suppose like-attracts-like, but I have so many memories of hiking, running, canoeing, kayaking, camping, riding horses, cross country skiing and snowshoeing with family members and friends.
Even when the events themselves were hard, the memories are still good.
The outdoors gives us a vast array of activities to choose from. A vast array of locations to choose from. And bringing others with us does two things:
- It binds us together with those people in special ways…
- It can open up a new world for some of them.
Not everyone gets outside as much as we do, for whatever reason. No matter their “level” of nature-loving, I’ve never had anyone say to me afterwards: “I wish I hadn’t come!” I’ve been able to give them outdoor memories, too.
That’s so cool!
Have you ever noticed that many of the stories you tell are about your hardest experiences?
I once re-connected with a woman who had been a counselor with me at camp back in 1990. As she introduced me to her husband, she commented that the two of us had been together on a canoe trip with “the worst portage of my life.”
That was 29 years ago! A permanent memory.
I was on another canoe trip more recently with a really intense 24-hour span. (I write about it in How God Uses Wilderness to Shape Us.) While I have zero desire to repeat that experience, I value it for the way it forced me and my trip mates to push through and persevere…together.
There’s something about going through tough things together that connects you in a deep way. It gives you that shared experience that provides lasting memories.
Outdoor Volunteering Memories
Our family has volunteered for the above-mentioned Christian camp on a long weekend every October since about 2012—cutting, splitting and stacking firewood for their long winters.
As the Bible says: “It’s more blessed to give than receive.” We’ve found that to be so true! Our family looks forward to this time each year—even though they’re all grown up. It’s grown to include many of our kids’ friends over the years who are also now adults.
The past 2-3 years we’ve brought 18-20 people with us, our largest groups yet. Two days of work in the beautiful woods of northern Minnesota with lots of laughing and talking together, meals together, hiking together and hanging out together.
Memories made while serving others.
Families that Play Together Stay Together
Of course this doesn’t just mean outdoor playing—but the outdoors is a magnificent place to gather your family together often. It can be for an hour…for a day…for a weekend…or for an extended trip.
What wonderful family memories are built when you take time away together and go into the natural world. Into all that beauty, splendor, majesty and variety.
You bond. You talk about these memories and look at the pictures for years. It gives you things in common. It gives you things to look forward to.
Even though our kids are in their 20s now, getting married and having their own kids, starting businesses and “adulting,” we enjoy getting into the outdoors together when we can.
Build Family Traditions around Outdoor Places and Activities
Each family has their own way of building memories together. For those of us who love the outdoors and its recreation opportunities, the possibilities are endless.
Here are some traditions of some of the families we know:
- Camping together at the same campground in northern Minnesota, usually with another family or two.
- Camping, fishing and relaxing together at the same location in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming.
- Spending a week at a cabin on a lake with extended family each summer.
- Boundary Waters trips each 4th of July weekend.
- Road trips between Minnesota and Washington to visit extended family, camping along the way.
- Road trips all over the West to camp and experience our national parks.
Our own family has both camped every summer at the same campground in northern Minnesota, and gone on occasional extended road trips to the mountains out West. And I’m really looking forward to making these kinds of memories with our first grandson (4 months old at the time of this writing) and future grandkids.
ALL build memories that are precious and lasting. What a wonderful gift from the Lord!
Do you have kids at home still? Do you have nieces and nephews or grandkids you can build some outdoor memories with?
How about friends, co-workers, neighbors, church folks, or relatives?
Life is too short to stay inside! It’s too short to not take advantage of the many, many wonderful outdoor destinations near and far.