I Go On Backpacking Trips With My 6-Year-Old Son, And Started Heart & Soil

by Contributor
I Go On Backpacking Trips With My 6-Year-Old Son, And Started Heart & Soil

‘When you travel, you carry a part of you. And wherever you travel, it has an impact on you, and becomes a part of you.’ That is the beauty of travel. And this very beauty of travel, be it camping in the hilly regions of India, or trekking along the steep slopes of Bhutan is what I like to share with my 6-year-old son, Dev. From the tender age of 4 and a half years, Dev accompanied me to a rustic backpacking trip in Dharamshala. Since then, there has been no looking back for us. Who said you can’t travel with your child? Well, I say that not only can you form a closer bond with your child, but also teach your child some valuable life lessons, which no school or institution will ever be able to impart, as nature is truly the best teacher. So here’s my travel journey with my son Dev, and how I started Heart & Soil, a travel initiative to encourage parents to travel with their children from a young age.

A Little Tit-Bit About Me

I am Nehal Shah, a media professional from Mumbai. I belong to a close-knit family and fortunately, we all are passionate about our environment – All things green and living. While growing up I have seen my Grandfather rescue animals and birds. Our balcony would always be green. Somewhere the same culture has been passed on to us. And I wish the same for my son, Dev. I am extremely passionate about travelling and exploring varied cultures.

When I started Travelling in the real sense (not just with the intention of taking a break from the routine), a whole new world and experience opened up for me. My travel experiences be it treks, exploring nature, cultures, wildlife or adventures uplifted me at all levels. I made like-minded friends, experienced varied lifestyles and cultures, grew mentally and emotionally stronger. Every travel experience became a part of me. And I grew passionate about it.

The First Time I Travelled With Dev 

As my passion for travelling grew, so did my longing to expose my child to the benefits of nature, like what I received. The perfect opportunity for that presented itself when I received a message from my friend, who wanted to plan an impromptu shoestring budget backpacking trip to the mountains. I could not miss out on the thrill, adventure, fun of curating travel plans, etc. I immediately responded positively without thinking much and we were a group of 4 travel buddies now with just the desire to get away but no confirmed plan.

From deciding to stay in homestays, to experiencing a rustic life in the mountains in the unpredictable climatic conditions, my buddies and I were prepared for this trip. But something in me was at unrest. A voice inside me encouraged me to expose Dev to the wonders of travelling, in spite of the unpredictable climatic conditions and the rustic life that we might have to experience. I decided to follow my motherly instinct and first talk to my son about this. ( Trust me! children do understand a lot and have a mind of their own contrary to our belief that they are kids and do not understand important issues).

The Discussion went on something like this “Dev, Mamma is planning a backpacking trip to Dharamshala, You know where it is? Himachal Pradesh. Do you want to go to see the snow-capped mountains..the mighty Himalayas?” I also told him it is going to be very very cold. We might experience snowfall and will be staying in humble homestays, helping the locals and playing with children, having food with them. They will also take us on treks and hikes, show their village to us. I supplemented our discussion with a few images on my phone so he understands better. I finally asked him if he wanted to come.

Dev’s immediate response was “Yes! Yes, Mamma! I want to come. I Finally decided that the mother and son will embark on this adventure together. I wanted Dev to know that his mother trusted him. I wanted to build his confidence and will power, give him a chance rather than not trust him. I was truly inspired by his desire to take up this adventure. I only wanted to be with him and support him hereon! I did not have the heart to break his heart, will power & confidence only because of my fears… So with the support of my husband and my family, I took my 4-year-old son for a rustic backpacking trip to Himachal Pradesh.

Our first trip together in Himachal Pradesh was out of the ordinary. We stayed in a homestay in Dharamkot with a local family, Dev played with the local children, we ate delicious homecooked meals and enjoyed the mountain life to the fullest. Dev loved interacting with people. In a quaint village in Rakkar, he even worked on a farm with a villager, fed goats and helped pick up dried leaves, while I interacted with the local women there and helped them wash clothes by the stream.

By the end of this Himachal Pradesh trip, I found my new Best friend in my four-year-old son, Dev. We shared plenty of beautiful moments together, laughing, surviving in difficult conditions, bonding together and most of all creating unforgettable memories in togetherness. Apart from the above, I made a promise to myself that I will make travel a significant part of my son’s life. I will trust him & support him in becoming a person he is destined to be through experience.

Also Read: I Met My Partner On A Solo Trip To Hampi, Got Married And Started Travelories

Travel Adventures With Dev

Ever since the first time I went on an adventure trip with Dev, I have come to realise a few things. First, if I trust my child, he can achieve anything. Second, to never underestimate a child’s capacity, All your child requires is your trust, confidence, encouragement, love and motivation. In fact, if they are given the right environment they will motivate and inspire you to achieve your best, so you can be the best version of yourself.

I remember the time when we were in Himachal (Shoja, Kullu) for a family holiday. One of the things I had on my mind was to take Dev for a trek. It was fine even if he did not complete it but I just wanted him to get the experience. On the 28th of June morning, we all set out for Jhalori Pass for the Sreolsar lake Trek.

We had a fabulous host who doubled up as a perfect guide for us. I casually told my son to go ahead with our guide – Ved for the trek. Two of them proceeded ahead, chatting like old pals. I was happy and content that my son was in safe hands and it was completely fine to let him go. I lagged behind with our group taking ample breaks to ensure everyone in the group was ok.

Due to the difficulty level, the elders in the group decided to turn back. As the difficulty level increased, I kept asking people on their way back from the trek if they saw a small boy going up and was he being carried or looked tired. I wondered how Dev would be managing the trek. From some, I got a response that they did see a boy happily walking with a man. That gave me some solace and also motivated me to continue in spite of being exhausted. I had to meet Dev!

After the group started returning, I continued my journey ahead and when I reached the top I saw Dev comfortably eating Maggie with his newly found trek pals. What a sight it was! As I reached, the girl gang enquired how old he was and were shocked to know that he was only 4 years. He made me a Proud Mommy! All I could do was shower him with hugs and kisses.

After the stopover, we proceeded to Sreolsar Lake, Enjoyed the view of the great National Park & the trio- Me, Ved and Dev were all set to climb down. I checked Dev if he was ok to climb down & he replied positively with enthusiasm. We walked, chatted, soaked in the beautiful nature on the way down & created wonderful memories which will last a lifetime!

We also trekked to the Tiger Nest in Bhutan, which was quite a difficult trek. I was worried if Dev could manage it, and even asked him if he wanted to go up the hill on a pony. But he refused it and continued to walk. His determination and never-say -give up attitude really impressed me. Nature truly brought the best in both of us.

My Travel Startup For Parents And Kids- Heart & Soil

 Before I got married I was a travel enthusiast. I used to grab my bags and go on travels and treks with my friends. I learnt a lot during this spontaneous trips. After Dev came in my life I felt he should gain these experiences and I should too get back to nature and relax from the busy life that I lead and spend quality time with my family.

I realised that many parents like me don’t get time to enjoy quality experiences with their families due to their busy work life. One fine day I decided why not lets club together these two thoughts and start with something that helps parents and kids to relax, enjoy nature and travel at the same time. That thought was the beginning of Heart & Soil. Heart & Soil is a Nature club for parents who want their children to discover the simple joys of being friends with nature. From stargazing to kitchen gardening, I curate trips for parents and their children, so they can learn from nature and form closer bonds together. My son Dev often gives me suggestions on planning my next trips for Heart & Soil.

Learnings After Travelling With Dev

Our travel moments have ended up teaching me a lot about myself & my child, I am a much confident mother and I feel me and my son are a great team together. I have started seeing my son in a different light. I appreciate his confidence, will power, patience and adaptability. I have developed a deeper bond & friendship which goes just beyond taking care of him. Exposure to new sights, people, lifestyles, climate, food have made Dev more sociable and a confident child. The confidence he has gained is from within and with his own experiences. I feel proud as a mother to see him grow into a person by his own experiences & not by just theoretically teaching him about life.

We are creating ample memories & moments which will be cherished by both of us. No material gifts and comforts will ever replace the experiences we have shared together. It has helped both of us to experience and grow together. For me personally, travelling through the eyes of a 4-year-old was a very different experience. The Innocence, curiosity, adaptability kept the child alive in me. A Time when I get to be a child with my child!

 Advice To Parents Who Want To Travel With Their Kids

I feel Parents should not restrict their child or themselves with the thought of going through a long journey. As parents, we should just make our child more excited about the life long experience they are about to encounter. We as parents need to ensure that travelling is a significant part of their life as the experience that a person gains through travelling is irreplaceable.

Kids are enchanted and have incredibly creative mind aptitudes, so before an excursion, reveal to them some fascinating facts about the spot you are visiting which will help gain their advantage. When you travel with your child carry crayons, colour books, small toys apart from the vitals like a medical kit and basic fruits and snacks. When your child might feel moody or tired, they can entertain themselves with activities. In conclusion, don’t forget to relax, enjoy and go back with a bunch of happy memories.

All the Mindblocks are just in your minds, kids adapt and adjust easily if you are confident. They sense your vibe! If you go with the flow they are only happy to do the same. Start early in life as the kind of exposure and experience travel will give, no classroom and school can ever give that to your child. Travel is a passion which inculcated at a young age stays as a lifetime hobby. It also helps in shaping the child’s personality and later in life gives them a broader outlook. So I would suggest every parent out there, to travel with your child and form closer bonds together.

To know more about Heart & Soil click here

This article was contributed to Curly Tales by Nehal Shah. If you have a story to tell us, drop us an email to hey@curlytales.com