Many family skills amount to fun or productive ways of spending time together. A key example is walking or hiking. For this essay, I define "walking" as foot travel in a developed area, usually on a paved surface or easy trail, that may involve reaching a particular destination rather than just rambling, and which requires no special equipment. I define "hiking" as foot travel in a wild or semi-wild area, which may include more challenging trails or none at all, may be just for the fun of hiking instead of destination-oriented, and may require special hiking gear or other stuff for a long excursion.
First, foot travel is a great activity unto itself. It provides exercise and thus promotes health. It has no inherest cost; only at the high end does it require special equipment, although you can acquire all sorts of gadgets if you want them. It saves fuel and avoids polluting the environment, which can also save you money.
Second, foot travel benefits social connections. A community designed to encourage foot traffic more than car traffic tends to develop much closer ties between neighbors. On your own two feet, you move slowly and have time to enjoy the world around you. It is comfortable to converse with someone alongside you, although some people enjoy traveling in silence. If you meet someone, you may stop and talk, or just smile and wave. If you find something interesting, you can easily stop to observe it in more detail and point it out to other folks so they can enjoy it too. In today's hectic world, slowing down and spending time with someone is a great way to show your love or friendship.
Autumn and spring are ideal times for foot travel because there are plenty of clear, temperate days. Summer can get too hot, and few people enjoy foot travel in the cold and snow of winter. So watch for a nice day and be prepared to go somewhere fun to walk or hike.Walking
Walking is a travel option in most areas, though far more effective and safe in some places than others. Towns have a "walkability" rating
that indicates the quality and extent of their sidewalks, safety, density of services and many other factors. Many people enjoy walking to or through a city park, a street full of small shops, a street fair, a mall, or other places. For small children or elders, a walk around the block or a large yard can be a fun adventure, studying and enjoying the world on a very local scale. You can find kid-friendly parks
and walking trails
near you. Walking vacations
are gaining popularity too. If you live in or visit other countries besides the United States, check their resources such as Walking Britain
; you can even find walking trips
from travel agencies or tour guides. Walking is a great way to meet new people and make friends, and it has many family benefits
Hiking is a wonderful way to explore nature because it is less obtrusive than most other options. You can learn to be very quiet and observe wildlife; with experience, you can venture into some rather hard-to-reach places. Hiking helps encourage people to think in three dimensions while traveling up and down slopes, perhaps with tall trees all around. You can search for national parks
or state parks
, hiking and backpacking trails
, hikes near major cities
, organizations for hikers
, and other resources near you. There are also tips for hiking as a family
and planning for a family hike
Bear in mind that an important part of family life is making good memories. A family trip to a state park may be remembered fondly for many years. Family traditions are also important -- consider a regular walk to a city park or ice cream parlor every clear weekend. Children who grow up walking around their town are more likely to develop a strong sense of community. Children who grow up hiking will probably come to love nature and want to protect it. Make these activities part of your family life and you will build happy memories for many years to come.
What are some of your favorite memories or tips for walking or hiking as a family?