raising little ones in the great outdoors

The Road Less Traveled: Carrie Cooper

What could be better than spending four months in a camper van with a two year old? The word crazy never came to mind when my husband Kyle and I decided to adventure through New Zealand for four months with our daughter Ava.
We took advantage of our time off and the youth of our only child to head off in search of surf and stone. We couldn’t have chosen a better destination for our two passions and have barely had a couple days in which neither one of us has gotten to either surf or rock climb.

We started traveling with Ava when she was three-days-old.  Before she was one she had traveled from Arizona to Canada by car, and to Indonesia by airplane. Her passport not only has stamps, but visas. This is not to say that she is the perfect travel companion, but that we made sure from the start to find ways to keep doing what we loved: traveling and playing outside. New Zealand was a chance to apply what we  had learned from our previous journeys to four months of  van living.

Before Ava came into our lives, Kyle and I were both outdoor enthusiasts, climbing and surfing the planet over. It wasn’t until

Ava playing on New Zealand limestone.  Phote: Kyle George

Ava playing on New Zealand limestone. Phote: Kyle George

Ava was three months old that my body allowed me to rock climb again. It wasn’t my doctor, or a book, it was my body that I listened to.

I found it very calming to take Ava outside surrounded by trees and rocks and open spaces. As she grew older watching me climb she eventually wanted to try it. She started walking at nine months and did her first rock climb at one and a half years. I made sure not to push her into it.  When we are outside she is free to explore our immediate surroundings. She is a champion at catching grasshoppers and gets to learn about flora and fauna in its natural habitat.
“Don’t touch the cactus Mama,” she instructs me now.  Or if we are out climbing she’ll warn me about an edge by telling me, “Be careful mommy, that’s a big drop.”

As my passion for rock climbing grew, we spent more and more time outside. Ava has taken 70% of her naps outside in the fresh air:  sun, rain, and snow.  Because we would make sure to be outside after work or in the afternoon sun it became very normal to be outside with Ava and didn’t feel strange to try camping with her. She loved being in a tent, so why not a camper van? So with that in mind, we launched out for four months of travel, surfing and climbing.

Home away from home. The van in action. Photo: Kyle George

Home away from home. The van in action. Photo: Kyle George

Here in New Zealand, we learned to “chase the sunshine” so to speak. Because we organized our trip around being able to play outside it was imperative that we look beyond our outdoor pursuits for other enriching activities.  We learned that rainy days are perfect for finally getting to go to the library for more books or going to the aquarium, discovery zone, swimming pool, etc.  But the most satisfying result of all this travel and adventure is hearing Ava request to go climbing, or to go find starfish in the tide pools at sunrise. It feels like we are doing something right when at bedtime she wants to be awake only until we tell her that the sooner she goes to bed the sooner she can wake up and go outside and play. Lights out!

To read more about Carrie’s and Ava’s adventures visit Surf and Stone, the blog the couple is keeping during their journey.

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One Response to “The Road Less Traveled: Carrie Cooper”

  1. Steve Bohrer says:

    You’re certainly creating a monster! Ava is so lucky to have parents who are willing to share their passion for adventure with her.

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