This blog post is written by Explorer Family mom, Barbara, from @motherhoodonthetrail. Barbara has always been passionate about nature. Through motherhood she learned how to share her passion to the one she loves the most: her son. Her motherhood on the trail journey has been signed by constant adaptation and transformation:  it led her over to the steps she needed to be the woman she is today, from being “a hiker with a child” to being her son’s very personal “adventure guide”. Barbara has shared with us motherhood on the trail: changing your mindset. Here is what she had to say:

My Motherhood Journey

As for most people, I was bombarded with opinions on how life with a child would be throughout my whole life. While some views felt harmless, others infuriated me, such as the idea that a baby meant sacrifice, and giving up life outdoor. During pregnancy, the conviction that it was time promote another vision, in which children were welcome outdoors regardless of age, grew stronger and stronger inside me, together with my baby.

I started the “backpackingmoms” Instagram account hoping to empower other mothers to continue their outdoorsy lifestyle but in reality, this account was my very own “accountability partner”. It was my open declaration to the world that I will find the way to make it work. At first, my focus was on finding solutions to respectfully involve my son in my adventures. As he grew older, together with his needs of independency, he took an increasing active role in our hiking group:  this led me to change the Instagram name from to “Motherhoodonthetrail”. The focus on my life shifted from what “I” was able to achieve to what “We” could do together.

Not only these changes helped me to embrace motherhood, but as I learned to be a mother to my child, I also learned to be a mother to my inner child, that little girl inside me that needed to be heard. 

Adventuring with an Infant: Re-assessing the Expectations

I went on my first backpacking trip with my son when he was 5 weeks old. I needed it so badly, to feel like I was regaining control over my body and to find again my old identity.

I chose a very easy and short route in the Dolomites, yet I never felt like I was lowering my expectation. I lead different backpacking trip before and I knew that key to a successful trip is to aim for something that the weakest individual of the team can successfully cover. I considered my child as a member of my team and I re-assess our team strengths accordingly. 

My son didn’t need much: to be carried close to mamma, to be fed, changed, protected from the sun and the cold air… nothing really that different compared to being at home. During our trip, he was totally fine. It was me, unexpectedly, that still was a hormonal post-partum hurricane! That is when I realized there was a new ME, that I need to get to know better.

That weekend marked the moment I took action and exposed myself for the first time to unknown world of backpacking with a child. Once back home, I wrote down what went wrong and brainstormed for solutions to be more prepared the next time: “unsuccessful hikes” are failures only if you let them be so. 

It was the first step toward a long exciting journey adventuring together with my child.

Adventuring with A Toddler: Changing the Expectations Into Appreciation

The moment my son experimented with his first steps, it was clear that our hiking style had to change considerably. I loved pushing myself and feeling my heart pumping in my chest but, when a child starts walking, the hiking speed can easily fall down to null, actually, even go to reverse! At first these never-ending moments of “no-movement” felt frustrating, as I often had a goal to reach in my mind and my focus felt on the progress done to reach such goal. Changing perspective was key to find again harmony: I felt I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) change my son’s desire to experiment the world himself, but I knew I could change my own response to its explorations. Instead of feeling frustrated for not being able to proceed, I followed him into his explorations, actually discovering a new fascinating micro-cosmos myself! I equipped myself with a good camera, a couple of guides on flora and fauna, and learned more about the environments we were crossing. This could never be a waste of time!

Our hikes became a little bit less crazy, shorter, more and more child-led. The goal shifted from reaching a specific location to spending quality time and find connection with my child. Definitely a skill I could work on for a couple of years, I thought, and which could ultimately make me a better hiker and leader.  

The WHY I was immersing myself into Nature also changed. It wasn’t just because it was my recharging place, but also because it was my child’s best teacher. I wanted him to normalize Nature, enjoy it and grow from our experiences outdoors, so that as a grown-up he would be interested in advocating for it. Still, I didn’t have to give up going on distant destinations: distances could be covered during my regular son’s resting and napping times.

Adventuring with A Little Hiker: Embracing “Slow Hiking”

If all it takes to have the greatest adventures is a change of mindset, it was again time to look at our adventures outdoors differently. I decided to embrace the practice of “slow hiking”, which is (my definition):   

“the art of bringing mindfulness to the act of walking in nature. To practice slowhiking, you need to follow a toddler or young hiker in a child-led hike, and copy all his actions. Run when he run, stop and observe plants/animals when he does, close your eyes and rest if he sleeps. Don’t ask yourself why. Just let go of any thought and let the world surprise you with the beauty you can find in any small detail. The experience is not about the destination, but about the journey and the company”.

I joined my child in taming dragons, exploring secret worlds hidden underneath ice and rocks, asking “why” and listening to his colorful reasons and order in this world…

My Take-Away: “Expedition Parenting”

The greatest gift in life is to share your passion with the person you love, and this was my way own way to involve my son into my outdoorsy adventures. My focus shifted from hiking itself to embrace the opportunity to build a strong team based on respect.

Today, I see myself as an expedition guide: there is a new team member and it is my job to make his experience safe, fun and meaningful. This vision makes me feel empowered, important, achieved. I am not scarifying anything at all, on the opposite, I am given the greatest opportunity to grow as an expert hiker and a team leader.

This is my mantra:

We are safe: I prepare and plan to understand the magnitude of the day and I pack my bag accordingly. My team is only as strong as the weakest person in it and I adapt not to push anybody over their limits.

We focus on quality and meaning: the goal is to connect with my child, have positive experiences in nature, offering growing and learning opportunities. I respect my son’s needs and limits.

We embrace sustainability: we respect and support the local communities, we learn about the environment we visit. We leave no trace and collect garbage any time there is the necessity.

Thank-you for taking the time to read this blog post about Motherhood On The Trail & Changing Your Mindset written by Barbara from @motherhoodonthetrail.

Happy Exploring! Don’t forget to tag us in your adventures on Instagram using @kidswhoexplore #kwe #kidswhoexplore

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