Gone for the Holidays

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Google ‘Christmas traditions’ and you see images of family, food, and twinkling lights. Time together with family and friends enjoying some great food is what the holidays are all about, right? But do you have to stay home do appreciate these things? What about a fine campfire dinner after a great day of family hiking in the desert?

Home doesn’t have to be where the holidays are.

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Several years ago our young family switched things up and took off for the holidays. Our son was too young to be tied to any traditions. He just wanted to be with his mom and dad. However, not everyone else was so accepting of our plans. “You’re going to Death Valley for Christmas?” was the question we got time and again. “What about the turkey and presents?” others would insist. We pushed though the pressure to conform and drove south.

That Christmas we didn’t have a turkey dinner or presents under the tree. (There were no trees in Death Valley!) We spent two weeks together as a family 24/7 without any of the usual interruptions. We were outside everyday getting lots of exercise and fresh air. Our days were filled hiking up winding slot canyons, wandering out to the lowest point in the US, and exploring charcoal kilns of ages past. Our son played on sand dunes in his snowsuit until it was warm enough to strip off his winter clothes. Christmas dinner of roasted chicken and pasta tasted great, as do most meals enjoyed while camping. And each night we cuddled into our tent and read page after page of our favorite books by headlamp before falling fabulously asleep through the long winter nights. It was the best Christmas ever.

The memory of that Christmas stays with us and often comes up in the fall when we ask ourselves, “Should we go somewhere this Christmas?”

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Strange things happen when you are going to check out penguins on Christmas day…

December 25, 2014: As most families in North America were opening their presents, we flew across the equator on our way to Patagonia. For Boxing Day we wandered through Chilean Christmas traditions, sampling foods new to us mistakenly ordered in a language we didn’t understand. In that new world we saw penguins, and strange animals related to llamas and ostriches. And despite trepidation, we launched into an eight month cycling adventure unlike any trip before or since.

It was a tough decision to leave our family and friends at home in the middle of the festive season. However, the gift we gave each other that Christmas stays with us today – family togetherness forged in the minutes and months of shared experience, and a curiosity to embrace the unknown.

So whether you are home for the holidays or off on a far, flung adventure; hopefully you will appreciate some quality time with the people you love most, and stretch your boundaries into the new year and beyond.

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New Year’s day and the start of 3600 miles of riding.

Dan Clark and his family started into unconventional vacations before the kids were old enough to object. You can watch their film, Famimlia Ciclista at https://vimeo.com/131756763