Any parent will tell you that the summer holidays can be quite challenging when your tiny children become teenagers. All theme parks have long been ticked off their bucket lists and everything you suggest seems to fall under the labels of boring or too childish.
I spend most of my time writing about the latest technology trends and often find myself conflicted by the benefits and negative aspects of this digital age. I am also increasingly conscious of the amount of time that both my son and I spend staring at screens and don’t want to be the dad who says “in a minute” paying more attention to email than each other.
The older that I get, the more I realise that its experiences rather than possessions that truly make us happy, so decided to take my teenage son on a father and son adventure to Norway. A short 90-minute flight from the UK into Stavanger would allow us to soak up some of the finest scenery that this world has to offer and allow us to spend quality time together.
Our base was the Scandic Stavanger City hotel which ticks many boxes for anyone sightseeing in the Stavanger region. The airport bus drops you across the road from the hotel, it offers an all you can eat breakfast and the all important free wi-fi.
Hiking to Preikestolen (The Pulpit Rock) simply involves crossing the road and getting on a ferry (pay on board) to Tau, then hop straight onto one of the buses waiting (pay the driver) and begin your hike. Refreshingly you are encouraged to pay on your card rather than using cash on your travels making the whole trip incredibly simple.
Hiking with your dad could still be interpreted as boring to the typical teenager, but I had something special up my sleeve. The plan was to climb to the top of Kjerag and stand on a large boulder (Kjeragbolten) wedged in the mountain’s crevasse for the ultimate Instagram moment.
Although, the photo’s give the impression that standing on the boulder is incredibly scary, it is much bigger when close up and reassuringly nobody has ever slipped or fell off the precariously placed rock. Maybe, it’s a combination of a survival instinct kicking in and the channelling of one’s inner mountain goat that comes to the rescue when the health and safety risk assessment police are nowhere to be seen.
Our tour began with a two-hour drive into the mountains, and our guide informed the group how the road is closed from October to May, which made this window of opportunity feel quite special. The mini bus contained travellers from all over the world, and the biggest lesson travel teaches us all is the breaking down of stereotypes perpetuated by the media.
Spending a day with a group of strangers from different corners of the world exchanging stories and sharing experiences offers a learning experience that cannot be taught in any classroom. However, this important life lesson is often neglected, but not on this dad’s watch.
During the six-hour hike, ten strangers became a close team regardless of any language barriers or differences in fitness levels. The absence of ringing telephones or notification sounds allowed the senses to soak up the beautiful surroundings and reconnect with nature.
Obtaining the right balance between our physical and virtual worlds on this fragile tightrope of life is notoriously difficult. Inter-personal non-technology driven interaction skills are often the first casualties when people live their life through a screen.
Don’t worry, this tech-loving guy is not about to get all preachy after a little too much sunshine. When my time arrived to step onto that boulder, I armed myself with a Go-Pro camera to offer a unique behind the scenes view to help other travellers who are thinking of making the trip.
Technology does indeed unite people rather than isolate them if used correctly and there really is nothing better than enjoying the beautiful outdoors with friends, loved ones or even with new friends.
After making some incredible memories hiking with my son, he declared that our trip was epic, and these are words that most parents of a teenager seldom hear. The pressure will be on to deliver a similar experience next year, but ultimately it’s all about knowing when to put down that piece of tech end exploring the great outdoors together free from modern distractions.
A fully recharged mojo along with memories of walking on an endless summer day with my boy is possibly the greatest gift of all and will probably be the cause of more inspiration than we both realise.
Now we have returned from the adventure; the focus will be on the Instagram moment of that boulder photo. However, what really inspires us and makes us truly happy were the lessons we learned and our surroundings on the long hike up and down the mountain that day.