Sometimes people read Hike Your Own Hike and they actually like it. When I find these freaks of nature, I like to profile them. In this article, I interview an oxymoron: an adventurous family-man. See how Damien Tougas lives the paradoxical life.
Francis Tapon: Give those who don't know you some background about who you are.
Damien Tougas: I am a husband, a father, a techie, a writer/blogger, and an adventurer. I am a believer in integration, which means that I pursue creative ways to bring together those diverse aspects of my life into a cohesive whole. As a family, we have been working towards pursuing our passions full-time rather than just as hobbies.
A lot of our interesting work these days happens online. We have a family blog called ADVENTUREinPROGRESS that focuses on our adventurous side. My wife Renee has a blog called FIMBY that focuses on our family/homeschooling side. I recently created a website called Toe Salad, which is a community site for minimalist footwear enthusiasts. I do some writing for BackpackingLight, and Renee is a regular contributor at Simple Homeschool.
All of those things have been slowly building for us over the years, but mostly on the sidelines - they bubbled out of our passions. It has been our desire for quite some time to pursue these with more seriousness. We are now at the point where we can, and we are very excited about it!
FT: You've read and reviewed Hike Your Own Hike. Who would you recommend the book to? Share an example of how you’ve implemented one or more of its ideas in your life.
DT: Honestly, I would recommend HYOH to everyone. I mean, who doesn't have goals and dreams for their lives? Who doesn't want to live their life to its maximum potential? The advice in this book is solid and relevant to anyone who knows what they want and is prepared to do the work to go-for-it. Ok, so maybe I wouldn't recommend it to everyone - if you aren't prepared to do the work, then HYOH might not be for you. Also, if you aren't into the outdoors, hiking, or backpacking then the premise of the book might be a little lost on you although the advice would still apply.
One of the principles in your book that we have spent a lot of time thinking about is identifying our passions, and then seeking out creative ways to start earning an income from them. This has been a very interesting process for us. Being that we are a family, with a diverse set of passions, we have to learn how to work together as a team to reach our goals. It has been both difficult and very rewarding at the same time.
We also really enjoyed the section on finances, the importance of being debt free, and the principles of "upgrading" your lifestyle (i.e. when and when not to). These principles have been foundational to enabling us to move ahead with our goals. We have been debt free now for many years, with the exception of our mortgage. We are in the process of creatively figuring out ways to eliminate that one too. We absolutely loved the part of your book on "upgrading", it really helped to frame some concepts for us and is helping us to more clearly think about how we spend our money.
Another thing you write about is creating an inflection point in your life. A turning point, a change in direction to help realize your goals. We have decided to do just that - big time. I am quitting my job and we are moving back to Canada, our home country.
FT: You have kids. What advice would you give parents who want to lead an adventurous life, but think that it’s too hard to do when you have kids?
DT: Woah, that is a loaded question, I could write a whole book on that subject
Just like anything else, it is all about your mindset. You can either choose to see children as a burden that holds you back, or you can choose to see them as an integral part of your life.
An adventurous life is hard, no matter how you look at it - after all, isn't it the challenge that makes it so compelling? When adventuring with kids, it isn't more difficult than doing it by yourself, it is just difficult in different ways. Sure, you won't be able to go as high, as far, or as fast with kids. If going to extremes is what you are after, then yes, don't do it with kids. Some would say that adventuring with kids is an extreme in its own right. If you are willing to scale things back a little and challenge yourself in different ways (i.e. less selfish ways - you are not just looking out for number one), you would be amazed at what kids are capable of. Kids love a good aventure, and if you do it with them you will forge relationship bonds and build character (both yours and theirs) in ways you could have ever imagined.
Did you know that the youngest child to hike the AT was only 6 years old? All it takes is the right mindset... and a willingness to hike your own hike. You won't find a lot of people doing that kind of thing, so being comfortable with being different is important.
FT: Some parents think it’s too hard to backpack with kids. At most, they go car-camping. What’s your advice to them?
If backpacking with kids is your goal, my recommendation is to approach it from both sides.
Do day hikes regularly, one day a week if you can swing it. Gradually increase the distance and difficulty as everyone's capabilities improve. Keep it interesting, fun, challenging, and occasionally a little bit scary. Let the kids wear a day pack so that they get used to having something on their back. Dial in your clothing and your footwear. Your goal is to make spending a whole day walking on a trail a comfortable family activity.
Car camp on a regular basis, once a month if you are able. Work on reducing the amount of gear you pack to the point where you are car camping with backpacking gear. Practice trail recipes. Get used to your sleeping gear. Your goal is to get comfortable with all of your backpacking gear in the safety of a campground.
Once you are comfortable with both of those activities, then all you have to do is put them together: go for your first backpacking trip. Pick something easy. You will be surprised how easy and natural it feels. You will feel like you are going for a day hike with more weight on your back.
FT: What’s the purpose of AdventureinProgress.com? What kind of reader would be most attracted to your site?
DT: We decided a number of years ago that we wanted to pursue an adventurous lifestyle. What we discovered as we went down this path was that there were tremendous benefits to our family. Benefits to our children's education, our health and fitness, our relationships, and our spiritual well being. We created Adventure in Progress to both chronicle our journey and share what we are learning with others. We want to encourage people (single, married, and families) that life doesn't stop when you have kids, and that family life can truly be an adventure.
There are a few different types of people who are attracted to our site: People who enjoy the outdoors, especially lightweight hiking and backpacking. Outdoor lovers who are parents or aspire to be parents one day. Families that homeschool or are interested in homeschooling their children. People who like to do group trips in the outdoors with youth, whether that be parents, scout leaders, or otherwise. And finally, those who are interested in family life off of the beaten path.
Have you read Hike Your Own Hike and would like to share how it affected you? Contact me and tell me your story!