“Are you guys crazy?” This is the main question we’ve been asked since our family decided to do a fundraising walk across India over the summer holidays. Walking 800km over six weeks with five kids aged 13 and under, it’s a fair call. The toughest part of the walk was definitely keeping the kids entertained. We’d be half an hour into it and our nine-year-old Maggie’s saying: “Are we there yet?”
Of course the kids’ safety and wellbeing was top of mind. Before we left I’d been thrown by a question from a friend – a father of two who lives a pretty settled and safe life down on the Fleurieu Peninsula – who asked me: “Is it safe?” At the time, I rabbled along with a half answer and then ended up saying: “I don’t know, is anything really safe?” I then stewed on this question for the next few weeks and honestly every day we were in India.
The truth of the matter is there is that little voice in your head that says: play it safe, don’t take any risks, stay in your comfort zone. Admittedly, there had been several times in recent months where I turned to my wife Bec and said: “Let’s not do this thing.” Of course, Bec just said: “Don’t be stupid, we are doing it.” I guess it is like anything in life – there are risks. You can’t really live your life avoiding risks, you can only choose how to manage them.
As we planned for this trip, we asked ourselves not just what is the risk of doing this but what is the risk of not doing this? What is the risk of allowing our kids to grow up without the broader perspective of what life is like in other countries and cultures? What is the risk of not showing our kids that they can set big hairy audacious goals and actually achieve them?
Over the past 16 months our family has lived with an absolute sense of purpose. Together we made the decision to go on this adventure, we have given talks at local community groups and schools, we have conducted fundraising events, we have learned about the needs of vulnerable children, we have prepared for our trip and all of this before we took a step. We then travelled to India, walked together nearly 800km, spent every day together for six weeks. We turned off our phones and emails and, most importantly, we met thousands of incredible Indian kids and families that have provided us with so much inspiration.
Our kids now know they can dream big, even dream something that they cannot see or understand and then know they can set out and achieve their dreams. I wonder what it must feel like at nine and 13 to be able to say: “I have walked across India.” I certainly couldn’t say that when I was that age.
Travelling as a family meant managing risks. It meant partnering with a wonderful organisation like ChildFund who provided us with an enormous amount of support. It meant securing the services of a car and driver for the entire trip to enable the kids to make a choice every day about walking or not. It meant securing accommodation in advance and not moving on a daily basis to enable the kids sufficient rest time between stops. It meant blocking out rest days within the trip to ensure the kids had time to recover and manage their conditioning. It meant making decisions on a couple of occasions not to walk but to drive as the roads were not safe to walk. It meant mixing up the accommodation so the kids got to experience $20 per night very basic accommodation through to a couple of nice hotels so the kids could play in the pool and recharge. These were the various ways we chose to manage the risks and do the trip in a way that we considered safe for our family and, most importantly, for our kids.
So again I ask, what is the risk? And what is the risk of not doing this?
Having completed our walk safely and with good health, I am so happy for our family but also for others who I know have been watching and starting to think about what they can do with their families. Life is there to be lived. Bec and I strongly believe in providing our kids with unforgettable life experiences and spending important time with them while they are young.
There are risks in doing and there are risks in not doing. Our regrets in life are rarely based on what we have done but more in what we have chosen not to do. So what choice do you have to make? We are starting to plan our next adventure as a family and can’t wait to see what we can achieve with our next journey.
Nick Petrucco and his family did their walk across India in support of ChildFund Australia, raising over $55,000 for children living in poverty. Check out their video here.