27.06.2016 : Richard Holyoake

Lessons for Life

We are an outdoor family and every year we embark on an expedition or adventure into the bush. Our experiences have resulted in a number of life lessons.

We are an outdoor family and every year we embark on an expedition or adventure into the bush. We have been doing this for the last six years, from when my children were seven and five. It is the highlight of the year for the children. Their excitement builds in the weeks prior as we plan the trip and start gathering the equipment.

It hasn’t always been easy, particularly with respect to load carrying and developing levels of endurance. My children’s eating habits had to change to allow more than one night away. In particular, as the primary load carrier in the early years, I refused to carry five nights worth of fresh meat and veges - they needed to learn to eat pasta!

What started as an experiment is now a compulsory annual getaway. Every year we have to do some serious tramping and get away from it all, and the trip ends with identifying the next one.

As leader (Dad), I have some basic rules: If you want it - you carry it, and we only go as fast as the slowest person and stick together.

The children are still growing and learning, however our experiences have resulted in a number of learnings:
  • Team work: Some of the group gear needs to be shared – Dad is not carrying it all!
  • Team dynamics: Criticising your sister for going slow is not helpful – be considerate.
  • Personal responsibility: If you want it, and it is excess to the absolute requirements, you carry it – no one else is going to! And you need to look after your gear.
  • Self-reliance: There is no technology/internet out there, so use the time to think, relax.
  • Risk management: Active assessment of terrain/rivers and weather is required alongside consideration of capability and time. Always have a contingency plan and bring extra food and shelter.
  • Achievement: There is a huge sense of achievement and increase in confidence when you carry your own gear for 70km over five days, or for ten hours across two mountain passes.
  • Appreciation of the simplicity of the outdoors: There is something quite special about soaking in a natural hot spring amongst the bush and then rinsing off in the river, or seeing Whio (Blue Duck) in the wild.
  • Sense of community: Our experiences have resulted in my children being enthusiastic to preserve New Zealand wildlife. They have become volunteers for the Arthurs Pass Wildlife Trust and Kea Conservation Trust, helping with pest eradication in the Arthurs Pass National Park.
  • Ability to interact socially: Some of the most interesting encounters we’ve had have been with solo international visitors on the Te Araroa Trail.

Reflecting on these lessons, many are resoundingly similar to those needed to thrive in a professional services environment – the ability to relate to others, work in teams, show tolerance, manage risks, take personal responsibility – and take time to reflect and think.

There is a fantastic opportunity for learning out there, at the same time as mighty rewards, and it is not on the internet!

About the Author

Richard Holyoake

Senior Technical Director - Civil Engineering

Richard is a civil engineer and member of our South Island Strategic Leadership Team. He has experience in geotechnical engineering, land development, demolition, highways projects, irrigation projects, and airport pavement construction and rehabilitation. His project highlights include working on the Otira Viaduct in Arthurs Pass National Park, and numerous airport runway overlay projects in New Zealand.

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