Recently a magazine arrived at my home touting the “90 hikes in the world you have to do”. It was filled with pictures of beautiful hikes throughout the world – some I had done, many I wished I could.
As time passed and the magazine sat on a table, it still beckoned me to indulge in its suggestions for a full life. It made me contemplate the implications of someone telling me a list of things I had to do. That magazine was not the first time that I had been told by a media source that there were things I needed to do before I died. These “bucket lists” are filled with places and sights that must be seen and experienced before one leaves this earth. Despite the stated intention of those lists, they have not included the one thing that has truly given me joy.
I have hiked in many different and exciting places throughout the world. I have spent a night in a tent in the Sahara Desert, lived in the former Soviet Union, walked the Mongolian steppes, seen amazing architecture and thrilling natural beauty and swam in oceans throughout the world. I have visited over 20 countries on four different continents and have seen some of the great sites of the world experiencing more than many will in their lifetimes.
Beyond my travel accomplishments I have been able to meet professional goals too. I set out to be an attorney and made that life goal. I wanted to write and I have been published. Although I can’t say every goal has been met, as I planned, most have been achieved.
In spite of having accomplished many of my personal goals, there is one thing that I have never seen on a bucket list. That one thing is, for me personally, the single most important.
I would give up a night in the Sahara for any night in the backyard sleeping in our family tent with my wife, kids, and dogs, even in cramped quarters. I would give up seeing a Guadi designed cathedral for an afternoon of building towers out of LEGOS with my son and his amazing imagination. A walk with my daughter through the local park is more valuable than a hike anywhere else in the world. Holding hands with my wife, son and daughter as we walk on the sidewalks of our hometown is more exciting than strolling on a boulevard or city square, anywhere in the world.
Obviously, I can say that because I have been to many of those places. I have the advantage of knowing the difference between those amazing sites and the feeling of joy a family can provide.
Like all adventures that have great rewards, fatherhood is not for the faint-hearted. It’s challenging, scary, demoralizing and downright hard. On Monday I may be fighting to get my daughter to complete her homework, but on Tuesday I will be beaming as she comes home with an award for ‘best poetry’. No mountain hike – with its peaks and valleys – could ever deliver the feelings that fatherhood brings in those moments.