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How Go Ape Changed a dad's Perspective on Life

Guest blog by Jonathan Davies

Growing up I wasn’t very outdoorsy. Sure, I played football for my local team on the weekends but I’d rather have spent my spare time playing video games than exploring the outdoors.

It wasn’t that I was afraid of heights or dangers, or anything like that. I didn’t particularly like getting dirty or wet and I saw coming home and having to wash outside of my normal bath time as an inconvenience.

Adventure really wasn’t my thing. And that stuck with me as I entered my teenage years, especially as I lost interest in playing football.

Looking back, it’s quite peculiar that I continued on that path given I went on a week-long school trip at the age of 10 where we learnt all sorts of outdoor activities - map reading, raft building, rock climbing, you name it. And I still consider that to be one of the best weeks of my life.

It all changed, however, when my (now) wife decided she wanted to go visit Go Ape with the family for her 22nd birthday. It wasn’t something we’d ever done as a family, but as our nieces and nephews were getting older we needed birthday activities that could include them too.

a man carring his son an a hike in th eday and at night

Zip Lining to a New Lifestyle

I didn’t feel anything negative leading up to our adventure on the Go Ape course. Despite my ambivalence towards the outdoors, I was actually relishing the prospect of trying something new. Climbing to the top of the course on a slightly wobbly ladder probably didn’t do much to calm any bubbling height-related nerves, but I otherwise threw myself into the course.

I felt on top of the world as I comfortably navigated each obstacle. I even took my time, helping my wife and her sister to get through each stage when they faced difficulties from time to time. It felt like a bonding experience, particularly between myself and my wife’s sister who struggled to overcome nerves at times.

At times I paused and marvelled at my surroundings. Here I was, a young man who had grown up favouring video games to the outdoors, suspended 12m in the air, surrounded by beautiful woodland trees and the smell of fresh pine, and I loved it. I felt like I could stay there forever. I felt free.

A man with his back to the camera riding down a zip wire

The Turning Point

Admittedly, the exhilaration of flying down the final zip line didn’t spark an immediate flourish to an outdoor adventure lifestyle. But as I look back nearly a decade later, I say with absolute confidence that it was a turning point in my life, my perspective on the lifestyle I wanted to lead, and the lifestyle I wanted my children to lead.

That first visit to Go Ape prompted a long-term shift in my hobbies and interests. Yes, I still love to play video games, but over the past decade I’ve grown interested in hiking, mountaineering, mountain biking and watching Free Solo, the Oscar winning documentary following revered climber Alex Honnold’s historic free solo ascent of El Capitan, sparked a desire to try rock climbing (although the pandemic has prevented me from trying that yet!).

Passing on the Adventure Bug

I don’t want my son and daughter to have the same childhood I did. I now love the outdoors. I love the feeling of adventure. And I want them to feel that too.

I have a three year old son, Raife, and a 9 month old daughter, Eden. So they’re both a few years off a first family day out at Go Ape. But they’re still living an adventure-filled life, despite the limitations the Covid-19 pandemic has placed on us. Raife and I have climbed mountains - well, I’ve climbed mountains with him sitting in a back carrier - we’ve explored forests at night and built dens from fallen branches, we’ve thrown rocks into lakes, camped in the family tent and so much more.

Had I not visited Go Ape for the first time all those years ago, I’m not sure what sort of life my children would be leading. On our adventures, we’ve often walked or driven past a Go Ape centre - Raife lights up with excitement, calling out that ‘Daddy climbed super high and when I’m bigger I will too!’.

As a father, I’m looking to Raife and Eden’s first Go Ape experiences for more than adventure and fun, though. I think it’s a wonderful place to develop a whole host of skills that will help them in their lives. Not only does it help to develop physical skills, Go Ape helps children to build their confidence, their problem solving skills, teamwork and communication skills, all in a fun, outdoor, adventurous family environment. They’re all traits that I’m determined to instil on my children to put them on a strong footing for the rest of their lives.

Our first family trip to Go Ape will be one to remember. If you’re looking for things to do with the kids, look no further.

a man carrying a baby on his back and with an infant on a tree swing

Blogger Bio

Jonathan Davies is a dad to three year old Raife and baby Eden, and writer for DaddiLife - the parenting website for modern-day dads. He has fallen increasingly in love with the outdoors throughout his 20s and is now determined to pass on that love to his children.

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