Randomtrailtales 2423 – 2619km: Reaching the top of another mountain pass, I often switch off the airplane mode on my phone to check and see if there is any cell coverage. Usually there’s none, but if there is a village far in the distance I get lucky and am able to call home through WhatsApp. Huddled behind a rock, protected from the strong wind I hope to get through of one of my three children and it’s so good to just hear their voices and catch up on what is going on in their day. As I have been away from home for four months now, I think of my children at great length during my days alone on the hills. I think of how they have grown and developed and of the terrifying thought I had 16 years ago when we had our first child. It saddened me to think that Cato, our oldest daughter, would be leaving our home when she turned 18 and venture out into the world. Now there are only 500 days remaining before this may become a reality and I intend to use this time together very consciously. I, as you are well aware, have been away from home for 390 days in the past five years, a choice that has given me less time to be with my children, and they have had a distant father during the short window that they are at home growing up with us. (In no attempt to equate myself with Edmund Hillary, it was interesting to read that he would regularly leave his family and work behind for expeditions of 480 days at a time to the South Pole and Himalayas). This is all thanks to my wife’s relaxed and generous attitude, and as a result I feel it has made the time that we are together as a family more intense. I constantly feel a sense of urgency when I’m home to get the most out of our time together. My monthly ‘micro adventures’ with the children, which I do my best to get in their busy schedules, allows us to talk and connect in a way that means a lot to me. I intend to create a new fun project together with Cato to fully utilize these 500 days. One idea Cato and I have been discussing is to do a series of road trips together finding the best steak in each of Holland’s 13 provinces. I secretly hope these trips will spill over and continue when she decides to fly from the nest. Every time I receive one of their voice messages on WhatsApp I replay it many times just to hear their voice. Strangely I feel very close to them, although they are on the other side of the world with a 12 hour time difference, but the voices and everyday stories we share make them feel very close. It is too soon to know whether I was blind and foolish to venture in the mountains so frequently, only time will tell what the affects where on each of my children, on myself and on the relationships we have together. Inspired by the author of ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr, I have always enjoyed creating fun projects with my children such as our ‘7 UP family documentary’. While growing up in England in the 80’s there was on TV programma that fascinated me and is arguably the best social documentary of all time: ‘the UP series’ by Michael Apted where several seven years old children from each of Britain’s different social classes were interviewed with 12 basic questions. The series’ seed lies in the Jesuit motto of: “Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” Every subsequent seven years the same children would be asked the same questions in an experiment to observe whether people could outgrow the class they were born into. They are now 56 years old and the British viewers have followed them throughout their lives. I loved this format so much that I decided to do something similar with my own children to simply document their development as they grew up and ask their opinions, so decided to write down the 12 archipel questions. Every few years during a quiet afternoon on holiday I do an interview with each of my children filming them with my iPhone and ask the same questions each time around: ‘what do you want to be when you are older?’, ‘what do you think of boys/girls’, ‘how important is money to you’, ‘when are you most happy’, ‘what does family mean to you’, ‘what are your dreams’ etc. These short interviews are very intimate and capture not only their thoughts but also their body language which often tells a lot more than their words. It will be interesting to edit and see how the answers and personalities develop through the years……….. ………… …………I can see again, I can feel it, I’m back! For the past three weeks I have been in a bit of a dip due to my stomach bug which drained me and actually brought my spirits down and found myself in a situation where I was walking through the most stunning scenery but unable to appreciate it’s beauty. I have fortunately never experienced a depression and find it difficult to understand what people in a depression actually feel but I know it alters the way you ‘see and experience‘ the world around you. Now although I was not depressed I did experience this sensation of ‘seeing’ and experiencing the world around me in a different way due to my mental state of mind. I also found myself talking about how I felt to others in the hut trying to find like minded people with the same experiences but found this only reinforced and added to my mindset. I was growing quiet and grumpy and not a lot of fun to be around. To snap out of it I had to force myself to stop talking about it and tried to stop even thinking about it and found that this had effect. A positive effect in my case and I was very happy to regain my original optimistic state of mind after a few weeks. It was so good to look around me and really see how beautiful the mountains were. I was saying WoW out loud a lot. The Trail leading to Wanaka has been quite technical taking us through steep river sections and steep ridge descents in strong winds, so I am very happy to be sitting in a bar watching the Olympic Curling with a beer now………. ………. …………. ………A character we have been seeing a lot of the past two weeks on Trail is David. David is a 60 year old South Korean gentleman who loves hiking as much as I do. He decided to sell his small company two years ago and founded a new company become a hiking guide for long distance hikes around the world. He take groups of 8 South Korean clients on trails like the ‘John Muir Trail’ for four weeks and organizes everything for them from their food to permits to their tents. In 2017 he took guided clients to Peru, USA, Italy, South Korea and Spain. He usually stays on a few weeks to do other parts of the trail alone and is now enjoying the South Island of the Te Araroa. I couldn’t compute the idea that his name was David and when he told me his real name it sounded a lot like ‘Trés Chic’ and suggested it be his new Trail name. He proudly accepted his new French name and is no longer called David……….. ………… ……….