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Trekking to Everest Base Camp with my 6-year-old changed my life. Here’s why.

Adventure travel can be life-changing, especially if you’re six years old and have set your sights on trekking to the foot of the world’s highest mountain.

In May 2018, my 6-year-old daughter Maya walked into the record books, becoming the youngest Australian to trek to Everest Base Camp. For her, the 19-day adventure was just another “beautiful walk” with Mum and Dad, and certainly nothing to make a fuss about.

But people did.

A chopper on its way to Everest Base Camp to pick up injured climbers.

A walking inspiration

From Gorakshep to Lukla, Nepali guides and trekkers on their own bucket-list adventures stopped for photos and high-fives. They seemed to walk on a little more inspired and, for some, with heads full of ‘what ifs’ for the young children they had left behind to take on Nepal’s most popular and challenging trek.

For 19 days, Maya was unstoppable and so many trekkers told us she was the reason they didn’t give up.

Maya leading the way.

In every way, this was a grand family adventure. But, for me, what made it life-changing was not that we reached Everest Base Camp (I had been there twice before) and not that Maya got there too (she had trekked a more difficult route to Mardi Himal Base Camp just weeks before).

It was what happened when the Australian media picked up the story. It triggered a parental backlash from a small but vocal social media camp that questioned how a child could accomplish such a feat and why on Earth she would want to.

The backlash begins

After 25 years as an adventure travel writer, six of those spent within the company of my daughter, who has cycle-toured, sailed, trekked, and paddled with us since she was four weeks old, this was the first time that our outdoor adventures had attracted negative public comment, and the venom of strangers hit hard.

I couldn’t sleep, terrified that perhaps we had pushed things too far and seriously wondering if all those nameless, faceless critics might have a point. Were we being reckless? Was Maya benefitting from all this risky world travel?

Maya and I taking time out for tea.

Finally, I put my phone away. When I came up for air two days later, there was a groundswell of support for Maya and I realised that her were supporters right. Every kid is special and to measure them all with the same yardstick underestimates their individual talents and potential.

The power of travel

Adventure travel is not for everyone and not every child (or adult) wants to reach Everest Base Camp, but my mine did and she loved it. For me, this realisation was life-changing because it solidified all that I believed about the power of travel to push physical and mental boundaries and to help us realise our potential. It also taught me to never underestimate anyone – especially a child.

Maya Bristow – the youngest Aussie to trek to Everest Base Camp.

If the naysayers were attempting to rattle my confidence, they’ll be sorry to hear that their comments had the opposite effect. I’ve never felt more certain of the enormous benefits that exploring the world’s wild places can offer children.

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