A new friend of mine, and my unofficial tour guide of Hong Kong suggested we all go on a hike together. Chris and her son are in the same class at school and hit it off early on. It’s always nice when your kid makes fast friends with someone who is equally as adorable and sweet, but when they come with friend-worthy parents, it’s the best kind of match. We met at Tai Tam Country Park at the South Entrance on Saturday morning and casually breezed on up the paved path. We stopped along the way to admire butterflies, caterpillars, views of the Tai Tam reservoir, and take a rest when the kids needed it. It was beautiful and relaxed. However, our Saturday hike occurred in two parts, the easy part and the other part.
Side note and fun fact, a growing amount of research suggests that being in nature decreases the risk for depression. A study completed by Stanford dug a little deeper into this idea and found positive benefits to being in nature, particularly for those who live in urban settings. We all know that going for a walk is good for us physiologically, but they found that it’s also really good for the regions of your brain that are affected by mental illness. And with a growing number of people living in cities and anxiety and depression on the rise, all the more reason to use nature as a positive coping strategy if it’s easily accessible. So when I learned that Hong Kong is roughly 75% in its natural state, I was pleasantly surprised to know how accessible the great outdoors would be for us.
When we first moved to Hong Kong, we lived on the 11th floor in a serviced apartment in Happy Valley, an area I actually once heard someone refer to as suburban! To us it seemed bustling compared to our home back in the states. I knew the adjustment to an urban lifestyle and high-rise living would be a big one for all of us, especially since my kids were so used to being outside in the grass on a regular basis. We now live in an area on the Southside of Hong Kong Island and we are within close proximity to lots of outdoor opportunities. To us it feels like the best blend of our worlds. Just this week my boys mentioned missing fall and jumping in the leaves, but before we knew it we had moved on to being thankful for beach days in November and riding scooters around the neighborhood.
We walked for about an hour when we realized our hike was just about to begin. For the remainder, we trekked mostly up hill over a much rougher terrain and I noticed that the boys didn’t ask to stop for a rest. How does the old saying go? Nothing worth doing is easy?
Instead, they continued to marvel at what was before them, they took one step in front of the other, or at times a leap. They were careful and wildly courageous as they navigated some of the more challenging areas. As we walked, we talked about how Hong Kong is mostly made up of volcanic and granitic rock and how that makes for a different type of landscape than in Boston, Massachusetts. John and Chris asked if we might see a bear, and our friends assured them that bears do not live in Hong Kong, but they should definitely be on the lookout for snakes! Aside from my fear of snakes, something occurred to me while we were walking and talking, trekking and hiking; my boys (and their friends) are not babies anymore. They are big brothers, they are friends, they are helpers, brave and determined. As the trail got more challenging, they rose to the occasion and met it head on. They held hands when they needed to and led the way when they felt strong. They coped with the hard parts by pacing themselves and taking it one step at a time. It reminded me of the strength kids hold within them and their ability to accept challenges when presented in a developmentally supportive way. Over the course of the past year, I have at times worried that moving them across the globe was too much for them and that staying in the comfort of our old home would have been easier. It’s natural for parents to worry about their kids and life is full of uphill treks. I know that many parents relate to the balance of pushing their kids to do more and holding their hand so that they find success, shielding them from an overwhelming world and exposing them just enough so that they become responsible citizens in a world that desperately needs them. Sometimes kids have an innate ability to navigate experiential challenges and other times they need the skills taught to them so they can find their way successfully. Either way, the paved trails are manageable for kids, but it’s the rougher terrain that often holds the stuff that makes them human and resilient.
We ended the trail in Repulse Bay after two and a half hours total. Exhausted, hungry, and fully satisfied, we set out for lunch. I’ve set my next hike at Violet hill and if there’s anything in the name, it should be a good one. And, as for the snakes, fingers crossed we don’t cross paths.