Adventures for Men: One to One Father Son Adventures
A new business venture is setting out to transform the relationships of fathers and sons. Using the Scottish outdoors as a playground, Adventures for Men will give lads and dads the encouragement and space to get to know each other better and build the foundations for long lasting friendship. I spoke with Adventures for Men partner Charles Lyster to find our more about this unique venture and find out what a dad and lad can expect to get up to on one of their voyages of discovery.
A Voyage of Discovery
Imagine you are lying on a beach as the sun sets. The only roof over your head is a constellation. The only company is your son. And you are talking. Really talking. No pointless chit chat. No arguments. No phones. No texts. No slamming doors. No other siblings demanding your attention or office demanding your time. Just calm, relaxed, one to one bonding. Does that sound good?
Of course it does. It’s how it is meant to be. It’s how it used to be; in those glory days when sons spent their leisure time with their fathers, worked with them on family businesses or, further back in time, accompanied them when they went hunter-gathering.
Adventures designed specifically for men
A new business venture by two experienced outdoor leaders aims to reintroduce the deep connections that come when family members spend time together. Stefan Fritz and Charles Lyster will lead groups of lads and dads on five day sailing trips in The Hebrides. They will teach them skills, but more importantly provide a space for father-son bonding, something that Stefan and Charles believe has got lost in the flurry of modern living.
“Girls have always had the company of other women and been surrounded by role models. A hundred years ago or so, boys had this too; they’d be with their fathers or apprenticed to other men. But now they are kept at school longer, don’t tend to go into apprenticeships, and at the same time families are breaking up,” explains Charles. He is particularly concerned about the development of boys in their early teens. “They often become distanced from their father, who is busy and overworked and doesn’t spend enough time with them. And sometimes he is absent altogether, and there may not be another older role model in their lives.”
A full on lads and dads experience
So the trips are targeted at fathers with sons aged between 12 and 18. The aim is not to achieve a perfect relationship overnight, but to get them having fun together, starting to finding out more about each other and figuring out what they have in common. From his experience as a mountain leader Charles believes for many dads the will is there but the skills are the missing link, “Doing adventurous things with your children is very powerful and there are a lot of fathers out there who would love to do something really adventurous with their sons. But the ideas they’ve got are just beyond what they feel safe and confident to do themselves. So we’ve decided to provide adventurous journeys just for them.”
An all male crew for a Scottish lady
Charles and Stefan will take up to six fathers and sons at a time on a voyage around The Hebrides on the Lady of Avenel; a 100 ft, square rigged vessel. By the end of the journey everyone on board will be familiar with the business of crewing a ship. But no prior experience is necessary and Charles is keen to emphasise it isn’t a hard core Bear Grylls survival experience. Instead it’s all about having fun together in the outdoors, while learning at first hand about tides, charts, routes and wind speeds. Fathers and sons will work together tying knots, rigging sails and steering the ship. “They’ll come away having had some wild experiences, and having been very much extended. They’ll experience it in different ways, and develop respect and understanding for each other,” says Charles. There will be the chance for dads to talk to other dads too, “The dads might be preparing dinner together while the sons learn to do a short splice or make a couple of knots.”
One whole day will likely be spent on an island like Jura or Skye. Charles invites me to picture the scene. “You might climb a mountain together, and then spend the night bivvying down on the shore. Just you and him. This is a chance for you to learn things about your dad. How he came to be where he is, what worked and didn’t work for him.”
It’s also a valuable chance for a father to work out what support and encouragement he can give to his child. As a child of an estranged father, it sounds idyllic to me.
Inspired by Raising Boys
Charles worries that there are few places left where boys can let off steam in the company of other males, “Even the Scouts are now a mixed organisation. I ran my local scout troop and it struck me that it used to be the last all-male place that boys had where they could play rough games, shout and scream, use an axe and light a fire, but also get some guidance on doing it responsibly and when they were taking it too far. The Adventures For Men voyages sprang from a desire to help boys in their teens to grow into decent men who are going to be good partners for women and good fathers themselves, who will understand their strength and potential but also when they need to rein things in.” Charles and Stefan were both influenced by Steve Biddulph’s book ‘Raising Boys’, which encourages parents to let boys be boys, and indulge in physical play.
Learning from his own experiences
Charles and his wife Catherine, who is a classical singer, shared the childcare for their own children, now 17 and 19. He took time out to get to know his son in the outdoors on hiking, sailing and shooting trips. This strengthened their relationship immeasurably and they still do things together today. His desire to help foster father-son relationships in others followed the death of his own father, who he’d have liked to know better. “I’d love to know more about his decisions and regrets, what he would have done differently and what he was pleased he did.”
He vividly recalls a day when he got his dad to himself, without his two brothers being present. “I was about ten and I loved collecting fossils and he took me off to a chalk quarry. It was the only place where there was some exposed rock and there weren’t any fossils but I could take you through that day hour by hour because it was so precious.” Charles hopes the voyages will provide hour by hour memories as well as a lasting impact on the life journeys of the men and boys who sail with them.
Getting mum on board too
While planning the courses, Charles and Stefan have been asked about running similar trips for fathers and daughters and mothers and daughters. But they are keen to focus their time and energy on developing one particular family dynamic, and doing it well. They firmly believe that if you get fathers and sons on course it has a lasting impact on the whole family. But they recognise the value of mums in the equation, “We don’t want to exclude a mother, and we aren’t planning to take the father of her child off and turn him into a macho bloke that she won’t recognise. We hope she’ll realise that anything that strengthens this relationship is good for her son, and good for the family as a whole.”
But which son?
I wonder out loud how a father of two boys is expected to choose between them. Charles smiles, understanding the problem. But he is unapologetic. “These adventures need to be one father and one son. The whole one-to-one thing is so powerful, and there’s a potential for rivalry if two sons are present. If a father has two sons, then maybe he’ll just have to come back next year as well.”
Adventures for Men voyages will depart from and arrive back at Oban on the West Coast of Scotland. You will need to make your own way there although help can be given on routes and journey times.
Voyages last five nights, with accommodation on the boat included and one night camping out, weather permitting. Food and all specialist equipment is provided.
Sons should be between their 12th and 18th birthdays, while no dad is too young or too old! The Adventures For Men website has a good section on FAQ’s if you need further info.
Disclosure note: This post is brought to you in collaboration with and thanks to support from Adventures for Men who provided interview and images to allow us to bring you this story. The editorial remains, as ever, entirely our own.