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Travel Lifestyle Is Not Natural, Kids Meant To Run In Packs

Isn’t this how it’s supposed to be?

FISH GUTS, Montana- My kids are experiencing something here in northwestern Montana that they’ve never experienced before. One is nearly eight and the other is on the cusps of turning three, and I am almost appalled at myself and my parenting methods, because what they are experiencing here something that is so natural, so normal, so integral to the human experience …

They are running in a pack of kids.

It’s like a poker game out here. All of the parents got together and through their ante out in the middle. But rather than money or chips, we’re gaming with kids. I tossed in two, my sister brought three, her new husband contributed another three, and my cousin primed the pot with another one.

Nine kids aged 3 to 16, one house. They’re going bonkers. Sometimes they’re in the backyard, sometimes they’re in the front, sometimes they’re down the street, sometimes they’re at the playground — nobody really knows where they are or what they’re doing. They take care of themselves.

The pack is a self-regulating organism. Leaders are selected naturally and everyone falls into their role without needing to discus it or to dole out official titles and job descriptions. The bigger ones watch over the littler ones, the smarter, more confident ones lead the way, the rest follow. They don’t engage with the adults until someone gets hurt or someone feels compelled tattle.

All over the world it’s the poor people who still need each other — who have any use for their tribe. Once we get a little money we build up walls around ourselves, flip on the security system or hang up the razor wire like decorating some kind of dystopian Christmas tree, and stop talking to people.

The parents are free to do what they wish, which, in another context, would mean working in the fields or on some other project, but here in Montana in 2018 it just means sitting in the backyard drinking box wine and beer, talking.

I can remember those rare occasions where my parents would hang out with their friends when I was little. I can remember it blowing my mind how they would just sit there doing nothing — nothing but talking. These people were parents, for f’ck’s sake! They could have been doing ANYTHING they wanted, but they decided to squander their glorious infusion of self-determination on just sitting there looking at each other’s mugs and they rippled and contorted with flatulent rhythm of words. No wonder why old people prune up and die, I thought, they are clearly too boring to live.

But now I’m the pruney boring one, just sitting in the backyard sipping beer, flapping my jowls as my kids run all around me with their little tribe.

Sometimes as I travel I hear people telling stories about how they used to have a group of neighborhood kids that they would run around with when young. These stories are more often than not associated with tales of poverty. All over the world it’s the poor people who still need each other — who have any use for their tribe. Once we get a little money we build up walls around ourselves, flip on the security system or hang up the razor wire like decorating some kind of dystopian Christmas tree, and stop talking to people. We end up depressed and some doctor tells us we have chemical imbalances in our brains that can only be remedied with the correct dosage of artificially induced chemicals that must use our newfound wealth to pay for. It of course doesn’t really work, we look at all the happy people on Facebook, and conclude there must be something wrong with us.

I guess some people really have something wrong with them … but most, I believe, are perfectly fine except for the fact that they decided to live like an Orca in Sea World…

Watching my kids run in a pack should be something that’s so normal that there is no reason to mention it. White rice. But we’re travelers and we have no tribe. This is by far the biggest deficient to the lifestyle.

When I look at my kids running around in a pack of kids in Montana as some kind of novelty I know that I’m living in frightening times.

It’s easy to criticize the way that you live and to think that others have it better. However, I can’t get on myself too hard here, as sedentary people in over-developed countries often don’t experience any greater degree of community:

My in-laws live on a nice quiet street in Maine that has a string of old houses that all have these big, beautiful porches. It’s easy to imagine a time when everybody would be hanging out on them in the summertime, walking from porch to porch talking with their neighbors; their kids running up and down the street in packs. But today you never see anybody on these porches. The houses all have people living in them but you’d never know it from the street, which has all the bustle of Love Canal.

We live in a world where our villages are being abandoned or razed in droves and the old urban neighborhoods are being broken up. I feel far safer in the ghetto of Chicago where eyes and voices are everywhere than on these barren, empty streets in so-called nice places to live.

When I look at my kids running around in a pack of kids in Montana as some kind of novelty I know that I’m living in frightening times.

Kids … no, people are meant to run in packs. I’m not so sure why we don’t anymore but by Jove it sure ain’t pretty.

Filed under: Family, Montana

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3413 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Prague, Czech Republic

4 comments… add one

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  • Rob August 8, 2018, 9:41 pm

    S’mores & little kids, you’re a brave soul! 🙂

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    • Wade Shepard August 9, 2018, 2:24 am

      That’s for sure! Melted marshmallows everywhere.

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  • Mary Soderstrom August 11, 2018, 8:15 pm

    Montreal’s a good city for that. Lotsa parks which kids can walk to.

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    • Wade Shepard August 12, 2018, 5:04 pm

      That’s true. I may go and do a doctorate at McGill sometime soon!

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