Real Talk With Mountain Guide-Dad Martin Volken

Mountain guide Martin Volken loves the mountains. Loves them. In his decades of guiding, he's shared that love with countless people and influenced others to get out and experience nature. And raising his two daughters has given him yet another reason to love the mountains: It's where he finds it easiest to connect with them on a deeper level. Here we asked Martin for his thoughts on fathering and guiding—and the next generation's relationship to natural places.

Before you were a father, what were your worries or thoughts about living a life of outdoor adventure with kids?

I wish I could say that I actually thought that through like that, but I simply wanted to be in the mountains—at all times. I did not think about how that was going to work with children. 

Your daughters are obviously proud of you and the life you've made. Did you ever wonder whether or not they would understand your career and life choices?

Once I was a dad, I started to think more about my life choices and whether my outdoor lifestyle could contribute positively to their life. Roaming around in nature had always been part athletic endeavor, part sanctuary for me, so I was convinced that it could become a positive aspect in my daughter's lives. 


What was something you had to learn (about being an outdoorsman and parent) that challenged you?

Well, I had to learn that it is really hard to make memories with your kids when you are not at home. Brilliant, I know, but my passion for the mountains let me glance over this glaring fact and if it had not been for my wife's extreme understanding and flexibility, it would not have worked. It was also hard at times to come home calm but exhausted from the mountains and enter toddler mayhem. It is as if your entire mental status has to adjust to a different reality and that was hard sometimes. 

What's one value that a life in the outdoors has helped you pass on to your children that you think is most important?

It's important to keep access to natural places. It doesn't need to be the mountains—just any natural place. They are more important for us than ever as we grow ever more cosmopolitan and become harnessed by social media pressures. The natural environment is the ultimate fair and non-judgmental place, and I'm convinced that doctors could literally prescribe nature like a medication and it would cost big pharma billions of dollars per year. There is great healing and peace there. 


Do you get out with your daughters often these days? Have there been any memorable moments you've shared in the outdoors recently?

Yes, I run, bike, hike and climb with my girls regularly and it does not have be hardcore or strenuous. I am sure so many parents have experienced the magic that happens when you're cruising through some landscape and it's quiet and your children's thoughts slowly bubble to the surface. I suppose it's called making a true connection.