Draper’s Hullinger Family Guides The Way
In the chilly predawn atop the 10,023-foot Haleakala volcano on Maui, brothers Kellen and Blake Hullinger walked in silence. As the sun rose, the stillness was broken by a group of native Hawaiians chanting a welcome to the new day.
“It was breathtaking. We felt so in the moment. We weren’t caring about our video games … we were just like, ‘Wow!’” says Kellen.
“It was crazy awesome,” adds 9-year-old Blake about this highlight from the family’s three-month journey to Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia this past spring.
The Draper family, including parents Tamara and Brett, traveled slowly through each area, walking or biking whenever possible, staying with host families and making connections with locals and with each other in active, fun ways.
That trip and their philosophy of fitness through fun and connections are detailed in their blog FitFamilyRobinson.com – a play off the adventures of Swiss Family Robinson.
“We hope to inspire people,” says Tamara, a university health and wellness lecturer, professional dancer and lifelong advocate for mental and physical well-being. “We are a free resource for families who want to enjoy fitness and adventure. We set out to create a community to connect and motivate each other.” For example, readers might see Tamara in a “Stop the Car and Stretch” video filmed in windy Whangarei, New Zealand on a long road trip, or read an inspirational article on how to plan a family biking trip exploring Zion National Park.
“This is not going-to-the-gym-type fitness, but rather a lifestyle of getting out as a family and walking, exploring and being active,” says Brett, a writer, trainer and avid bicyclist. He stresses that family connections made through fitness and travel are vital to a child’s well-being now and in the future.
“Your kids watch what you do as a parent,” he says.
Their trip put that philosophy into action. In one of their favorite places – Maroochydore, Australia – they rode bikes everywhere, frequented local businesses and learned to surf.
“We got to know the people who lived there. It made us feel at home,” says Tamara.
Connecting also means giving back. As they travel, they offer fitness classes for the community, film free workouts, and the boys play their guitar and ukulele as a thank you to each host family.
“It is the mindset that matters, not where you are. Anyone can have a Fit Family Robinson adventure,” says Tamara. The overall emphasis needs to be on fun and connecting that with fitness, she says, citing walking or riding bikes to local eateries as an easy-to-do example.
The Hullingers say the trip was a success and that a good attitude prevailed, even while living together 24/7.
“We had so many cool experiences that there was no need to argue,” says Kellen. Many of those experiences were documented in educational videos the two boys shared with their school.
Calming exercises kept attitudes up, too. Stretching and moving to music at the end of the day was a great way to unwind as a family.
“This was another level of connecting, one different from hiking or eating together,” says Tamara. Her boys held onto her gently as they swayed to the music. “I’ll cherish those moments forever.”