Just Da Boys: How Bro-Getaways Make Better Dads
Just Da Boys: How Bro-Getaways make better dads
I recently went on a weeklong surf trip with a handful of other dudes, mainly dads. It was just what the doctor ordered!
Fellow dads, I know how stretched time and money can be, but there really is nothing like getting away with some great dudes to send you back home, a better dad and spouse. Whether it’s to hike, play golf, watch some live games, surf, fish, watch birds or whatever else floats your boat – having some fun with a bunch of bros is good for the soul.
While unpacking my bags, I took a moment to unpack the four unexpected perks I brought back home too. Here’s hoping they motivate you dudes to take some real time out soon, too, and wives, maybe you wanna egg your man on to do something like this.
1. I came back happier.
What makes Jack a dull boy? You know it: all work and no play. An overdose of responsibility and seriousness can drain a man’s soul in a way that not even quality family time can replenish.
When we started our trip, we were all a little bit beleaguered. But by the time we drove back to the Mother City, we were full of beans – a bounce back in our step, and a sparkle back in our eyes.
2. I came back a better husband.
It’s a cliche for a reason: absence (in small, not overly regular doses) really does make the heart grow fonder. As much as I loved my time away with my mates, I found myself pining for the companionship and intimacy of my wife in a way I hadn’t for a long time.
Separated from the day-to-day routine and rush of life – I was able to stand back and freshly appreciate the wonder that is my woman. Of course, I’m also very aware that this gift of space and time away was only made possible by her gracious sacrifice too, and this made me all the more appreciative and eager to love and serve her better when I got home.
3. I came back a better dad.
I didn’t just miss my lovely wife, I found myself really missing our spawn too. It reminded me that sometimes we need to get away from our kids so that we are able to give more of ourselves to them. Exhausted parents need to replenish themselves so that they have more to offer their kids in the long run.
Besides, I don’t want to model to my kids a workaholic adulthood deprived of play and real friends.
4. I came back a brother.
Most men that I know in their 30s and 40s have few significant male friendships, and those relationships they do have are in slow fade. As wonderful as our friendship is with our spouse, she is only one person, albeit our main person. We were made to thrive in a brotherhood, and are lonely without it.
Now, no man will admit this loneliness, because in our culture at least, we equate loneliness with being a loser. Yet so many of us are lonely. Most don’t seem to have the same ability as women to keep real closeness to friends over many years. Having ‘coffee’ together is cool, but it doesn’t work as well for guys as girls. Girls tend to bond face-to-face. Us guys tend to emotionally connect better shoulder to shoulder while we’re on the same mission. What we need is a proper immersion in male friendships – not a mere sprinkling here and there.
That’s just what I needed, though I didn’t even really even know it at the outset.
Certainly, women need these times with good friends too, I’m just speaking on my range of experience here.
How To Make A Dude-Away Work
Wives, if you’re happy to release your man, make sure he does this time well. Guys, I’m certainly no black-belt expert on bro-time, but here are my top tips:
1. Choose wisely.
Who you go with will either make or break this trip. I have tons of non-surfing friends, for example, but this trip required that I went with fellow-surfers.
There are some guys who may be a laugh a minute, but if they are on another planet in terms of family values, hanging with them for a week may mean you come back a worse husband and father – which means the mission failed.
I suggest just 2 of you getting the idea started, then agreeing on a third guy before asking him, and then the 3 of you agreeing on a 4thguy and so on.
2. Plan long in advance.
Dude alert: you’re going to need spousal blessing on this venture.
With your spouses successfully on board, you’ll next need to decide on when it will happen, and where.
You want to go to a place where you can pursue your common interest. Financial constraints will probably be the biggest factor for where you can go. Seven years ago, we could afford to hire a boat to chase outer-reef waves in Madagascar. This year, many of us were not so cash fluid, so we kept it local. Costing us a third of the previous trip, the Wild Coast was just as lekker.
3. Travel together.
As in other vacations, the moment you depart from your city, the adventure begins.This trip worked superbly because we were able to squash into one car. Our 14-hour drive to the Transkei was part of the fun (mostly). In that single car trip I laughed more than I had in the entire month before.
4. Commit to getting along.
We all know that when people are in each other’s space for days on end, at least some personality types will grate others.
The cool thing about being men and not boys is that we (should) have the maturity to bite our tongues, and dig deep at times.
One common area of aggravation can be avoided if the radical snorers admit this before someone who shares their room has to find out the sleepless way. Best for snorers to share rooms, or to sleep in their own space.
Making rules is a good way to keep the peace too. For example, with 6 of us sharing the same surf-spot, we started a priority system so that everyone got the same amount of waves. (There was at least once when I transgressed and took a wave out of turn and incurred the wrath of my bud!)
5. Keep focused on ‘the goal’.
For us, the goal was to surf for hours every single day, from the start of day.
It got us to bed early most nights. We’d wake up an hour before sunrise, and get to the surf spot about 15 minutes before sunrise each day. We all wanted to make up for all the surfs we’d missed, and to come back better surfers.
Two guys brought a Go-Pro set with a housing that could be positioned on one’s chin – at night-time, we would re-live our waves as we huddled around the screen watching these watershots.
6. Share the load.
All the guys on this trip agreed that this is part of what worked so well. We all pulled our weight in the practicalities of cleaning up, making fires, preparing food, packing surfboards and more.
Sometimes a person would end up being a specialist in an important function (like catching fish or safely strapping on 14 surfboards) – I learnt that those prized workhorses must not be taken for granted. The other guys need to repay by carrying even more of the generalist functions.
7. Take the stress out of shared costs.
We all downloaded the coolest app ever: Splitwise. We’d then take turns paying for things – a tank of fuel, a Steers dinner, beer, accomodation etc – and then immediately enter that into the app.
The app would tell us who needs to spend next because they’d given the least so far. In the end it guided one last debtor to give exact amounts to each of the others and we were even stevens, easy peasy.
8. Get time on your own.
Arriving home more exhausted than when we left would have been a serious mission fail. Though the extroverts in our midst seemed to never tire of company, those of us who needed more solitude grabbed it. Between surfs, I’d often go for a walk on the rocks or beach. Most days I’d grab an afternoon nap and spend an hour or 3 reading – my way of deeply recharching.
9. Compete endlessly.
I doubt girls would do this, but the testosterone factor manifests in competition. So we’d play poker, and scrabble, and boulle, and would race our canoes on the river. In the surf, we’d pretend to be surfing with each other, but even there I guess us guys were keeping score of who had the best and most waves.
10. Build each other up.
Dudes are brilliant at teasing each other. I can take it as well as I can give it. But the goal of that banter should never be to break each other’s self-esteem, rather it’s to get everyone down to the same level.
All the guys I went away with were fantastic acknowledgers of each others contributions… ‘Bud, you are the braai master!’ ‘Dude, your turn on that last wave was sick.’ ‘Bro, your music selection rocks!’ ‘You’re an inspiring dad!’ ‘I want to be like you one day.’ ‘Geez, thanks so much for organizing this accomodation.’
11. Be real with each other.
Though girls may go straight to vulnerability, it takes us guys a lot longer. In each trip, I remember conversations where, usually round the fire, one guy would go there – telling us about his struggle with depression, or his contemplation of a massive career change, or his difficulties in husbanding or parenting.
That’s the time to lean into the pain and say, “Tell us more, bud.”
12. Have a reunion.
One of the best parts of the trip is that we got to deepen existing friendships and form some new ones too. The reunion will be a chance to pick up again on those friendships, while we drink beer and eat more meat.
And for our wives and kids to watch the Go-Pro videos alongside us… all of this being a cunning strategy to secure our next big dude-away, in July 2022.