White Chalk Cliffs of Dover

Behemoth white cliffs jetty out into crystal blue water. Straddling the edges of the cliffs are miles of hiking trails, and just below them are pristine white-sand beaches. You’d be forgiven for momentarily thinking your early morning hike had somehow led you to Santorini or The Mayan Riviera. But no. The white cliffs of Dover walk are situated in Kent, England.

Most of England is better known for its gray skies, meat pies, and of course, posh royalty than anything that could be misconstrued as “serene natural beauty.” Misconceptions aside, the serotonin rush I got from that sunrise coffee easily rivals the feeling from my celebratory cigar at Salkantay pass, that first glass of wine under the Milky Way in the Sahara, or the first peek of Half Dome I got when I drove into Yosemite Valley for the very first time.

If you’re anything like me, you spend a lot of time and expend a lot of energy chasing that rush.

This Dover hike was similar to those other experiences in some ways, but it was also unique: I walked along very close to the edge of the cliff–not to get a better view but to make sure neither of my daughters got too close.

Teaching my daughters to love the outdoors

I have 2 pink-wearing, princess-loving little girls, aged 2 and 5. I want nothing more than to instill a lifelong love for the outdoors in my young children. We hike nearly every day, but that serotonin rush is unique enough that I’ve only experienced it about a dozen times. My girls are too young to climb 5,000-meter mountains. They’re too small to swim in open water or trek days into the desert.

The reason the Dover hike was so unique was that it was easy–yet challenging enough. Of the dozen or so adventures that have given me that same rush, this is the only one that can be done by young kids.

I’m not an expert at instilling a love of the outdoors, but it was day hikes with my dad–just like this one–that shaped me into who I am.

My girls and I had a picnic of croissants and cheese in the grasslands along the cliff’s edge overlooking the ocean. Then I asked my 5-year-old to do something that I never thought I’d ask her to do: while holding my hand (of course), she sat on the edge of the chalk cliff and dangled her legs over the side.

Terrified is not a word I use lightly, but it perfectly encapsulates how I felt. I’m not sure I had ever felt so scared in my life–except maybe when my dad asked me to do the same thing over the cliffs at Table Rock, near where I grew up in Oregon when I was 5.

She was scared. I was scared. We didn’t speak much about it after she came back from the edge. But the very next day, she begged me to go back.

White Chalk Cliffs of Dover

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