Call her “Tarzan’s Child” or the “GoPro Girl,” Alison Teal, 29, raised as a globetrotting surfer in a hut her parents crafted themselves, is now validating the adventure parenting lifestyle by traveling the world with her pink surfboard and filming her own adventure series to inspire families to step off the beaten path.
Many may remember Ms. Teal as a recent contestant on the Discovery Channel's reality show “Naked and Afraid,” where two strangers are paired together to survive 21 days in some of the world's harshest environments with no water, food or clothes.
Our son Quin, 10, knows her as “the girl with the pink surfboard riding a camel.”
Quin scours the Internet looking for adventure ideas, which he then attempts in real life. While this can be great, it also means constant vigilance on my part to insure he doesn’t choose to free-climb the tallest building in town, or kiss a snake at the zoo.
He has been a long-time fan of the show “Wild Kratts” on PBS Kids, and has graduated to looking to Bear Grylls (Man vs. Wild) as a hero.
However, I was especially happy to see him transition to a female adventure role model when he began watching Teal’s self-produced series on YouTube called "Alison’s Adventures." He also watches her short films through her website.
“I love that she knows how to make so much stuff,” Quin says of Teal. “She can make a blanket out of leaves. Actually, she can probably make something out of anything she finds. Plus she surfs and I surf, so there’s that.”
Seeing pictures online of Teal as a child, drinking from a freshly decapitated coconut, makes my heart ache for the days when our eldest son, Zoltan, now in college, did the same thing on a beach in the Dry Tortugas National Park off the coast of southern Florida in the Gulf of Mexico.
My husband and I tried for six years to be “adventure parents” with our oldest sons (Zoltan and Ian), but ran out of funds and options that didn’t tie us to land. During our adventure time, we lived aboard a sailboat on the gulf coast of Florida.
It was a sometimes white-knuckled yet heart-filling, spirit cleansing, epic family learning adventure that included: flying fish, worried dolphins that flocked to the boat whenever the baby cried, extreme poverty, new friends, and figuring out how the heck you open a coconut you’ve just climbed a tree to retrieve.
It was worth every storm-tossed event. My only deep regret is that our two younger sons (Quin and Avery) – born on land after the sailboat adventure was played-out – never had the experience.
While I still joke about the hardships we experienced, like being pregnant and simultaneously morning sick and seasick, I would get on a boat again tomorrow with my husband and sons.
Therefore, I love seeing Teal in the news for her series that is largely shot with a GoPro camera, and currently being promoted on the GoPro website.
My hope is that following Alison’s Adventures may encourage more parents to live a more adventurous life with their kids.
We moved off our boat and back to land because we could not find ways to support the lifestyle.
However, Teal’s parents had careers more suited to the moveable parenting plan than we did.
Alison’s parents are former National Geographic Photographer David Blehert and yoga instructor Deborah Koehn.
These parents raised their daughter off-the-grid in a 100 percent hand-built sustainable home on the Big Island of Hawaii. According to the couple’s website, Mr. Blehert also received one of the first Master's degrees in Experiential Education in the country.
“My mom and dad each had their own list of three things you have to have, because without those things life gets sketchy,” says Teal in a phone interview from California, where she is traveling for a Discovery Channel event. “Dad’s was: health, humor, and money. Mom’s was a connection to: nature, God or spirit, and each other.”
Today, her parents run a yoga travel business from Hawaii, which continues to take them around the globe. According to their voicemail message, the couple is currently in Peru.
However, when Alison was a child, her family travelled to some of the world's most remote destinations together, which led to Teal’s interest in filming her own travels.
“I think kids grow up watching Disney films and never realizing those people and all that magic exist in the world,” Teal told me. “Not to in any way diss conventional education, but experiential learning can’t be beat. I learned math by being given money and being sent into the market in India. I learned history by seeing where it happened.”
Because Teal realized most kids don’t have the opportunities, she has she decided to share the world via video. She received a scholarship to attend USC's film school, which led to her launch of Alison's Adventures, in which she travels the world with her pink surfboard.
The self-produced series explores new cultures and shares the world with the world by roaming destinations such as New Zealand, Morocco, Nepal, and Fiji.
“I want to travel and help people get in touch with being a child and learn to approach the world with wonder at any age with the goals to surf, survive and sustain,” she says. “My parents are amazing. They’re still on their adventures. I’m learning from them that you can adventure at every age and it’s never too late to start.”
Speaking for my family, I can say Teal is well on her way to achieving her goal of sharing the world with others. While my first inclination is to thank her, the truth is her parents deserve much of the credit.