Julien Heron and father Claude are the outdoor enthusiasts behind Outdoors Generations. Living on different continents, they stay connected through their passion for the outdoors and the goal to inform and inspire others.
On the Outdoors Generations website, Claude and Julien provide in-depth articles, how-to guides, and product reviews on various categories of the outdoors experience.
Introducing Claude and Julien Heron
Father Claude Heron lives 20 km from downtown Paris in Cormeilles-en-Parisis, a town in the Val-d’Oise department of the Île-de-France region. Besides being Julien’s father, he also has a daughter and one grandson.
Today, Claude is retired from a his official work life as an electrotechnical engineer, which included his contribution to launching the first two French satellites. He graduated from the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts and served in the French military in Algeria.
Already as a teenager, scouting became his main hobby, which strengthened his values: respect towards others and nature, a sense of fellowship, and mutual aid.
Recalling a two-week trek with a group of friends in Nepal as an adult, he shared: “We got across two passes of more than 5000 meters. The incredible scene, the villages we passed through, and the bonding with the natives by studying their lifestyles and traditions left me with an unforgettable memory. It is the most lasting memory of my life. In that respect, my family and professional life, along with my hobbies, have fulfilled me completely.”
Originally from Val-d’Oise, son Julien Heron has been living abroad for almost 14 years. He spent 12 years in China, evenly split between Shanghai and Hong Kong. Presently, he works as a UX/UI designer in Montreal.
After a happy childhood in the French countryside enjoying the outdoors and nature, Julien studied computer sciences and multimedia. During this time, a college friend asked Julien to join a Shaolin Kung Fu class taught by a master from China. This would change his life. Not only did he discover a new passion and make life-long friends, it also kickstarted his desire for discovery and travel.
Master Shi Heng Jun invited Julien and his friend Sébastien to his school, located in Fawang Temple, the second most ancient Buddhist temple in China. They stayed for a month in 2006 to train with high-level martial arts practitioners and returned the following year.
All along, hiking was a hobby Julien continued to share with his father. In his own words: “The fact that I was living so far away from my loved ones makes this hobby even more special; it’s a passion that we love sharing together whenever I get the chance to come back to France.”
During the summer of 2013, Julien accompanied his father Claude on his annual trek in the Alps. Since then, they try to do it again every year, and always stay at La Bessannaise Center.
What do you do?
Retired for 16 years, I try to do as many activities as possible that are within my physical and mental capabilities while also making time for my family.
Sports: running, hiking, Nordic walking, and yoga.
Intellectual: reading, memory activation, help young people to find a job and genealogical research.
I’m part of several retired people associations that allow me access to these activities in return for voluntary work. For example, I coach groups of hikers and do administrative tasks for these associations.
I’ve been a UX/UI designer for over 16 years; my job, which is also my passion, is my main occupation at the moment.
In the summer of 2019, my father and I launched Outdoors Generations, a multi-generational website, where we publish news and consulting articles and reviews and recommendations mainly related to hiking, camping, Nordic walking, and climbing materials.
Why do you do what you do?
Our goal is to promote the physical, psychological, and social benefits of outdoor activities and to respect the value of nature – and this for all age groups.
First and foremost, the necessity to preserve and maintain physical and mental fitness as we grow older.
Then, after retiring from an exciting and intense professional life, there was a growing need for recognition and being useful.
Having more time to spend now allows me to deepen my knowledge and sometimes discover new things like music, history, geography, and any new topic in the news.
I also spent some time doing genealogical research on my ancestors: the places they lived, their jobs, and their lifestyle… This is how I recovered, with the help of some websites, the Catholic baptism certificate (dated May 6, 1699) of a paternal ancestor, Adrian, a farmer who spent his lifetime in the same town in Oise.
One of my character traits is that I like to openly discuss my beliefs. I don’t hesitate to question some of my ideas and social and environmental philosophies. That is why I love sharing and discussing with my friends.
Outdoors Generations is a website we care a lot about. My father and I share our passions and values, and we built Outdoors Generations together.
For the past few years, I’ve been accompanying my father during his stays in Haute Maurienne Vanoise, where I bonded with groups of active retirees. This assured me that hiking was a passion that can be shared, no matter the generations involved. It brings us together around common values, including a sense of achievement and mutual support.
At each stage of our life, our drive differs and evolves, be it the will to excel, physical performance, or the interest in fauna and flora. Hiking allows us to share these in nature; it’s an activity that enriches us in all these aspects.
General Happier Place category?
I’m drawn in and admire everything that nature offers me: views, flora, fauna, and rocks, regardless of the type of landscapes: the countryside, the mountains, the sea, as well as the features they offer: rivers, streams, spate rivers, hills, mountains, beaches, cliffs and so on…
During my travels and excursions, I also enjoy architecture, landmarks, relics of the past, towns and villages, all places that are or were marked by human life.
While I have come across some beautiful places in foreign countries during my active life (Nepal, India, China, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, USA, Cuba, Canary Islands, Madeira, Sicily, Crete), I now look for beautiful French regions and towns.
Firstly, I’m amazed by the characteristic places in my locality, Île-de-France. Of course, the landmarks, the parks, and gardens of Paris, but also those of the neighboring departments, which are full of beautiful landscapes. However, the region that makes me feel happiest is located in the mountains, in the Haute Maurienne valley, most precisely in the Bessans Commune. I go there twice a year, during winter, to go on guided hikes with outstanding mountain guides.
The view of the permanently snow-covered mountains, the glaciers, the forests, the pastures, all under ever-changing lights, fills me with joy and happiness.
As long as I’m in the open air, it makes me happy, even though I have lived in big towns like Shanghai or Hong Kong. The time I spend in nature has always contributed to my balance and happiness, whether it’s a city park or a hike in the forest.
I have a special love for mountains; they inspire me deeply and always provides me great comfort. I love the respect and the humility they dictate and the silence that prevails. One of my dreams is to live in the mountains and have the chance to contemplate the view every day.
I also love water a lot; it is an element in which I feel very comfortable (besides, our dad taught my sister and me how to swim when we were kids). I love spending days at the beach, as well as the sound of the streams in nature, there is nothing better to help you relax.
Specific Happier Place locations?
Among all the regions I previously mentioned that make me particularly happy, I can recall:
Dordogne and notably Rocamadour, for the magnificent views of its valleys, landmarks, and legends.
In my region: Seine Valley, La Roche-Guyon, its castle, its cliffs, the troglodyte church in Haute Island, its forests, namely Montmorency, Saint-Germain, Compiègne, Ermenonville, for the beautiful scenes, the history, and the variety of its walking trails.
In the mountains, in Haute Maurienne Valley: The Arc river and its numerous tributaries (Averole, Ribbon), the glaciers (Charbonnel, Dent Parrachée), Vanoise park, Mont Cenis Pass and Dam, the villages (Bonneval-Sur-Arc, Écot), downhill to Italy to a Piedmontese village, Novalaise, for a change of scenery, the renewed discovery of this region, which reflects the biodiversity of our planet. Added to this, the joy of meeting new people every year.
Amongst the more specific regions that make me happy, in the mountains, I would also highlight The Arc like my father, Mont Cenis Dam, and particularly the pyramid-shaped chapel of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption. Mont Cenis Dam is a very special place for my wife and me, and also the start of one of my favorite hiking trails, which goes downhill to Italy and is already listed by my father.
The Yellow Mountains in China that I had the chance to visit with my sister in 2011. We stayed overnight to contemplate the sunrise at dawn, a breathtaking view.
Tai Mo Shan mountain is the highest peak in Hong Kong; the disparity between megalopolis, the ocean, and the abundant nature is impressive. Then again, in Hong Kong, Long Ke beach is only accessible through a little creek or hiking, and it’s the perfect spot to spend a wonderful day at the beach.
What do you always bring out into nature with you?
I always choose my clothes depending on the weather forecast.
Inside my backpack: a first-aid kit, a bottle of water, some food, cookies, fruit, hiking sticks, and the necessary clothing in case of sudden weather change: “sun-rain-cold”. The GIS map of the hiking region and a compass, a camera, a sketchbook, a pen, and… as modernism imposes on us, my cellphone. It’s useful to communicate and take great pictures and boost the security (alarm, GPS/location).
Apart from the necessary materials needed for hiking and weather conditions, if I could name one object that I always take with me, I would say my cellphone without hesitating. Not to make Instagram stories from the top of a mountain, or post on Facebook!
Our smartphones offer us a light option with GPS function, course registration, direction through a compass, take decent pictures to document our hiking booklets, but most importantly, THE means to communicate in case of emergency and all this at your fingertips, in a simple pocket. It is an object that I often have with me in nature.
However, during my outings, I take the opportunity to disconnect by putting my phone in airplane mode.
Happier Place tips or hacks?
Whether I am going out by myself, tagging along with a group or not, I always plan my outings thoroughly by using a GIS map and an app that helps me draw my trail with precision and to know its characteristics, length, elevation gain, and profile. Then, with the help of books, reviews, and websites, I do research to learn and discover the spots on the route (sites, history, nature). I then print and index all the interesting documents.
When I’m hiking with a group, I always scout the route, which helps me confirm or amend my choices, enjoy its difficulties and anticipate its potential risks by always keeping in mind the security of the participants.
To know and apply the “Leave No Trace” principles should be a priority for all hiking lovers. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics offers 7 principles that are simple rules to follow in order to minimize our impact on nature during our outdoor outings. With the ever-growing enthusiasm for outdoor activities, it is essential to follow these rules for the good of nature.
A dream destination?
There are regions that captivate me in France. Besides the rediscovery and in-depth discovery of the previously mentioned cities, I plan to hike in Brittany soon; in Côtes d’Armor, by going around Cap Fréhel. On this occasion, I will meet up with a great friend and colleague, where he lives, in Erguy (marvelous cliff sites).
Taking into account my beliefs regarding the protection of biodiversity, I don’t plan to travel overseas. However, there is one exception, Canada, whose “Indian summer” I want to discover, along with my wife and particularly with my son Julien who lives there now.
My list of places to visit is already a long one, and it keeps on increasing. But if I chose one place, I would pick Nepal. My choice is greatly influenced by the trek in the region of Dolpo; my father did the trek two years before his retirement. His account, the pictures, and the memories that he shares with us make me want to follow in his footsteps, to discover the people and the breathtaking landscape in that part of the world.
I also wish to do the famous GR20 course in Corsica; I would like to discover this island’s beauty.
Words of inspiration?
I adopted two mottos a long time ago:
It is a positivist attitude, which implies never to focus a negative development to any new random situation that may present itself to us or a loved one – beyond our control. It doesn’t prevent us from listing the negative outcomes, not underestimating them, and fighting them more efficiently if they arise.
It allows friendly and constructive conversations. I always have to accept that the other person can have some ideas, perceptions, and certainties that may differ from mine. However, it allows me to be more confident and more persuasive whenever I want to express my beliefs.
It is not just because I love hiking that this quote touches me, but also because of my job as a designer; spending time outdoors and walking enhances my creativity.
This quote may seem trivial, but it carries deep wisdom. It reminds me of the importance of being active and that patience, dedication, and resilience are crucial to achieving a goal that may have seemed impossible at first.
Outdoors Generations Online
Let’s Inspire Each Other
Who in your family do you share a hobby or activity with? Do you have any outdoor adventures with people in your family? Have you been to any of the places Julien or Claude have explored? Do you have any other thoughts or questions sparked by this interview?
Please leave a comment or question in the reply section below.
All photos courtesy of Claude and Julien Heron. All opinions and stated facts made by the interviewees are theirs, and don’t necessary reflect those of the people behind Happier Place (aka Luci and Scott).