LDS Arizona senator takes sons on survival-type family trip

Published: Wednesday, June 12 2013 9:40 a.m. MDT

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., with his two youngest sons Tanner (15) and Dallin (13) on Bigarenn Island in the Marshall Islands.

Screenshot from YouTube

For Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and his two youngest sons — Tanner, 15, and Dallin, 13 — their father-sons getaway stuck to the bare necessities.

The three arrived on Biggarenn Island in the Marshall Islands over Memorial Day weekend without food or water. For their four-day trip, they brought only a desalinator, a satellite phone (for emergencies), a spear, snorkel gear, a hatchet and a magnifying glass (to start fires).

“We’ve had other vacations, and those are fine, but there’s something to it when you don’t bring any food and you’re in it together and you have to work for it,” Flake said. “It’s a good bonding experience for father and boys.”

Flake and his sons ate coconuts and fish and crab they caught by spearing them.

In 2009, Flake had a similar but solo experience on a different island in the Pacific, where he had his own survival trip. But this time around, Flake wanted his sons to be a part of the brief survival experience as well.

“These days, when you live in the suburbs and city, sometimes life is easy, and we need kids to do hard things, and this was a hard thing. And I think they enjoyed it,” the Republican senator said. “It would have been a difference experience completely if they had brought food or made it more of a cushy environment, but I think it worked well.”

Although the three enjoyed some downtime together, they did have more intense moments on the island as well.

“One time with Dallin we were out spear-fishing and we speared a fish and the sharks immediately came to the fish on the end of the spear, and so Dallin and I ended up having to swim to shore with sharks literally chasing the fish at the end of our pole,” Flake said in an interview with Fox 10 news.

Flake and his sons, who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, enjoyed the time they had to spend with each other, especially devoid of digital gadgets and busy schedules.

“We did some really neat things there, you know, spear fishing and hunting crabs and doing fun things in the water and on the island, but I can tell you my favorite time was sitting there with them every night,” Flake said. “[With a desalinator] you have to pump for an hour just to get a gallon, and so every night we would pump water ... and just [talk] about whatever they wanted to talk about. And part of it was where are we going to go eat when we get home … but it was deeper conversations as well, [like] what they want to do when they grow up. Just to be away from all the other trappings was wonderful.”

Flake said he would be willing to do a similar trip with his family again in the future.

Abby Stevens is an intern for the deseretnews.com Faith and Family sections. She is a recent graduate of Brigham Young University–Idaho. Contact Abby at astevens@deseretdigital.com.

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