Why you should embrace the 'microadventure'

morning coffee
Public Domain Unsplash

Don't wait for a big exotic trip to get outdoors. How about squeezing it in between 5 pm and 9 am?

Have you ever felt an overwhelming need to get away from your desk and into the wilderness, but your schedule doesn't allow it? Perhaps it will be months until your next vacation. You feel trapped, depressed, resigned to a life that is mind-numbingly dull.

Alastair Humphreys has a solution for you. The British adventurer and world traveller has come up with an intriguing concept called the microadventure. The idea is that people who work from 9 to 5 can use the remaining 16 hours in their day – from 5 to 9 – to seek out adventure in unconventional ways, and this makes a mundane routine easier to bear. Humphreys calls it "a refresh button for busy lives."

How does it work?

It's simple. You don a backpack after work and hop on a train or in a car to get out of the city (if you even need to). Then you start walking or biking until you get to a quiet natural spot. Pitch a tent or sleep under the stars. Heat up some food. Drink a beer. Talk with whatever friend you've convinced to accompany you on this spontaneous scheme. Spend the night outside, wake up with the sun, jump into a chilly river in place of your usual shower, and make it back to your office cubicle, just in time for 9 AM start.

The microadventure concept makes a lot of sense, and yet is rarely seen or even discussed in our society. There tends to be an attitude of 'all or nothing' when it comes to adventuring: if you're not preparing for a month-long bike trip across the country, or going on a whitewater kayaking trip for a week, or moving to a off-grid cabin for a year, then there's no point in trying. But that's not true. You should always be trying to get out and away, to sprinkle these mini escapades throughout your ordinary life to spice it up.

Why does it matter?

Microadventures help you to develop practical skills in low-risk, accessible situations that can later be applied to bigger, more exotic adventures. They reveal the beauty and wonder of the region in which you live, something that is often overlooked. They're kinder on the planet because you're not hopping on a plane to get somewhere exotic. And they cost relatively little, aside from the upfront expense of buying some basic camping gear, but even that can be borrowed, rented, or swapped.

After stumbling across Humphreys' work, I realized that I was raised by two parents who embraced microadventures, but didn't call it by any name; for them it was just life. It wasn't uncommon for us to go on early morning birding outings or breakfast picnics to watch the sunrise. Sometimes we slept in the treehouse, on a dock, or in a hole dug in the snow and lined with a tarp. We did these things on ordinary weekdays and then got up and went about our days, but always with an exhilarating sense of accomplishment. So I can vouch for this concept and say that it really is worth the effort.

Give it a try. See how you can work microadventures into your life, be it sleeping in the rough, doing an evening hike, an early morning bike ride and skinny dip, or a weekend day hike. Invite friends, take kids along, keep it simple, and never stop trying to get outside, whenever and wherever possible. Watch Humphreys' explanatory video below:


Microadventures from Alastair Humphreys on Vimeo.

Why you should embrace the 'microadventure'
Don't wait for a big exotic trip to get outdoors. How about squeezing it in between 5 pm and 9 am?

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