Half a lifetime ago, I left home to spend a year in Africa. That was it. I was hooked. Adventure! Since then I have spent years on the open road, chasing the spirit of adventure across the planet. I’ve visited almost half the countries on Earth and still yearn to explore all those that still remain undiscovered to me. I have rowed and sailed across oceans, walked across deserts and cycled across continents.
I do it because it is fun. I do it because it is tough, and miserable, and difficult.
I do it because I love the wild, silent beauty of the empty places on our planet. And I do it because I love the teeming, vibrant fullness of our planet and the surprising, memorable interactions with the random selection of seven billion souls I meet along my way.
I do it also, in part, because it is easier in many ways than the complicated confusion and stress and hassle of aspects of modern life. My adventures have taught me so much about the world and about myself. They have given me more focus, purpose and perspective than I used to have.
I have been extremely fortunate to turn my passion and my hobby into my job. I’ve spent years paying my bills and taxes (did I mention the complicated confusion and stress and hassle of aspects of modern life?) through my adventures.
So I felt a fair degree of hesitation when I decided to dedicate a year to exploring my own country. Not only that, I was not going to embark on the sort of big, exciting adventures that are the traditional fare of career adventurers. I was going small. Really small. Tiny adventures. Smaller even that that, perhaps. I was going in search of micro-adventures close to home. What made me decide to do this?
I have spent the last decade or so writing books and blogs and giving talks about my adventures. I am aware that I am very fortunate for my hobby to be my job. Most people do not have the time or the money to live as adventurously as they might like. But over the last few years I have felt increasingly that these things need not be a limiting factor. The benefits and enjoyment I derive from adventure felt too important to me not to try to share with as many people as possible. Over time, through emails and chatting to people at events, I became aware of a couple of things. Firstly, almost everyone loves the idea of vicarious adventure. The terrifying ranks of the North Yorkshire Women’s Institute enjoyed hearing about far-off lands and the call of the wild just as much as a Goretex-clad audience at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival or Royal Geographical Society.
The second thing I learned was that by giving talks, having a website, and printing some cheap business cards describing myself as an “Adventurer”, set me apart from the people who heard me speak or stumbled across my blog. Time after time I heard variations of this refrain: “You are an Adventurer. I am a Normal Person.”
And that is total rubbish. I am an Adventurer. But I am also a Normal Person. The only difference between me and other people is that I have done various big adventures. I am not stronger or more heroic than Normal People. Absolutely not. The only difference is that I’ve managed to cobble together the time, the money, the kit, the fitness necessary to tackle big expeditions. And so I realised that what I wanted to do was to break down these barriers to adventure. Most people like adventure and would love to have more of it in their lives. But most people don’t have the time to cycle round the world.
And so the microadventure was born.
Microadventures are deliberately small adventures. They are short, cheap and simple. They are often local. But they also fulfil the criteria of my larger expeditions: to test myself mentally and physically, to discover new places, to escape the routines of normal life and immerse myself in wilderness landscapes, if only for a short while.
Adventure is accessible to everyone. There are microadventures that you can do if you are too busy for adventure or have never climbed a mountain. There are adventures in wild places that you can tackle whether you are a young child or a disabled adult. Maybe you live in a big city or feel that Britain is boring and crowded or that adventure exists only in the Yukon or Patagonia. Perhaps you enjoyed camping as a child but have now grown up, got yourself a mortgage and an lawnmower. Microadventures are designed to grab you, firmly but politely, and shake you enough to make you want to go and rediscover the rivers and sunsets you used to enjoy. It gives you permission to regain a child-like enjoyment of wild places.
Microadventures are for everyone who would love to cycle off into the sunset or head out to sea and just keep going but who, for now at least, cannot do this. They are for aspiring adventurers who are looking for the confidence to kick on to bigger projects. Microadventures are for people with real jobs and real lives, people with a mortgage and a cat to feed, people who love reading about adventure, who yearn for adventure, but who think that they are too busy, too old, too fat or too urbanised to be able to get out into the wild. They are for Dads and lads, Mums and sisters, for families looking to begin adventuring together, for husbands and fathers, wives and mothers who still have a lurking primal urge to climb a mountain, build a fire, howl at the moon and be a bit daft, if only one the occasional night away from their domestic duties.
Microadventures are for people who have never done anything adventurous in the wilderness close to their homes as well as for seasoned adventurers wanting to try something new, learn more about their local areas or scratch the itch of adventure for a while.
They are about removing the barriers, both real and perceived, busting the excuses, both valid and self-defeating and lazy. It’s about stopping yourself feeling overwhelmed by the enormity and difficulty of a long-term goal or dream and instead doing what you can to take the first tiny step on that journey. It’s about getting started. I hope the concept and the essence will be transferable to whatever realm you choose to try to tackle more adventurously, whether you have any interest in sleeping on hills or not.
This essay is taken from the introduction to my book Microadventures.