Britain’s landscape has been moulded by man and millennia of man’s activities that have destroyed or changed our original wilderness for ever. In these more enlightened times increasing numbers of people are passionate about protecting and preserving and restoring our wild places. But the forests that once covered our land are gone. Thousands of rivers have been dammed or diverted or buried. But this is not about despair. The fox cubs I saw playing one morning on the quiet, bramble-choked section of what was once Britain’s busiest Roman Road are a reminder of nature’s resilience and versatility. Spend some time quietly concentrating in a garden or park and you will hear wild birds belting out their songs, just as they have always done. And, snug in your sleeping bag on a biting cold and starry night, the valley below you may be bright with street lights and roads. But the wind is as raw and fresh as ever, the night beneath the stars as magical and precious.
I will define what I feel a microadventure is shortly, but first of all let’s try to define adventure. It’s important to do it this way round because I think it is vital that you look at a microadventure not as a diluted, inferior thing to an adventure. It is not.
Adventure is a loose word, a spirit of trying something new, trying something difficult. Going somewhere different, leaving your comfort zone. Above all, adventure is about enthusiasm, ambition, open-mindedness and curiosity.
If this is true then “adventure” is not only crossing deserts and climbing mountains. Adventure can be found everywhere, every day and it is up to us to seek it out.
You probably can’t go on huge adventures all the time. We all have to pragmatically juggle the commitments and constraints of our “real lives”.
But you can have a microadventure.
Because you do not need to fly to the other side of the planet to find wilderness and beauty.
Adventure is only a state of mind.
Adventure is stretching yourself; mentally, physically or culturally. It is about doing something you do not normally do, pushing yourself hard and doing it to the best of your ability.
You do not need to be an elite athlete, expertly trained, or rich to have an adventure.
A microadventure is an adventure that is close to home, cheap, simple, short, and yet very effective.
A microadventure has the spirit (and therefore the benefits) of a big adventure. It’s just all condensed into a weekend away, or even a midweek escape from the office. Even people living in big cities are not very far away from small pockets of wilderness.
Adventure is all around us, at all times. Even during hard financial times such as these. Times when getting out into the wild is more enjoyable, invigorating and important than ever.
A microadventure then is exactly the same as an adventure. It captures the essence, the spirit, the challenge, the fun, the escapism, the learning experiences and the excitement. All these things remain. And it is very important to approach even a small microadventure as though it was a bigger project. In other words a microadventure is still an adventure. It is just one that does not require a lot of time, a lot of skill or money, a lot of experience or to travel far from home.
Most of my microadventures in this book revolve around wild camping, or sleeping outdoors but not in official campsites. I began enjoying sleeping in wild and wonderful places when I was a student. Since then I guess I’ve spent around a thousand nights sleeping outdoors. Out of all those probably only about ten have been in a ‘proper’ campsite.
I’ve slept on top of England’s highest mountain on New Year’s Eve and on the northern tip of Britain in midsummer week. I’ve slept on hill tops, seashores, river banks, even on a swimming platform out at sea and in sewage pipes (clean ones) on three continents!
So I know how easy, safe, simple, fun, rewarding and invigorating sleeping wild can be. But I completely understand how someone who has never done it might think otherwise. I hope that this blog will help encourage people to try new ideas. So, in addition to the various microadventures that are recounted, I have written chapters to try to explain how to do it all, and to answer a few common worries.
Here is how to get the best out of the microadventure idea, whether you are applying it to adventures or whatever else it might be.
1. Think Big. Allow your mind to wander and your imagination to get carried away.
2. Think Small.
3. Start Small.
4. But do Start!
I sincerely hope that this blog will encourage collaboration and participation and sharing. My aim for this blog is to give enough anecdotes to sow some ideas of your own, and enough basic information to get you started. And then I want you to get out there! I want people who read this blog, even if they have never slept on a hill before (perhaps especially those people) to give it a go, just once.
Do it by yourself or with friends. Do it with your parents or children or colleagues from the office. Seek out short, interesting, rewarding adventures right on your doorstep.
And once you have done your microadventure, share your stories online. Tag them with #microadventure so that everyone can see what you got up to. Doing this will help further breakdown the barrier between “Normal People” and “Adventure”. It will help show that Normal People like you, like me, can find adventure close to home.
If you are too busy, too stressed, too broke, too tired or too unfit for an adventure, then you definitely would benefit from a microadventure.
Climb a hill, jump in a river, sleep under the stars. Try it. What’s the worst that could happen? Microadventure: a refresh button for busy lives.
This essay is taken from the introduction to my book Microadventures.