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The Microadventure Challenge


As I’mve happily watched the concept of Microadventures grow and spread beyond the branches of just my own blog, my thoughts increasingly turn to how Microadventures might be used to help more people gain exposure to outdoor activities, as well as how they can help people take the next step up to bigger and bolder adventures.

I would love to hear your thoughts, reflections and ideas about these three questions:

  1. How can we inspire people to build their own habit of living adventurously?
  2. How can people self-learn skills away from the structure of organised adventure training?
  3. How can young people develop skills and independence until they are trusted to roam further and tackle bigger challenges by themselves?

One of my big goals is to help Microadventures gain sufficient momentum so that it can accelerate away without needing me to prod it along.

So I’mve tried to come up with a step-by-step list of activities aiming to encourage independent microadventures that anyone can begin, and to build up skills and confidence without access to expertise, training or facilities.

The aim is to encourage self-motivation, independence and learning from mistakes in a safe way, with minimal time or financial cost. Again – your thoughts would be welcomed.

  1. Climb your local hill in a group – choose a hill that you can see from your house / town
  2. Climb your local hill in the dark with a friend
  3. Climb your local hill by yourself
  4. Sleep out in your garden
  5. Sleep on the hill for the night in a group
  6. Sleep on the hill for the night by yourself
  7. Go on a journey – for a day, in a group
  8. Go on a journey – for a day, by yourself
  9. Go on a journey overnight, in a group
  10. Go on a journey overnight, by yourself
  11. Go on a journey that requires some planning or skill, perhaps by raft or inner tube, or by bike, for at least two nights. Navigate with a map, swim in a river, cook on a fire

Some useful skills to learn and practise along the way:

  • Cook on a fire. Leave no trace
  • Build a basha
  • Make a drinks can stove
  • Explore your local area on Bing Maps using the Ordnance Survey feature and learn how it shows the lie of the land.

A few questions to consider:

  1. What can an idea like this add to the experience provided by Outdoor Education agencies?
  2. What is good about this idea?
  3. What is bad about this idea?
  4. What objections do you think people will raise that stop people from doing these activities?
Read Comments

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  1. Susanne Posted

    Good questions – let me (and any other outdoor eddies, and academia) know when you’ve found a miracle cure..

    1. I guess the same questions appear in any kind of youth work/outdoor ed all over the place: try and find an answer to the counterquestion “So, what’s the point?” (or “why should I leave my sofa/Ipad/playstation/bed/fridge behind and go outside?”). Ask yourself: who inspired you? And how? Ask others: what/who inspires you? why?
    And why do you go outdoors?
    For many, I believe, the “significant other” (social psychology) has a huge influence on their life and development. Maybe worth having a look into that and create cool role models …

    2. Wonderful question, but why should they self-learn it, if they can have “training”/teaching/mentoring, even if it’s a friend’s big brother, or your auntie, some random person from the community who can teach you anything/something you need to know? Why would you yourself ask an online community if you might as well gain knowledge from science books?
    Self-teaching (if needed), for me, is strongly linked to trial and error, common sense, awareness, books – and youtube videos (nowadays)…

    3. Would you
    a) redefine this question to: when/how can you trust young people to go their own way? or
    b) ask “how young people learn skills and become independent?” (in that case, I suppose it’s a general education question)

    Please, make an open discussion out of this!

    Greetings from Germany, Susanne

    PS.: maybe something even more low-threshold for your step-by-step list: sleep without window blinds until daylight wakes you up (even at 5.30 pm); sleep on your balcony

  2. Sorry, this is going to be a long and cumbersome reply … I’m just so happy about the questions!

    You see, I’m currently working on ways of inspiring people to build adventures myself, and I’m trying to look at it from a slightly different angle than most: from inside, where the ground might need some tending for a seed of inspiration to grow.

    I always think the first step is to lead by doing and to inspire by showing that adventure is indeed possible for mere mortals of modest means and modest physique. Seeing the term Microadventure pop up everywhere is a powerful part of that. I believe in change from within, and changing the media consensus on what an adventurous life really encompasses is one part of the puzzle.

    Something seemingly less outdoorsy can be another: short meditations and yoga, actually – and not necessarily by slapping those labels on it. Just sitting and observing the moment for a bit (with or without amazing mountain vistas) allows people grow more in touch with themselves and what they really want to spend their time on. Also, if done without too much pomp, movement (a.k.a. yoga) is a great way to let go of self conscious, so called grown-up preconceptions such as «I’m going to make a fool out of myself», «this is silly» or «I have more important things to do». Speaking from my own experience, this kind of practice has led me back to a life where I feel like I’m entitled to play, where I don’t have to take anything (especially not myself) so damn seriously and where I can give myself enjoyable challenges instead of grinding on and on in some kind of constant struggle for perfection or importance (whatever that means).
    The freedom I’ve gained has enabled me to do whimsical adventures, like traveling to Abkhazia just because I wondered what a country that “doesn’t exist” is like, to live on a sailboat instead of in an apartment, and to be writing this from Bear Island in the Arctic.

    I believe in shifting the focus away from competitions, records, races, bucket lists and carbon frames, and more in the direction of wonder, curiosity, taste, smell, tiny self-defined accomplishments and time to just get a bit lost in the woods.

    How I would do it, as a yoga teacher as well as an adventurer:
    Teach simple movement systems coupled with attention on the breath to loosen things up and learn to listen inwards. End by sitting and just feeling whatever is there: sounds, body sensations, thoughts.
    Bonus: Do this outside as often as possible.
    Turn this into a daily practice – a keystone habit to make forming other habits easier. It’s short and easy.
    Then ask the question «what are you curious about?» and have people make a «wonder»-list (as in «I wonder» …) instead of a bucket list for themselves.

    In order to self-learn skills, I believe in (yet again) encouraging curiosity and in removing expectations and the pressure to be perfect. Giving little challenges, like the ones you listed, is one way to go about it. I’m sure you are already thinking of ways to make the doorstep mile as short as possible. Perhaps showing examples of stuff people can do in their own yards or neighbourhoods with very little equipment could be one way? Just asking questions such as «how would you prepare a meal if all you had was …» etc. and letting the answers, and thus the skills, grow organically from that?

    About young people – do you mean kids or young adults?
    When it comes to teenagers trust is huge, I think. If they feel truly trusted in their actions, the need to crush boundaries or do something stupidly dangerous is diminished. Also, I’m not sure teaming up is the best idea, even if it might seem safer. Peer pressure often creates more fear of being inadequate which can paralyze people or go in the opposite direction and make them want to show off. So I think giving young people challenges that don’t have to be shared can allow them space for a bit more trial and error. Who cares if the stove looks wonky when nobody else is around? Come to think of it, this applies to grown-ups too when learning skills.

    The very best person to ask about young people would be Maria Grøntjernet, a now 20 year old girl who’s been going on simple to more elaborate solo hikes (lasting up to several months) from the age of 13. She’s written books about her adventures and there’s a TV documentary series. I’m sure you can find some info in English or get in touch with her.

    Hope some of my musings can be of help!

  3. Your site certainly was a big influence in getting me out of the door and into the wild! Thanks.



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