I once spent a year working as a round-the-world travel agent, booking adventurous holidays for folks who could afford to let someone else arrange their experience. As an avid researcher with a curious spirit and the constant itch to keep exploring (I’ve lived on three continents in the past 12 months), I was a natural fit for this role. But it also taught me how wide and far people will go to see the world beyond their everyday lives. From a 10-week surfing adventure in South Africa and Mozambique to a night spent camping under the stars at Uluru in the center of Australia, what you can do if you have an adventurous spirit plus the time and money to fund your dreams is incredible.
But what do you do when you’re both time- and cash-poor but want to shake up your everyday life? And regularly, too. What if traveling to different countries, climates, and challenges is beyond your reach? Or you aren’t interested in visiting exotic locations, making epic plans, and buying (and, let’s face it, storing) expensive gear? Are you meant to accept that the call of the wild isn’t meant to reach your ears? Or is there another way to enjoy an adventurous life?
In 2011, British adventurer and author Alastair Humphreys devised a solution to this common problem. A way to encourage everyday folks to regularly get outside and immerse themselves in nature and still be able to turn up for work the next day. After all, very few of us can take years (or even weeks) off from the commitments in our lives to cycle 46,000 miles through 60 countries and five continents, as Humphreys once did. So, he coined the idea of a microadventure.
What is a microadventure and how does it differ from a big adventure?
Microadventures are short, simple, and local adventures that can be done close to home, often in a day or even less. They’re a great way to break out of your routine, get some fresh air and exercise, and reconnect with nature. And the best part is that they don’t require much time, money, or planning.
So, what does a microadventure look like? It could be anything from night stargazing in your local park to hiking or kayaking down a river. The possibilities, indeed, are endless. You just need to be curious about what your local area has to offer and discover the hidden gems. The key is to get outside, challenge yourself a little bit, and have some fun.
When I think of creative ways to go outdoors, the Barcelona-based musician Argéniz Leon immediately comes to mind. Volcanoes, lava, and other natural elements inspire his spacious, synth-infused tracks. So, regularly immersing himself in the great outdoors is vital for the work he creates. “The wilderness is perhaps the main source of inspiration for me,” Leon notes excitedly. “Specifically, the sounds that happen within nature.”
That means being able to leave their metropolitan city behind for a microadventure is vital for Leon, who creates music under the name Ximeua. “Going out into nature at least once a week is helpful for my brain, heart, and soul,” he observes.
A highlight for Leon is hiking the Canal del Freser, a trail that features an aerial path and some astounding panoramic views over Fresser Valley in the Spanish Pyrenees. “You can hike it in a day and stay overnight in this wonderful shelter up in the mountains,” enthuses Leon. “Collect some wood to make a fire overnight and then return to Barcelona the next day.”
Key factors to remember when planning your microadventure
Before you grab your backpack and head for the nearest forest or mountain trail, a touch of planning goes a long way in maximizing the wow factor of your microadventure. Fear not, intrepid explorer, for I’m here to guide you through the essential steps (with some inspiration from Alastair Humphreys himself).
Know thyself, grasshopper. What makes your heart sing? Sun-drenched hikes? Twilight critter-spotting? Bone-chilling swims in forgotten streams? Figure out your jam, then find a local micro-version that gets your pulse racing. Remember, adventure isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal.
Embrace the power of proximity. You don’t need to conquer Everest to feel the thrill of exploration. Look around you. That forgotten nature trail behind your house? Untapped potential. The babbling brook a few streets away? Your own personal Amazon. Be a tourist in your own neighborhood, rediscovering the magic in the familiar.
Keep it simple, silly. Microadventures are all about shedding the stress of grand expeditions. Ditch the gear-hoarding and meticulous planning. Pack light, pack smart, and embrace the freedom of spontaneity. Remember, the best adventures are often the ones that unfold organically.
Befriend your neighbors. Strike up a conversation with fellow adventurers in your local area. They might point you toward a hidden waterfall or a legendary sunset spot. People who grew up in your neighborhood can be treasure troves of local lore, so tap into their wisdom and let them enrich your microadventure.
Leave no trace except footprints. It’s our collective responsibility to tread lightly on this beautiful planet. Take out what you take in, respect wildlife, and leave your chosen micro-paradise even better than you found it. Remember, the adventure shouldn’t come at the cost of the environment.
Embrace the unexpected. Microadventures are all about stepping outside your comfort zone and embracing the unknown. Things might not always go according to plan, but that’s half the fun. Be open to detours, embrace the curveballs, and let the adventure unfold in its own unique way.
Track your microadventure. Whether scaling a local rock face (micro-mountaineering, anyone?) or communing with the squirrels on a nature walk, having the correct Polar sports profile ensures you get the most out of your adventure and data. And remember, with one of Polar’s outdoor or multisports watches, you can edit your sports profile to include a range of valuable metrics, such as altitude, compass, back to start, and Hill Splitter™.
Share the journey. Always ensure someone knows where you’re headed, especially when adventuring solo. Then, share your escapades with friends, family, and fellow adventurers on your return. Inspire them to get out there and create their own pocket-sized thrills. Remember, shared adventures are twice the fun.
Microadventure ideas you may not have thought of
For Humphreys, a microadventure is “a shorter, simpler, cheaper, more local, more accessible version of what you deem to be an adventure.” That means there are probably untapped treasures in your local area waiting for you. Here are 16 ideas to help inspire you to look at your surroundings in a new light.
- Go for a hike or bike ride on a new trail. There are probably more trails in your area than you realize. Do some research online or ask at your local bike shop for recommendations.
- Spend the night camping somewhere you can reach on foot. Pitch a tent, build a campfire (if allowed), and roast marshmallows under the stars.
- Go wild swimming in a lake or river. Discover a natural swimming spot for a refreshing swim to cool off on a hot day.
- Take a stargazing trip to a dark sky area. Escape the city’s light pollution and find a spot with a clear night sky view. You can use a stargazing app to help you identify the constellations.
- Go rock climbing or rappelling. Find a local climbing gym or outdoor climbing area and challenge yourself to reach new heights.
- Feast on some campfire cooking in a scenic spot. Plan a camping trip in a beautiful place where campfires are allowed. Pack your favorite foods and drinks and focus on cooking your meals over an open fire.
- Go for a sunrise or sunset yoga session. The views are often the most spectacular at these times of the day. Practice yoga outdoors during sunrise or sunset for a calming and invigorating experience.
- Take a kayaking or canoeing trip. Explore a local river or lake from a different perspective.
- Go for a geocaching adventure. Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunt that uses GPS to find hidden caches.
- Visit a local farm or farmers market. Learn about where your food comes from and enjoy some fresh, local produce.
- Go for a walk in the woods. Take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy the peace and quiet of nature.
- Try rucking. Turn your microadventure into a workout by walking with a weighted backpack (aka. rucking).
- Hike beyond the ordinary: avoid conventional tourist routes and seek out unique places only locals know about.
- Bird Watching: Grab a pair of binoculars, a bird guidebook, and spend time identifying birds in your area.
- Foraging Expedition: Learn about edible plants in your area and go on a foraging expedition.
- Outdoor Fitness Circuit: Create a simple fitness circuit using natural elements like logs, rocks, or hills.
Remember always to prioritize safety and respect the environment during your outdoor microadventures.
Bite-sized adventures are just as tasty
Don’t get me wrong, globetrotting is fantastic, but it’s not the only way to inject some ‘wild thing’ into your life. Especially when, let’s be honest, time and budget often conspire against us mere mortals. There is such beauty in appreciating and embracing the small wonders that lay just beyond our doorstep. So get out there and start exploring. You might surprise yourself with what you discover.
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.