Words by Hal Keelin
What is it?
Alastair Humphreys, the man behind this Micro-adventure business, describes his concept as a “short, simple, local, cheap, yet still fun exciting challenge”. Get the idea? No? Well it’s basically adventuring on a small scale. Either for a night, or an evening, it’s going out and doing something “adventurous”, in its purest form, for a short while.
What do you need?
- A bivvy bag, tent, and mat
- A hat, warm clothes map and a friend
Where to start
Start looking at a map of your local area. Where does the local train stop off at that you’ve never been to before? Then, with the map spread out on your coffee table or online, look for green areas, flat areas, spaces in the land that might be able to accommodate you and maybe a friend for the night.
Micro-adventuring encourages us to do something new, unexpected and fun, to shake us up and blow away the cobwebs. If you ever feel like you need a break but without all the faff of booking places to stay and arranging travel logistics, this concept should and could become your bread and butter.
The deeper ‘why’, take it from Alastair:
Micro-adventuring is a bit more than just taking a break for the sake of it. Indeed, much of the thinking is designed to provide a balance to most people’s exhausting working week. It’s designed to encourage us to start reevaluating the way we use time and, even, think of it. Alastair is heavily enthused by the idea of reordering the nine to five as a five to nine, for example. This is a simple way of encouraging people to see that they do in fact have time for adventure after work or studies, even while still being considered productive by society within the daylight hours.
Restructuring the way we think of the hours in the day can be extremely beneficial, and we are able to see more effectively that, even while working a full week, each day we have 16-18 hours of untapped, unused golden hours. This gets right to the core of Alastair’s holistic, almost revolutionary, idea.
The idea of micro adventures gets to the core of the “What can I do with my free time?” problem that so many students are familiar with. It also encourages us to ask “what constitutes a good experience?” This kind of thinking is a wonderful opportunity to mix up your life, do something unexpected, is hardly that challenging and most importantly fun. Remember, it will be fun simply because it was different.
Micro-adventuring is all about two other key words too: Sustainability and Accessibility. Let’s explain the former. In many ways micro-adventuring is a reaction to the way of the world in the 21st century: the noise and the confusion of the news, the ping or sudden vibration for a phone notification. Micro-Adventuring is an escape from all this. It is you, and possibly a friend, making a conscious decision to step away and venture into the wild (or not so wild) country for a night or two. Critically, micro adventures need not take place far from home. It is a challenge without air miles, without flying thousands to Mount Everest base camp, or trekking in the Andes. It is a way of living wildly in an Anthropocene age.
For Sussex students this literally means taking a trip onto the South Downs or seeking out that spot you saw from your bike.
Now let’s look at accessibility. It is important in the Humphreys ethos to ensure that adventures are available to anyone and everyone. And therefore, part of micro-adventure’s spirit is that it is fundamentally accessible. Remember: short, cheap and simple! Typically, you may picture an adventurer as a heroic man conquering Everest or the North Pole. Microadventuring fights back against these ideas by reclaiming the term to be about fun, challenge and reward. Anyone can go on a microadventure, all you need is the will and the way.
Alastair believes that making adventure as accessible to as many people as possible is a fundamental benefit to mankind. To be an adventurer he writes “you do not need to be an elite athlete, or expertly trained or rich…”. What is adventure anyway but a pursuit one endures with the goal of stretching themselves, physically or mentally. It too can be about opening up to possibility, allowing yourself to do something new. Afterall, “adventure is only a state of mind”, as Alastair so kindly reminds us.
With all this aside, the best aspect of the concept for me is the way it enthuses us to rediscover beauty in the present moment. On a microadventure you can fail, be miserable for a bit and still come back with a smile, because at least you went out a bit, saw some things and came back to tell a tale.
“Life is now or never” Alastair urgently calls out, “it is this moment, and we need to make the most of it…to fill It with rich rewarding experience”, and I find there is little arguing with this.
The podcast: Living Adventurously
Alastair is also the host of the incredibly down to earth and friendly Living Adventurously podcast which I highly recommend to everyone I meet.
It’s a great listen for students, providing an escape into insightful conversations with ordinary men and women of Yorkshire who are all “adventurous” in one form or another. As one user from Shanghai reviews “these podcasts are like putting on a pair of slippers, grabbing a mug of hot chocolate and sitting by the open fire listening to stories and tales of adventure”. But the great thing about it, I think at least, is the absolute ordinariness of the people regaling their bizarre stories.
A man describing how he’s spent the past twenty or so years ferrying a piano through the canals of Britain for example, or another story from a woman telling how she prefers to run marathons in her bare feet to feel closer to the present moment. They are wacky and hilarious tales mixed with a little bit of wisdom. Alastair is a kind, cheerfu,l curious yet humble host and interviewee and his guests (mostly) hold these qualities in large abundances too.
Alastair includes loads of resources on his concept of micro-adventuring in his blog and loads more – find it here: https://alastairhumphreys.com/