Microadventures Series : What’s A Microadventure?

Photo of a natural staircase on a dirt path. The steps have been created with roots on the hillside.
This natural staircase is within a mile of my house so it’s easy to get in some elevation
change. The added bonus is that I also get a great view of the Mississippi River.

As I’ve been thinking about how to reframe my idea of what adventure means to me in our pandemic impacted world, I’ve had to adjust my thoughts on what adventure means to me. For me the last few years have been filled with hiking adventures, near and far from my home. Some have been bigger and some smaller. Now that I’m literally forced by a global pandemic to stay at home, finding adventure that brings me joy has been harder. But I’ve also been inspired by the mini adventures I see others doing and by listening in on my favorite podcasts. All of this got me researching the origins of microadventures and how they might shift my perspective for this time when I’ve been feeling the loss of travel adventures.

What is a Microadventure?

Well it turns out that in the last week, I was introduced through the Real Talk Radio podcast hosted by Nicole Antoinette, to an older episode where I learned of Alastair Humphreys, National Geographic’s 2012 Adventurer of the Year. Alastair is an individual who understood the need for adventure that’s attainable by anyone – even before coronavirus and COVID-19 entered our lexicon. While the podcast was recorded back in 2015, the idea of microadventuring resonated with me so strongly in the here-and-now when he talked about how the demands of life can make Big Adventures a challenge. So much so that he redefined his mindset about adventure. (Listen to the podcast here.)

The basic idea of a micro adventure is that it’s a short, perspective-shifting burst of travel closer to home. According to an interview with Alastair in the New York Times, this could be pitching a tent in nearby woods, exploring your city by moonlight or camping in your backyard. Think about it for a minute and you’ll likely see that it’s all the things we did as a kid. Filling our world with wonder with the simplest of things. Finding Little Adventures that are affordable and need little or no travel. I can use the gear I have at hand and maybe even practice a skill I need to hone for the day when I can Big Adventure again.

Rethinking My 2020 Big Adventures

2020 had originally been filed with some Big Adventures for me that I’d been planning for for quite a long time. In April I was to try out a camper van rental and head to the Southwest U.S. with the goal of visiting areas for adventures and retirement planning. Then in May I would follow that up with a week hiking in Minnesota State Parks on my way to closing in on a hiking goal. July would bring a two week trip to visit relatives in California so we could do some hiking and camping. Following close on the heels of that I’d be off to San Francisco for a professional development conference that I’d try to bookend with a couple hikes. Finally, my annual pilgrimage to the north shore of Minnesota for time with my sweetheart and some section hiking of the Superior Hiking Trail.

Then the reality of what 2020 will look like started to hit. By late February, when the news of the global pandemic was just starting to rumble into the U.S. my travel companion and started talking about putting the camper van adventure off. It wasn’t long before we both agreed that as the pandemic landed solidly closer to home, we needed to revamp our plans. In early March we made the hard call to cancel.

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Next up would be a May trip to knock off 14 more Minnesota State Park hikes on my list toward the goal in hiking in all all 67 parks. I’ve been proud to be a Minnesotan and contributing to the efforts in our state to flatten out the infection curve. Our Stay At Home Order (SAHO) is, at the time of this post, set to expire in a week. I fully expect that the order will be extended and the final result will be in my cancellation of this trip. If the SAHO is relaxed, I’m may still put this off even though I have the “luxury” of time right now, having been furloughed from my job. Staying in my house and neighborhood mean that the people who will make this next adventure as memorable as my 2019 Minnesota State Park adventure will hopefully be there to help make the next one equally memorable. I was grateful during last year’s trip for kindnesses all along the way from total strangers to park rangers. The idea of putting any of those people who would be part of my 2020 adventure at risk by traveling hours from home doesn’t align with my personal values of being part of a larger community.

As for that trip to California in July … well, I’m grateful that no flights were booked. Like most destinations with communities that value outdoor recreation, California’s population is struggling with how to navigate the myriad of interpretations of SAHO, trail closures and social distancing. With so many people vying for already valuable and treasured space to recreate in the outdoors, it doesn’t make sense to me to add to that challenge. So that trip will also wait for another time. And the conference will be a virtual one so that adventure has also been nixed.

My fall trip is wait and see. It’s very personal because of relationships with year-round residents I’ve nurtured over many years. My friends in the area are asking for people to stay away for now. I will honor that request for as long as they want.

The Stay At Home orders across the nation have touched every bit of the freedoms we hold most dear and we are grieving big and small. It’s important to acknowledge this because grief makes us sad, angry even. Whether it was a thru-hike or a trip to a National or State Park, those are off limits right now and that hurts. As someone who has spent the last year trying not to hike in the same places, giving up that sense of the “new” adventure has been particularly hard.

Choosing to Microadventure In Lieu of a Big Adventure

Recently one of my favorite podcasts, She Explores, highlighted thru-hiker and fellow Women Who Hike Ambassador Lindsey Falkenburg and her difficult decision to put off her thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) which would have landed her with the triple crown of long distance hikes. She discussed the ethical decisions about traveling through small towns and the impact her presence would have on them as well as her new-found sense of adventure via microadventures in her own city. (Listen to the podcast here.)

Enter the concept of Microadventure …

“Adventure is about making the very most of life because life is short and we don’t want to get old and look back and regret all the things that we didn’t do. Adventure is more of an attitude than anything else. And if that’s true then surely you can find adventure anywhere.”

Alistair Humphreys

Giving up on a Big Adventure is hard. By reframing what adventure IS we open ourselves to endless opportunity to find Little Adventures.

I’ve been making the idea of Slowing Down a mantra in my current outdoor adventures. I’ve been looking for at-home alternatives to keep my time filled and fulfilling. The results of my effort have been fueled by suggestions from the Women Who Hike community, podcasts and webinars. Over the next few weeks I’ll challenge myself to seek out Microadventures and report back.

Instead of seeing limits, I’m going to be looking at those as an opportunity to reconnect with my inner child. To find wonder in the small things. To slow down and savor the quieter skies, the bird calls in my backyard, how wonderful it is to sleep in my tent and know that I can head to the fridge for fresh snacks if I get hangry. I’ve camped in my backyard twice now and expect it will become a regular part of my microadventure for many years.

Need a bit of inspiration? Check out my recent post about camping at home !

I invite you to join me in reframing the idea of what an adventurous life can be.

Next Post Preview: Thru-hikes, long trails are great. But what about hiking in the tiniest of places? Find out what its like to do milage in your own backyard or laps around the block.

Microadventure Resources

These are a few other great resources for starting your own micro-adventure series:

Alastair Humphreys Living Adventurously is a website and blog dedicated to finding adventure wherever you are.

Microadventures: What They Are and Why We All Need Them – published by Nemo Equipment


Photo of a group of hikers on a sunny day in a field heading towards a wooded area. The photographer has taken the photo from behind the group.

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2 thoughts on “Microadventures Series : What’s A Microadventure?

  1. Great post Ruth! Hooray for micro-adventures! There’s so much to see if we will only look. ❤ I'm excited to follow along with you. I have been dreaming of a creative plan b for my cancelled May trips and hope to pull off at least one micro-adventure close to home as well. Lets make the most of it!

    Liked by 1 person

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