Breathe New Life Into Your Weekends With Microadventures
Here’s the thing; most Americans that work full-time get two weeks of paid vacation per year plus 8-10 days of paid national holidays. Three and a half weeks of time off per year is hardly enough to satiate any remote thirst for adventure. While it’d be nice to jet set away to the crystal-blue waters of the Maldives or sample every kind of cheese in France, the reality is that we can’t all travel all of the time. This means weekends have become crucial components of appeasing the wanderlust dragon that lives inside of us all. I’ve found that microadventures do a phenomenal job of breathing vitality into my weekends (we need them), keeps me active, gets me inspired and gives me the very same “good vibes” I get when I travel.
What is a microadventure?
Microadventures can be thought of as mini travel excursions or camping trips with a slightly different air. The New York Times described microadventures as a “short, perspective-shifting bursts of travel closer to home, inspiring followers to pitch a tent in nearby woods, explore their city by moonlight, or hold a family slumber party in the backyard.” Microadventures encourage us to see our stomping grounds differently and appreciate what we already have around us. You don’t need a ton of supplies to get started and you certainly don’t need to spend a fortune to have one. All you need is an easygoing attitude, sense of exploration, and one night.
The term got popularized by an enigmatic person named Alastair Humphreys, who believes that adventure is “accessible to normal people, in normal places, in short segments of time and without having to spend much money.” Microadventures are loosely defined, but generally, they are held outdoors and overnight. You can sleep in a bivvy bag (individual waterproof shelter), tent, or under the stars in blankets or a sleeping bag. Humphreys also champions the idea of doing a “year of microadventures”, where he suggests different pursuits that can take place all year long, such as watching a celestial event, taking someone else on their first microadventure, or swimming in wild water (which he is a big fan of).
I was so enamoured by this concept that I decided to challenge myself to one year of microadventures. Although I already enjoyed hiking and the occasional camping trip, I wouldn’t have necessarily called myself the “outdoorsy” type. But, there was something inside of me calling out for a change. I wanted to do more with my weekends other than running errands, boomeranging from store to store, binge watch TV series, and eating at overpriced restaurants. The concept is completely attainable, even as a full-time worker living in the buzzing suburbs of Silicon Valley in California. Any way you look at it, there are really only solid reasons to microadventure.
Are you sure anyone can microadventure?
I’m not the most coordinated person in the world. In fact, I’m extremely clumsy; can’t read a map to save my life, instinctively close my eyes when catching things thrown at me, and usually wind up ending most meals with sauce in my hair and crumbs on my shirt. But that doesn’t matter when I’m microadventuring. You don’t have to backpack 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail or fly halfway around the world to trek through the jungles of Vietnam. You don’t have to be trained alpinists or people with deep pockets able to travel around the world at a whim. You don’t have to be a certain age to enjoy nature. All you need is you.
Microadventures are simply about normal people with busy lives that work the 9-5 but want to make the most out of their 5-9. It’s about getting outside and reconnecting with yourself on a regular basis. Microadventures are for you, me, and for anyone who wants to come along. The word adventure is defined as an experience that is exciting, unusual, or unknown. It can be had anywhere, which means your very own backyard may be full of opportunities for exploration.
“Adventure is only a state of mind.” – Alastair Humphreys
Microadventures are the sisters of travel.
Microadventures give me the same exhilaration I feel when I’m preparing for travel. Many of the components run in parallel. Similar to travel, microadventures have a period of research (figuring out where to go), prepping necessities and niceties (gear and groceries), community (rounding up friends and meeting new ones along the way), and a bold step into the unknown (new places and experiences). Microadventures and travel aren’t just about the destination; it’s about the entire experience to get there.
One of the reasons I love to travel so much is that it gives me the opportunity for deep self-reflection, it catalyzes creativity, and also allows me to separate myself from the need to constantly be “online”. If you tell someone you are going on a trip, it’s inherently understood that you will be engaged in another activity and may be unreachable. Think about that sweet feeling of setting up your out of office email responder. Microadventures can give you the same free pass which is worth its weight in gold. When you say you are camping, it’s understood by others that you are going to disconnect for a short while. But more importantly, you are telling yourself that you are going to be offline and living in the moment.
How a microadventure can become so much more.
Initially, I was just having fun getting my friends and family together to camp with me. I loved having a purpose during the weekends; whether it was preparing for the next trip, going on an adventure, sharing my photos, or unpacking from the excursion. It made me feel like I was traveling to all sorts of different places and creating unique memories. I was able to catch up and spend quality time with my friends. It felt good to say I spent my weekend outdoors discovering new places. Without fully realizing it, something significant had been shifting in the background.
With the simple act of unplugging oncer per month, I began to see the tight (and unhealthy) grip technology had on my life. I felt like I had to constantly be online; to check my email every 30 minutes, to respond right away whenever I was contacted. I began to rely on microadventures to rebalance the stress levels from my workweek and have a reason to spend some time away from my phone. Microadventures were no longer a fun challenge for me; it became something I needed more than ever. It had become my form of meditation and my distraction-free place. If you’ve ever felt this way, I suggest a healthy dose of nights out in nature.
Sold. How should I start?
If you are ready to get going, here are some microadventure ideas. You can try one first to see how you like it (you will, I promise) or you can dive into the deep end and create your own one year challenge.
- Live in an apartment? Sleep outside your balcony.
- Pitch a tent or cozy den in your (or a friend’s) backyard.
- Camp during the workweek (I recommend Thursday night).
- Bring a friend who’s never gone camping before.
- Bring a new friend that you’ve just met.
- Watch a celestial event or a special moon.
- Sleep near a body of water.
- Sleep on a hill.
- Try a small backpacking trip.
- Bring a plant book and identify the things you see.
- Bring your parents, kids, and siblings.
- Have a board game bonanza.
- Host foil packet food competitions.
- Do night time photography.
- Invite friends to celebrate your birthday with camping.
- Create a glamping experience.
- Plan an all girls or guys trip.
- Go solo.
- Surprise your partner with a romantic dinner.
- Camp in the rain (with proper waterproof gear).
- Bring your pets inside of the tent.
What kind of rules should I set for the challenge?
The beauty is that there really are no rules; craft a plan (or no plan) that works well for you and have a blast. If you do decide to create rules or guidelines for yourself, just remember that you are doing this for fun. No need to force yourself to do anything that will make you miserable.
As an example, my rules for my one-year microadventure challenge was:
- Sleep outside.
- Eat a meal.
- Create a unique experience or twist each time.
- Don’t travel any further than 4 hours (one way) by car.
- Go once per month.
Go Forth and Be an adventurer.
Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget that adventure is for everyone. You might just surprise yourself by shaking up the norm and spending your weekend a little differently. Keep it simple, don’t overthink it, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to plan out every detail. Embrace the unknown and you will capture the essence of excitement that you’ve been looking for. Last of all, don’t forget to tell me all about your microadventure plans in the comments below!
Here are sweet spots for microadventuring in the Bay Area!
Car Camping in California
Pinnacles National Park // East of Salinas Valley in Central CA
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve // Guerneville, CA
Big Basin Redwoods State Park // Boulder Creek, CA
Yosemite National Park // Sierra Nevada Mountains, CA
Haskins Valley Campground // Quincy, CA
Memorial Park // Loma Mar, CA
China Camp State Park // San Rafael, CA
Mount Tamalpais State Park // Mill Valley, CA
Foothills Park // Los Altos Hills, CA
Mount Madonna State Park // Watsonville, CA
Backpacking in California
Castle Rock State Park // Los Gatos, CA
Monte Bello Open Space Preserve // Los Altos Hills, CA
Sunol Regional Wilderness // Sunol, CA
Ohlone Regional Wilderness // East Bay, CA
Point Reyes National Seashore // Point Reyes, CA
Camping Resources and Websites
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