In the morning, there are a few quiet moments where the thick drapes of sleep lighten their burden on my eyelids. I remain still as a statue; on the edge, unsure whether I will slip back into my sepia-toned dreams or if consciousness might blossom. In the far distance, a gentle but distinctly electronic tone begins to call me to reality like a siren calling to a sailor. Ugh, it’s the alarm.
Not before long, the stillness gets overtaken by zippy text message bell tones, voicemail chimes, single-tone Slack messages, and the whooshes of sent emails. I’m a one-handed Instagram expert, deftly scrolling at just the right speed to stamp a heart on the images that evoke my feelings. I’m careful not to like any advertisements for fear of giving any indication to the Big Brother that I’m part of their target market. I don’t want to live in categories and demographics.
Hours go by, I check the validity of my next meal on Yelp, turning my nose at anything ranked below three stars. Right as hunger pangs begin to surface, I place my dinner order in a matter of minutes. Text me what you want. Ping! Your order has been picked up from Rangoon Ruby and your driver is on the way! 🙂 . Every day I find myself in front of a glowing screen with my neck bent at unnatural angles to type messages at furious speeds. Ping! Heard you were sick– how are you feeling? I stop for a moment to pick the best image to properly express my emotions. Ping! Your Uber is on the way. Ping! Doris sent you $12 for pho last night. Ping! We need to reschedule this nine-person meeting ASAP.
We might say we are proud owners of our phones, tablets, smart watches, and laptops. Hell, we might even spend thousands of dollars upgrading to the latest models every year. But the reality is that they own us, and the leash has become very, very short.
I began going on microadventures because I wanted to challenge myself to spend more time outdoors. Although I had been camping before and enjoyed it, my trips were always few and far between. The idea of going on short weekend trips sounded interesting, easy enough, and let’s be honest; it’s fun to have an excuse to get new gear. My rules for the challenge were simple– eat a meal and sleep outside once per month.
Coincidentally, I also happened to pursue my microadventures during the rainiest year in recorded in 122 years of California history. From October 2016 to February 2017, 27.81 inches of rain fell. I camped in the pouring rain twice and countless other cloudy days. Now those were adventures. Trying to stay dry requires channeling creativity and your inner MacGyver to figure out ways to keep your camp dry. Get yourself some solid rainproof outerwear and shoes, because camping in the rain is something everyone should try in their lifetimes. The magic of a cozy sleeping bag and tent enveloped at the mercy of nature is a beautiful thing. Another added perk is that the park will be less crowded during rainy weather– my adventure companions and I practically had Castle Rock all to ourselves when we backpacked in during a slightly stormy weekend.
Preparing for a microadventure is a critical part of the entire experience. There must be butter for the pancakes, lighters for the fire, extra forks in case anyone forgets to bring their cutlery set, and an ample supply fast food condiment packets. Why? How else are you going to discover that KFC’s “Honey Sauce” is a winner on buttermilk pancakes and corn deserves to be baked with Tapatio? Like a mad scientist, it won’t be long before you find yourself wrapping different vegetables in foil and straight into the hot embers to cook. Alice Waters of the slow food movement would be proud. With the right attitude, camp food is gastronomy.
Usually, by this time, my phone has been abandoned somewhere near a pile of pots and pans or lifted on a box of graham crackers as a boom box. There is no need for applications, there are no two-toned bells, chimes, wooshes, or any reasons for alarms. For once, it feels as if time feels has the possibility to be endless. Ask yourself– can you recall the last moment you’ve gone without looking at your phone for several hours? How many conversations have you had where your attention was fragmented due to interruptions from your phone? I finally began to understand why some people felt the need to go to meditative retreats.
If a whole year of microadventures has taught me anything, it’s that we’ve become strangers to ourselves. It’s hard to listen to hear your voice when it’s constantly bombarded by the outside world.
It’s taught me that no matter how buried we feel, we still have the power to slow down time and enjoy the simple things in life. Slump in your chair and take a nap in that spot of sunshine. Set your sights on the perfect stick and whittle down one end before the night falls. Poke and prod at the fire to open just the right pockets of air flow towards blazing greatness. Tell scary stories, lament about awkward encounters, ask hypothetical questions, and ponder existence beyond earth. Take a walk in the woods and don’t forget to look down at the tiniest of bugs and up towards the sky to appreciate beauty in the branches.
Microadventures can be as big or small as you want to make them. Try going solo or inviting new friends to tag along. Experience the outdoors in every season, try backpacking, sample different brands of chocolate every time you make a s’more. Give your attention the opportunity to be undivided. You don’t have to be an expert to camp. Don’t have the right gear? Pile your car with blankets, pillows, and plenty of granola bars. Don’t have a car? Pitch a tent in your backyard or sleep on your balcony under the stars. There’s no reason you can’t have a microadventure of your own.
For my list of sweet car camping and backpacking spots in the Bay Area of California, see my post on how to start your own microadventure.
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