I was awake, cold, getting wet. It was 4:32am and I needed the toilet, having been woken by the fact I was rolling off my sleeping mat, like the beads of water running off the flapping tarp above me. This was due to me pitching the thin material sheet in the dark, on uneven ground, without bothering to check it was level before crawling into my sleeping bag at midnight. What the hell was I doing, only 15 minutes walk from my nice warm house, sleeping, or not as the case may be, in the rain, wind, and snow, in January?
This is the very essence of a micro adventure. Well an epic micro adventure in January. What on earth is a micro adventure I hear you say? Well here you go:
The term microadventure was made common by British adventurer and author Alastair Humphreys and is defined as an overnight outdoor adventure that is “small and achievable, for normal people with real lives”. The New York Times described a microadventure as “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.” The concept is flexible enough in its definition to allow the individual to choose the location, duration, and overall scope of the adventure. Microadventures are generally considered affordable in that little to no specialized gear is required, travel costs are trivial or nonexistent, and only a minimal amount of provisions are needed for the outing. Often participants will sleep out under the stars using a bivvy bag, rather than a tent, and wild swims are actively encouraged. Microadventures have proved popular with people whose lives are busy with work and/or family commitments. The Collins Dictionary blog recognised ‘microadventure’ as a neologism in April 2014. Microadventure is popular as an online hashtag, used on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to share microadventure experiences.
Got it? Simple, right! Basically walk a few hundred metres from your own front door and sleep out over night. It could even be in your own back garden, but the important thing is, to make it an adventure.
So I dragged myself out of my sleeping bag in the cold to go to the loo. With my head torch on, I could now see why I couldn’t manage to stay on the sleeping mat, but I couldn’t be bothered trying to move the tarp and sort it out. I just wanted to get back into my damp sleeping bag, and try and warm up. I could always have sneaked off back down the hill to our house, leaving my wife Caroline and friend Rick asleep on the side of the hill, only to find me not there in the morning. But I was in this for the glory! As my saying for 2017 goes “Easy has no value for me.” So I crawled back under my miserable tarp, and tried to get some sleep. It worked, and I woke up just before 8am. I know this probably isn’t inspiring you to join the 12 micro adventure challenge in 12 months, but maybe I should start again, and try and convince you to give it a go.
Caroline, our friend Rick and I left home at 10 pm. We walked up the road and bridleway behind our house for 15 minutes in the beautifully clear winter’s night. With the moon lighting our way, and with the constellation of Orion’s Belt twinkling above in the black sky*, we soon arrived at the Scout Rock beacon. A wonderful location, high on the hill above the street lights of my home town, Mytholmroyd . We had a couple of aces to play this evening. We had carried our foldable BBQ with us along with some dry logs to have a fire. Once lit, we set up our sleeping arrangements on the frozen ground and sat next to the fire. We drank* hot mulled wine from the flask Caroline produced out of her ruck sack. We talked, joked, and told stories until around midnight. When the fire had died down, and the infectious yawning had started, the warmth of our sleeping bags was calling. We got our heads down, tucked up comfortable and ready for a good night, sleeping under the stars.
Now that for me, makes everything you read at the start worth it’s weight in gold. The fact the weather turned (as the forecast said it would) and it got a little grim is all a part of the fun. And yes, if it really was that horrible we could have just said, “sod this, let’s go home!” Thats the joy of micro adventures. They cost you nothing or very little, they give you something to talk about, and enrich your live with stories of triumph! Like sleeping outside in January.
I’m a Mountain Leader and hold the Mountaineering Instructors Award. However, I always learn something new, each micro adventure I do. I’m a lover of massive adventures, putting me through my paces and testing my limits. However the reality is, we can’t always just jump on a plane to the Yosemite Valley for 3 weeks, or jet across the Atlantic for 6 weeks cycling through Patagonia! Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to. But life, for most of us (at least), doesn’t really work like that. We have commitments, mortgages, children, pets, all of which rely on us doing the 9 to 5 shift, week in, week out. That’s what makes those big trips so special when they come around. The months of planning, going over the finer details, the build up -they all make it all the more exciting when the departure date finally comes around. But what do you do to fill the void in between those big trips besides dream about them? It’s simple for me in one hash tagged word -#microadventure
It’s all very well talking about these micro adventure things, however the ‘doing’ is the hard part for most people. Al Humphreys has written a fantastically colourful book on micro adventures to give you loads of ideas about what you could do, and where to have these wonderful little experiences in nature. It’s well worth a read - you could simply google micro adventure to find it, or better still, have a wee adventure by heading to your local book store and ask them for a copy. They really are loads of fun. Pick something easy to start with, and maybe in warmer temperatures if that’s your thing. But I hope you join in the 12 micro adventure challenge with Caroline, Rick (if he stops snoring!) and myself. Not to mention hundreds of likeminded others around the world. Be a part of something in 2017.
Check out our Stoodley Pike Cycling micro adventure from last year here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQT7U1oh2Gs).
- I did need a head torch and was told Orion’s Belt was above us. The joy of having little vision!
** - I’m on dry January and back in training, so no mulled wine for me :(
As always a massive thanks to the companies that support me: BioCare and Dirty Dog Eyewear.