Why Microadventure Matters: The Quest for Adventure Despite Limitations

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I’ve been a big advocate of microadventure since reading Alastair Humphreys’ book, Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes. Humphreys’ examples take place in England, but the philosophy of microadventure fits just as well in the US. I encourage you to read his book if you have the opportunity, or to check out my posts on the subject (here and here), but in this post, I want to dive into the why a bit more. More specifically, let’s talk about why microadventure matters.

Wade and Inkling the dog in front of Sheridan Lake, showing why microadventure matters

Here’s Ink and I in front of Sheridan Lake, on one of our little family’s recent microadventures.

An all or none approach doesn’t work.

During the time that I’ve authored this website, I’ve spoken to a lot of individuals with lofty adventure goals. They have wanted to ride a motorcycle across the US, backpack across Europe, or thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. All worthy goals. Unfortunately, when I ask what steps they’re taking to achieve these goals, far too often I hear that they’re waiting for an opportunity to start. When I suggest microadventure, they don’t like that option.

“I want to thru-hike, not take a day hike!” they’ll exclaim. Never mind the fact that they have no experience backpacking. Despite their lack of enthusiasm for it, microadventure is exactly what these individuals need! Having one doesn’t mean you can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t have a larger more epic adventure in the future. Instead, it prepares you for it, by allowing you to incrementally develop requisite skills in a relatively safe and low-pressure situation.

Wade batoning firewood

Microadventure gives you the opportunity to develop the skills you will need, before you need them.

By insisting on waiting until the perfect opportunity presents itself, these individuals actually reduce the likelihood that they’ll achieve their larger goals, they don’t develop the requisite skill sets, and they deny themselves a lot of fun in the process.

Microadventure is accessible.

Regardless of your level of fitness, your financial situation, or your skill level, you will find a microadventure that fits where you’re at in life. For example, generally you can day-hike for free; you don’t need expensive boots or fancy daypacks to get started. Just find the trailhead of an easy to moderate trail, and start walking. Camping doesn’t cost much either; sure you probably want a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad, but when starting out you won’t need anything pricey.

Wade and Inkling on Trail

You can use a lot of local trails without spending a dime.

I like Coleman as a starter gear brand. It strikes a good balance between affordability and quality. You can buy cheaper equipment, but Coleman makes pretty solid gear that will last you a while. We still use this Coleman dome tent while car camping. Starting out you could snag this tent, a basic sleeping pad, and a reliable sleeping bag, all for about $100.

You can also search Craigslist and check out local thrift stores, but you don’t necessarily have to buy anything for your first few trips. You can get by without a sleeping bag if you have some old blankets you can take, although I wouldn’t pass on the pad. Throw a post up on Facebook asking if anyone would loan you some gear, or search for gear rental in your area. Black Hills State University here in Spearfish rents gear to students and community members, so don’t overlook those community resources either.

Wade and Coleman Tent

Don’t get hung up on gear right away. Do the best you can with what you have, and grow from there.

Microadventure keeps you motivated.

One of the challenges with moving has been that the majority of our camping gear remains in storage six hours away. That’s not ideal, but hiking twice a week makes it bearable. I’ve also rented gear from BHSU and hiked into the National Forest for some solo overnighters. I’ve had to bail out on occasion, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a good time. Without these outings, I’d be going stir crazy, which is another reason why microadventure is valuable.

These outings are short. As far as length of time goes, they don’t compare to our month-long road trips, but they keep me energized and motivated to keep adventuring. They remind me how much I love being outside, and just how fulfilling it is. For those just starting to develop a more adventurous lifestyle, waiting months between outings makes it difficult to maintain the positive changes they’re making.

Camping along the Mississippi

If we judge experiences based solely on how long they last or how expensive they are, we limit ourselves in an incredibly detrimental way.

By having microadventures on a regular basis you see skill progression, which boosts confidence. And you enjoy the adventure experience, which keeps you motivated to continue building your adventure lifestyle.

Microadventure helps you create a life that you don’t need to escape.

Take a moment and reflect on whether or not you love the life you lead. If not, maybe microadventure can help you change that.

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”

-Seth Godin-

Flume Trail Hiking

My life is far from perfect, but I never feel like I need to escape from it. I’m living a fun, meaningful, and fulfilling life that’s full of adventure. All the plaid and flannel is just a bonus.

The most important reason why microadventure matters is simply because it’s an effective method for getting out and leading an adventurous and fulfilling life. When you lead this lifestyle, you won’t feel the need to escape. When you head out on larger trips and adventures, you won’t be running away from your life, you’ll be running toward a new experience. And that changes everything.

Why Microadventure Matters…

How do you want to live your life? Do you want to wait for the perfect opportunity for some grand adventure (that is unlikely to materialize), or do you want to actively move toward it. Would you rather motivate yourself to create a more adventurous lifestyle every single day, or only make those efforts a few times a year? Most importantly, do you want to lead a life that you find exciting and fulfilling, or do you want a life that you’re eager to escape from whenever possible?

That’s why microadventure matters. Because you deserve an adventurous life no matter what your circumstances are. Even if you work a full time job, have limited experience, or no equipment. Because microadventure gives you the capacity to change your life for the better; to shape it as you see fit.

At the end of the day, the question isn’t “why should I have microadventures?”

It’s why the hell wouldn’t you?

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