Alastair Humphreys is one of the U.K.’s most visible and populist adventurers, and in 2011, instead of going off on a farflung expedition, he turned his sights to home, to see what adventures he could find in his backyard. Here’s what he discovered.
I once spent four years cycling more than 40,000 miles round the world. It was a heck of an adventure. But one of the things I learned during that trip was that you don’t need to spend four years cycling more than 40,000 miles round the world to have an adventure.
Adventure is only a state of mind. “¨Adventure is stretching yourself; mentally, physically or culturally. It is about doing what you don’t normally do, pushing yourself hard and doing it to the best of your ability. And if that’s true then adventure is all around us, at all times. Even during hard financial times such as these. Times, I believe, when getting away from it all and out into the wild are more invigorating and important than ever.
That is why I began a series of ‘expeditions’ that are close to home, affordable, easy to organize, and designed to encourage other people to get out there and do stuff! I call them microadventures.
My first microadventure was to test if there really is wildness and challenge all around us, so I began by walking a lap of the M25 motorway. British folks will instantly know this road: It’s the huge 120-mile highway that circles London and everyone hates it. It’s gridlocked with stressed commuters. It goes through dreary suburbia and horrible towns. It’s the road to hell. If you can find adventure on the M25 you can find it anywhere.
This deliberately small, provocatively mundane ‘expedition’ was the first microadventure and it really was an adventure. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of finding real wildness and real adventure here in the UK, which isn’t all that known for either.
I appreciate that not everyone can muster the time or the money to go on a massive, whoopeedoo expedition. But everyone, everyone, everyone can manage a microadventure. And to prove how strongly I believe that microadventures are fulfilling, challenging and worthwhile I decided to not plan any major expeditions for a whole year. 2011 then has become my year of microadventure.
It has been a superb year for me personally, exploring corners of my country I had never seen before. I deliberately started small, with things that everyone could achieve, in order to try to ‘hold the hand’ of anyone apprehensive about starting this process and get them going. Here’s what I’ve done so far and what I’d suggest you consider:
– Enter a Race. It can be a tiny race round your local park. This is all about making a statement of intent to yourself, and then committing to action. You don’t have to enter a 24-hour winter mountain bike race!
– Use Your Weekend. Break your normal routine. Go somewhere new.
– Max Your 16. We always talk of the 9 to 5, the working day. But what about the 5 to 9, your 16 free hours each day?
– Leave from your front door on an overnight adventure
The year has been particularly rewarding because people have responded to the concept of microadventure and committed to doing one themselves. Defining their goals and objectives and challenging themselves to do something they have never done before, even if it only lasts a weekend. Not just watching my little videos, but watching them and then emailing me as a declaration of intent that they are actually going to do a trip.
As part of this mission to prod people to take action I’ve teamed up with the guys at Howies to offer £1000 of outdoor clothing to people who get out there and try a microadventure for themselves. It doesn’t need to be epic: this is not about epic. It’s about you going somewhere you’ve never been before, trying something new, challenging yourself, sleeping under the stars, and jumping in a river. Try it! Surprise yourself. Enter here: