There’s an old-fashioned element to the word adventure. It seems to belong to a bygone era of heroic and death-defying exploration, and a kind of stoical, self-sacrificing attitude that made Captain Oates’ early-1900s equivalent of ‘TTYL’ sufficient in the event of walking out of his tent into certain death.
Now we seem more concerned with protecting ourselves against adventure than actively seeking it out. Over 50% of the world’s population live in cities. Holidays are packaged. Global internet penetration is at 40% and growing, spurring on a generation of internet explorers.
But apparently we’ve become a bit too comfortable. Our sedentary lifestyle means that sitting is the ‘new smoking’. Authenticity is the buzzword of the Millennial generation: as The Atlantic reports, 16-34 year olds are committed to traveling abroad as much as possible ‘despite economic uncertainty.’
So while the young are off in search of ‘extended, meaningful experiences’, those bound by work and family commitments are finding adventure in more structured and intensive methods. There’s Toughmudder, the obstacle course that might leave you burnt or even in a seizure. There’s also Secret Me, which is James Bond training for the uber-rich: you’re taught surveillance, poker playing and the art of seduction.
For those of us who don’t have time for soul-searching expeditions abroad – or the spare cash to spend on spy school – there’s the ‘microadventure’, a term coined by adventurer Alastair Humphreys. It’s similar to the staycation (domestic holidaying) or bleisure travel (an irritating neologism which combines business and leisure): make the most out of what you’ve got. If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed, Mohammed can have a nice time hiking up a local hill instead.
Get out and do it
“I wanted to make adventures that didn’t take time or money”, Alastair says. His latest book, Microadventures, is part narrative and part guidebook: the former inspires, the latter instructs. “It’s really important to me that people don’t just read the stories, but that they commit to taking action’, he says.
Alastair has cycled around the world, walked across India and rowed and sailed across the Atlantic – but the adventure we spoke about was the time he walked the M25. It took him a week, which happened to be the coldest week of winter in 30 years. He had to ward off a hungry fox.
But it was well worth it. “Adventures have done so much for me’, he says. “I’ve learnt about myself – and I’ve learnt about the world.”
Alastair’s microadventuring tips
‘Adventure is not outside man; it is within.’ Well, not quite, George Eliot. “It has to be outdoors. Unless it’s caving,’ says Alastair. For outdoor trips “a bit of nice weather helps.”
Find the unfamiliar
It’s not just about physical exertion – it’s about gaining a fresh perspective (obviously what Eliot actually meant). “Go somewhere you’ve never been before. A night away from home and family makes a big difference.”
Keep it simple
Throw your glamping gear away – you’re going to make do with basic provisions. And keep it simple, too – “so simple you’ll actually do it.”
Have a mission
“Give it a purpose, a little story, a reason to go from A to B.” Like walking the M25: “it’s that kind of arbitrary goal that makes you do it.”
Hop on a train
“London symbolises everything that’s not very adventurous,’ Alastair says. “It takes a boldness to get on a train. Within an hour you’ll be somewhere really beautiful. Find a pub, wander up a hill with your sleeping bag. You’ll be back at work for 9am.”