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An expert adventurer’s guide to exploring from your doorstep

Alastair Humphreys
July 8, 2013

They say that the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. Perhaps I took that idea to extremes.

I pedaled away from my front door one midsummer morning and didn't get home again for over four years. During my bike journey round the world, I cycled 46,000 miles through 60 countries. It was a life-changing adventure.

Since then I have enjoyed many other extreme adventures, such as rowing across the Atlantic Ocean, hauling a cart across the Empty Quarter desert and walking across India. I began to make my living from these expeditions, through blogging and writing books about them.

But the biggest response from any of my journeys came when I began exploring closer to home. It took going so far away for me to learn that I could find wilderness and adventure right on my own doorstep. In the last couple of years I have been advocating the idea of "microadventures," trying to encourage people to get outside, get out of their comfort zone and go somewhere they’ve never been. A microadventure is an adventure that is close to home, cheap, simple, short and yet very effective.

Even if you live in a big city, you are still probably only an hour away from lovely countryside. It is easy to forget that. You don't need to be in the Himalayas to enjoy a sunset. You don't have to be in the Sahara desert to take time to watch the moon rise. Even if you are tied down to a regular 9 to 5 job, what about your 5 to 9? Those 16 hours of freedom we have each day (theoretically, at least!).

The spirit of microadventures lies in not being constrained by a lack of time, money, expertise or equipment. It is about going somewhere new and trying something new, even if only for those 16 hours between leaving work and getting back the next morning (a little crumpled, perhaps, but jubilant!).

Here are a few examples I have done recently:

Go to bed early
Leave work at 5 p.m. Jump on a train to the country. Sleep on top of a hill (a bundled-up suit makes a great pillow). Dash back down in the morning, have a quick swim in a river to freshen up, then get back to work by 9 a.m. There's a short video here: http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/microadventures-3/microadventure-3-sleep-hill/

Go out for dinner with friends
Head for the countryside with friends, the ingredients for stew and a bottle or two of wine. Cook your dinner on an open fire and enjoy it under the stars. There's a recipe and video here.

Wild swimming
It's very easy to tow a bag behind you when swimming. Swim downstream for a couple of hours, camp in peace on the riverbank, then walk back upstream in a fraction of the time to the train station or your car. Video here: http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/microadventures-3/river-swim/

Just Go!
It really doesn't matter where you go. The whole point of microadventures is to enjoy whatever experiences happen along the way. So grab a map, close your eyes, point a finger, and make that random point your destination. It's fun! http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/microadventures-3/microadventure-9-close-eyes-point/

The microadventure idea has been growing and, in these long summer evenings, all sorts of people have been trying microadventures of their own. These are not "adventurers." These are normal people getting out there and trying something new for the first time. You can see some of their stories and pictures.

Why not try something like this yourself and let us know how you get on? If you need help planning a trip of your own, the links on this infographic should help: http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/MicroadventureSunRise_HR.pdf