You’ve got a lot riding on those precious two (or three, if you’re lucky) weeks each year: it’s not much time to recharge your batteries and clear your head of work-related gunk, so you want to get it right. But you don’t have to settle for such chintzy time off. By adopting a simple strategy to leverage your daily downtime,into the travel and adventures you crave, you can have dozens of vacations a year.
Alastair Humphreys rode his bike around the world for four years and trekked 1,000 miles across the Arabian Peninsula’s Empty Quarter. But those excursions aren’t what earned him the title of 2012 National Geographic Explorer of the Year. Humphreys, author of Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes, has ignited a movement around short, meaningful bursts of travel, close to home, which he says can be just as thrilling as a 14-day float down the Colorado River.
Humphreys describes a microadventure as “an adventure close to home: cheap, simple, short and yet very effective. It still captures the essence of big adventures, the challenge, the fun, the escapism, the learning experiences, and the excitement.” Humphreys, who is married with two children, developed his new adventure philosophy when he decided to scale back his grand exploits into more manageable chunks. His first mircroadventure was walking a lap of the M25, the 120-mile motorway around London, because he lived nearby and was curious about where the road went. “It was also a metaphor for finding pockets of beauty wherever you are, one of the things I love about adventure,” he says.
People use working 9 to 5 as an obstacle. Instead, look at the opportunity. After 5 p.m., you have 16 hours. You can take the train out of town, sleep outside somewhere and come back to work a bit rumpled but feeling great.
When considering vacation budgets—the money and time you’re able to commit to your getaways—upend your thinking, says Humphreys. One of his favorite catch phrases is the “5-to-9 adventure.” “A lot of people use working from 9 to 5 as an obstacle. But instead, look at the opportunity. After 5 p.m., you have 16 hours that are all yours. So you can ride your bike or take the train out of town, sleep outside somewhere and come back to work maybe a bit rumpled but feeling great.” There’s no limit to the kinds of microadventures you can create. There’s just one rule Humphreys won’t compromise on: you have to be outside overnight. That can be as simple as pulling your mattress into the backyard and sleeping under the stars.
Humphreys has laid out a 12-month plan for microadventures on his website, but if you’re wondering what you can do tonight, or this weekend, he offers these suggestions:
Sleep in your garden.
Swim wild in a river, lake or sea.
Take someone—a friend, a child—on their first microadventure.
Brew a cup of tea on a stove you have made yourself.
Spot a shooting star.
Sleep out on a snowy night.
Paddle a river, by canoe or inner tube.
Learn to identify a new bird or tree each month.
Forage for your food, or at least pick some blackberries.
Humphreys says you don’t need much to pull these overnighters off; in fact, if you don’t already own or can’t borrow the few pieces of equipment you need, he says you can outfit yourself with a sleeping bag and such for about $140, a small price to pay for a year’s worth of adventures.
While you may still want that annual beach vacation (where, by the way, you could work in a microadventure by sleeping out on the sand), building small, do-able overnights into your calendar will rejuvenate your spirit and keep life exciting. The travel can be as simple as a trip to your own backyard.
“Adventure is all around us, at all times,” says Humphreys, “even during hard financial times such as these; times when getting out into the wild is more invigorating and important than ever.”
Alastair Humphreys, is the author of Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes.