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Adventure is closer than you realise

Working 9 to 5, or thereabouts, leaves 16 hours free. It’s the perfect amount of time for a microadventure.

It started, as these things often do, as a conversation over breakfast. Karan Chadda asked me if I’d read any good books lately.

I’d just finished Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes by Alastair Humphreys.

Alastair is a full blown British adventurer. He’s cycled around the world, walked across India and rowed the Atlantic. He’s got badges for adventuring. National Geographic magazine named him Adventurer of the Year in 2012.

Microadventures challenge you to go out of your comfort zone, to go somewhere you’ve never been, or do something that you’ve never done. It’s an adventure that is almost always close to home, cheap, simple, and short.

Sleeping outdoors, climbing a hill at night, cooking on an open fire, building an outdoor shelter, sailing a homemade craft, and swimming in the wild, are all examples of microadventures.

Adventure is a state of mind. It’s an attitude

Alastair created the microadventure movement after he was asked at a lecture how regular people can live adventurously. It has become a blog, a Twitter community, and a book.

The book is inspiring. It’s the reason that Karan and I met with our bikes at Buckingham Palace after work on Tuesday evening.

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This was our second attempt. I’d cried off a month earlier due to personal and work commitments. I should just have gone.

Here’s a lesson. Mental inertia is the biggest barrier to doing something new. I’ve learnt that a microadventure is as effective as full blown adventure in providing an interruption from the routine of daily life.

We chose an old waterway as our route out of London and headed west. The Paddington arm of the Grand Union canal links with the Regents canal and stretches almost 140 miles to Birmingham.

It’s a wonderful journey though time and nature. Gentrification gives way to the industrial past. Along the way we cycled past communities of boats and families of swans.

Heading for the hills

We arrived at a prominent hill in the suburbs, around a tenth of the way along the canal. We headed to the top and found a place to sleep out for the night.

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Modern camping and caravanning aims to create a modern living space outdoors. The microadventure movement strips everything back to the bare essentials of a bivouac sack and sleeping bag.

Having set up ready for the evening, we headed to a pub for dinner. During this time we caught up on family and work, reflected on what we’d done and considered future adventures.

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The pub landlord offered us a pitch in garden when we shared our story. Human beings can be incredibly kind but we had a plan. Fuelled with scampi, chips and onion rings, we headed back to the relative wild.

I’m not going to bullshit – sleeping out in an urban environment was unnerving. I was glad that we arrived late and planned to leave early.

It never really gets dark in London but we slept under the stars watching aircraft come and go from Heathrow.

We both rose before sunrise and followed the sun and canal back to central London.

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The return trip retracing our route to Paddington and Buckingham Palace seemed to be much quicker than the outward trip.

Breakfast was coffee, bacon and eggs in a greasy spoon in Westminster in the shadow of Parliament.

Planning the next microadventure

By 9am I was back at my desk. By midday our microadventure was a memory but a memory that will remain with me for a long time. It was an incredible experience and is something that I’m keen to repeat. What do you fancy doing?

Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes costs £3 on the Kindle and £12 in print.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

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