August 18, 2022
Microadventures are just that—small adventures that get you outside and are meant to leave you feeling refreshed rather than exhausted. Not every outing needs to be an epic feat of endurance. Follow Lew and his friend Scott as they plan and take a fun ride from Edinburgh, Scotland back to their homes in the north of England.
If you're reading this, you're probably wondering how to fit more cycling and adventure into your life. You might even be planning a trip or expedition to get your fix. For some of us it's adrenaline that fills our needs; for others, it's slower-paced rides in wide open spaces. Regardless of which adventure is your ideal, it may also be true that you never manage to scratch that grand adventure itch. Life can get complicated, and other commitments can easily put an end to plans before the trip has even begun. But what if there was a way to bring adventure into your life without having to sacrifice daily commitments and responsibility?
The microadventure, a term popularised by Alastair Humphreys, is a perfect way to scratch that itch without risk of disrupting 'regular life'...whatever that may be for you. A microadventure is exactly what it sounds like: an adventure that is short, local, and cheap—yet it is still fun, challenging, and rewarding. They are the perfect way to get outside, experience some wild landscapes, and then return back home with stories to tell.
Adventures don't have to be grand affairs. How often do you return home from a big expedition or vacation only to be more tired than before you left? Microadventures can be as simple as swimming in a river, cooking tea on a camp stove, hitching a hammock and reading a book in the woods—all twists on everyday activities, with an aim to scratch that adventure itch. Microadventures focus on the (short) journey, rather than the destination.
After being introduced to Alastair online, I began following his writing intently. I watched his films and read his book, Ask An Adventurer. I soon found that inspiration was at a high. I saw how adventure could be found in everyday places, how it doesn't need superhuman feats, and how accessible a sense of accomplishment can be. Reading Alastair's book cemented that drive to find adventure was within me too. And that's really the aim of microadventures: to get people outside.
Here in the UK, we've got swathes of countryside waiting to be explored. Thanks to local bylaws and bridleways, we have the right to public access across so much of the country. It's even better in Scotland where the right to roam is literally law, allowing even more access through acres of wild land. The tracks and trails stretch out between towns and villages providing pockets of space to let the legs turn and the mind wander. I often ride right from my back door and disappear for a few hours before coming back with a smile. But, like many of you, I had a niggling itch for a proper adventure—something bigger—which I just couldn't fulfil with evening cycles. I needed something more.
With 8 days free coming up, my good friend Scott and I began planning. At first there was talk of cycling through Europe along the River Rhine on the Euro Velo 15 route. This 1500km trail stretches the length of several countries before reaching Switzerland. This would be a grand adventure indeed, and would require careful navigation through countries with different laws and rules. It seemed doable and I began researching more into it. Inevitably, such a trip requires that lots of moving parts fall into place: passports, covid rules, and enough time—more than our alotted 8 days. We also considered the idea of cycling the length of the UK, from tip to toe; this, however, would also take too long.
Inspired by Alistair Humphries and the idea of microadventures, we did a pivot and took our plan in a totally different direction: we would take the train to Edinburgh, Scotland and then cycle the 200+ miles home, bikes packed with gear, over the next 6 days. We had a rough route in mind but it was otherwise left open to be an adventure. In the end decisions would be made on the fly, and all sense of a planned route disappeared; this ad hoc, minute-by-minute navigation added to the sense of adventure. We'd wild camp when needed and book campsites with showers when we wanted—a series of microadventures. Otherwise, it was a case of turning legs and reaching home before Monday. After settling on the “plan”, we booked our tickets.
Whilst not quite local, Edinburgh is easily accessible, at just a short train ride away. Once we arrived in the city, we'd head off on a canal path which passed by the station itself and would take us out of the city centre. No passports, no language barriers, no extra expedition gear. Just an adventure waiting to be had on our journey back home. Despite the 200+ mile total, the reality was we had only around 4 hours of cycling each day. Easily achievable, and in comparison to something like the River Rhine or the length of the UK, a true microadventure.
The beauty of an adventure like this is that it's close to home. Sure, 200 miles in the legs doesn't feel close, but we were no more than a 4-and-a-half-hour drive away at the furthest point. We were also pretty close to train lines throughout. While we didn't want to use them, we were comforted knowing that they were there. We were left to just enjoy the beauty of the Scottish landscapes and the views from the hills throughout the north of England.
We also had the luxury of dropping into towns and campsites to use shops and showers, and enjoyed many pub lunches and even a takeaway pizza. In the midst of empty wilderness civilization was never far away, and with it all the familiar comforts.
Adventure doesn't have to be something that pushes the limits of your abilities. Cycling one night into the hills with a tent and torch can be an adventure. Rising with the sun for your return home is also a journey worth doing. Make your adventure as small as you like; it's all about how you do it, rather than what you do. With microadventures, we can all scratch that itch more often.