“ADVENTURE IS A LOOSE WORD …a spirit of trying something new, trying something difficult, going somewhere different, leaving your comfort zone. Above all, adventure is about enthusiasm, ambition, open-mindedness and curiosity …
“Adventure’ is not only crossing deserts and climbing mountains. Adventure can be found everywhere, every day, and it is up to us to seek it out.”
(Alistair Humphreys – ‘Microadventures’)
It’s been said by many that adventure is good for the soul. Which means it’s good for US – like broccoli, except more fun. Studies have shown that human brains are hardwired for adventure, and when we make unfamiliar choices, our brains reward us by releasing dopamine – a key neurotransmitter promoting positive emotions. In other words, we are happier people when we participate in unusual, exciting or daring activities.
And here’s something really interesting: new experiences can change how we view time. When we embrace new adventures, we’re interrupting our everyday flow and how fast time seems to fly … which can be a good thing. Says neuroscientist, David Eagleman:
“This explains why we think that time speeds up as we grow older – why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass.”
Take your ‘bucket list’ for example. I can almost guarantee it’s not filled with the familiar and mundane. No, just the opposite. I bet it’s topped by new and exciting experiences … new places to visit, new excursions to go on, new activities to try … which in turn provides new information for your brain to record. And then?
Time. Slows. Down. In a good way.
So what’s stopping you? Why aren’t you breaking out of your busyness (or boredom) and embracing adventure? Maybe it’s lack of time, or a lack of funds, or a shortage of skills and fitness – which are all legitimate reasons, if your bucket list contains things like ‘Climb Mt Everest’ or ‘Kayak the length of the Amazon’. However, the reality is, none of these things need hold you back from refreshing your soul …
Enter the MICROADVENTURE.
First coined by British adventurer and author, Alastair Humphreys, microadventures are simple challenges and expeditions which are close to home, affordable and easy to organise. Ideas and activities that are designed to get people ‘out there’ and off the couch. They may not be the multi-day, epic journey we think of when talking adventures, but they’re adventures none-the-less. And they have the same benefits. All you need is a wee bit of kit, a few ideas, and willingness to start.
That’s right. You simply need to START!
The possibilities are as endless as your ability to let your mind wander and your imagination to get carried away. You’ll need some gear: warm, waterproof clothes, a torch, food and water. And if you’re planning to stay out (which you must!) a sleeping bag, mat and shelter. For shelter, you may want to use a bivvy bag, or if you’re travelling by vehicle, a swag is a great option. For a real Kiwi experience, simply use a fly or a cheap tarp.
The point is, it needn’t be expensive. And, more-than-likely, you’ll have most things already. So, now that you’ve got your kit sorted, it’s time to get planning.
Fortunately, New Zealand has some of the most accessible wild places in the world – we’re not known as the adventure capital of the world for nothing! Finding somewhere shouldn’t be difficult. Grab a map and start imagining. Oh, and make sure you invite a friend, take your kids or entice your wife along. You’ll all be better off because of it!
And, if you don’t know where to start, try one of these …
Nine Microadventures To Try This Weekend:
1. Follow a river to its source
How to do it: Here in little ol’ Enzed, we’re blessed with an abundance of rivers. Find one with a track running alongside and see if you can find your river’s trickling source. A good topo map is your friend here – or jump onto the DOC website and have a look around. In Auckland, for example, try the Waitakere or Hunua Ranges. There are heaps of streams!
For the more adventurous: Camp at the source. Take a dip in the river. Search for koura or eels at night.
2. Climb the highest point in your area
How to do it: Use a local topo map to find a hill or high peak within 20kms from your house. Once chosen, start climbing it. Make sure you arrive in time to set up your shelter. Then sit (preferably with a loved one) and watch the sun set.
For the more adventurous: Walk or bike from home to the start of your peak. Take a bottle of wine, good food and your partner to add a little romance. Or if you’re single, grab a bunch of mates!
3. Go stargazing
How to do it: Choose a clear night (check the forecast) and head somewhere away from city lights. Download a ‘stargazing’ app (like ‘Star Walk’) and see how many constellations, stars and planets you can find. Keep an eye out for satellites and UFO’s before falling asleep under their brilliance.
For the more adventurous: Hitchhike or cycle, fly or drive to Lake Tekapo, ranked as one of the best spots in the world for star-gazing. It’s part of the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, which means special light-bulbs and shields are used in the towns to preserve the night sky.
4. Watch a sunrise from the coast
How to do it: Armed with little more than your sleeping bag and fly, pick a remote coastal spot on a local map and aim for it. Settle down for the night and wake to watch dawn break over the ocean. NOTE: The sun rises from the east, so make sure you pick the right coast!
For the more adventurous: Find a spot that faces east and west, and watch the sun set at dusk and rise again at dawn. The Pinnacles in the Coromandel are a great place to do this.
5. Stay in a DOC hut
How to do it: These huts range from modern-day double-glazed luxury (so to speak) to 1950s-built shelters with dirt floors. Choose the hut nearest to where you live, set out early and attempt to reach it before dark. Then cook a mean feed, choose a bunk for the night, and finish off the evening with a game of cards and a drink of your choice. Even better if you can share it with friends or family.
For the more adventurous: Make a full weekend of it, and stay in a different hut each night.
6. Ride a local cycle trail in the dark
How to do it: With the huge increase in mountain-bike trails throughout the country, finding one shouldn’t be difficult. It could be a track you ride often – but this time, do it after dark with a couple of mates. You’ll need good lights (at least a good headlamp) and a great attitude. Maybe take a thermos of hot chocolate with you when you leave. Just watch out for the boogie monsters …
For the more adventurous: Do it without lights. Nah, just kidding! Do it by yourself.
7. Try hitchhiking
How to do it: While hitchhiking has declined a little over the years, it’s still a great way to travel. You can either pick a destination and see if you can make it, or travel as far as you can with a single passing car. When you arrive, explore the area before hitchhiking home.
For the more adventurous: Try a ‘jailbreak’ hitchhike. Give yourself a full 24 hours to make it as far as possible from your starting point.
8. Catch a train somewhere new and cycle back
How to do it: Buy a train-ticket to a place you’ve never visited before (don’t forget your bike), have an explore, visit a café, and then make your way home again on two wheels.
For the more adventurous: Make it an overnighter.
9. Go skinny dipping
How to do it: New Zealand is surrounded by water – both outside and in. Find a remote river, water-hole, lake, beach or waterfall – and take a dip wearing nothing but your smile. All you need is a little courage and a quick check to ensure no one else is around. If there is, have a pair of togs as a backup.
For the more adventurous: If possible, do a ‘manu’ (bomb) in the deepest part. Make sure you yell “Maaanuuuuu!!!” as you leap in.
So there you have it. If you’re too tired, too broke, too busy, too stressed or too unfit for a big adventure, then a microadventure is what you need. Climb a hill, jump in a river, sleep under the stars.
Just push that refresh button now!
THANKS TO ALASTAIR HUMPHREYS FOR INSPIRATION. TO FIND OUT MORE, GET HOLD OF HIS BOOK MICROADVENTURES – OR VISIT WWW.ALASTAIRHUMPHREYS.COM