The Art of the Microadventure

| January 7, 2014 | 17 Comments

Lauren Rains is an inspiring chick, and it’s difficult to concisely sum up what she’s all about. She’s a world traveler, writer, business owner, dreamer, doer, and adventurer who passionately injects heavy doses of enthusiasm into every single day. She’s never suffered a shortage of curiosity, and there seems to be one crucial element that she craves in her daily life: adventure. And she sincerely believes that anyone can find adventure, even when our everyday routines are earnestly trying to pummel our souls into complacency.

From Beijing to Boulder, the trajectory of her life has inspired her to seek more from every single day. More travel, more fun, more mindfulness, more fulfillment and, obviously, more adventure. It can be tricky packing adventure into our lives regularly, but Lauren wants to change that mindset with the concept of microadventures.

Never heard of a microadventure? Read on to find out more about what they are, what some of Lauren’s favorites have been, and how to turn your humdrum days into bold and lively exploits (at least for a little while.)

Lauren Rains

Lauren Rains

Megan Hettwer: So, Lauren, you love incorporating microadventures into your life regularly. What exactly is a microadventure, and why do you think people should pursue them?

Lauren Rains: I like to look at microadventures as small pilgrimages that anyone with a sense of adventure and a little wanderlust can do.

The reason they are called microadventures is because, well, they are micro. You do not need to go on a full-scale expedition, buy the most expensive gear, or take a week off work. You can do them in your own backyard, with the resources you have, on any weekend of the year.

MH: Microadventures are an excellent way to infuse creativity and adrenaline into our busy schedules, and anyone can start them once inspiration and motivation hit. What inspired you to start doing microadventures? How did you plan and execute your first microadventure?

LR: I did my first microadventure a few months after returning from a year spent abroad in Beijing, China. After a few months of indulging in the simple pleasures of “home,” my wanderlust was back in my mind, body, and soul. All I wanted to do was to go, to move, to see, to explore.

I read travel blogs relentlessly, and that’s when I came across Alastair Humphreys, who had just been nominated for National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year shortlist for his “Year of Microadventures” project.

Intrigued, I spent an entire afternoon reading nearly every article on his blog, and connecting with the small yet growing community all over the world embarking on microadventures. I thought: This is it. This is my solution to keep my wanderlust at a bearable level. This is something I could see myself falling in love with.

A few days later, I announced on my blog that I’d be embarking on my first microadventure: a 50 mile walk along the coastline of the Atlantic in 48 hours. I’d walk 25 miles south, couchsurf that night, and 25 miles back up north to Saint Augustine Beach where I was living. A friend of mine, Nate Damm, was walking across America at that time, and while I knew that wasn’t in the picture for me, I wanted to get a taste of what a day-in-the-life of such a large-scale pilgrimage would be like. There’s also just something incredibly simple, pure, non-rushed about walking, especially when you’ve got no place to go except an imaginary mile-marker 25 miles away.

World-Changer-Walk-Icon-500I turned this microadventure into a fundraiser, calling it the “Walk for Tomorrow’s World Changers.” The goal was to raise $1,000 to donate to DonorsChoose.org, which is one of my favorite nonprofits. One post on my blog, 48 hours, 50 miles, and 2 very stiff legs later, that goal was reached with contributions from readers of my blog.  I was hooked after that. On both adventure, and using adventure for good.

MH: Tell us about some of the microadventures that you’ve already done. Which were your favorites, and what was the inspiration behind doing them?

LR: My favorite microadventure to date is what I called The Skate of 2 Cities: Longboarding from Boulder to Denver. It was a 30 mile, 12 hour, sunrise to sunset microadventure.

I’d just moved to Colorado and decided that the best way to get introduced to my new home was to do something crazy like this. Mind you, I left the flat beaches of Florida for the mountains of Colorado, and I had not built up the cajones to skateboard down hills of any kind yet. I was scared out of my mind, had no clue where I was going, and while this would be my second 30 mile skate trek, it was a totally different ballgame.

But that’s the stuff I live for. It’s the mental and physical challenge and how alive you feel as you conquer both. Your feet may hurt and your lungs may burn, but none of that matters. You’re not sitting in rush hour, or going to a meeting, or vegging out in front of the TV. You’re exploring and testing yourself.

MH: Can you share with us a few of your most intense highs and lows from your adventures? During the rough times, how did you convince yourself to keep going?

LR: I’ll never forget it …around 3:00 PM on my skate trek from Boulder to Denver I looked out on the city, just arriving at the halfway point, and it still looked incredibly small. It hit me at that moment that there was no way I’d be getting there before sunrise, I’d be skating through the night, and I still had a long way to go.

I wanted to give up. I wanted to hop on the bus and give my aching feet a break. I even called my Mom and I remember saying to her, “This was such a dumb idea. What was I thinking?!” But I kept going. I’m not good at giving up.

Around 5:30 PM as the sun was setting, I took in the lit skyline before me and the front range of the Rocky Mountains behind me. To this day, 5:30 PM on October 10th 2012 is still one of the most content, most peaceful, most “present” and fulfilled moments in my life.

There’s a photo of me in downtown Denver just outside of the Market Street Station where the bus was that would bring me home that night. There I stand, tall, proud, and incredibly happy, with my skateboard held high above my head. I had done it. And that’s why I didn’t give up …3 simple words: I DID IT.

Skate_TrekVictory_Denver

MH: Tell us about some upcoming microadventures that you’re planning and why they’re calling to you.

LR: Lately, I’ve been becoming fairly obsessed with Stand Up Paddleboarding. I love being out on the water, and SUPing lets me cover a lot of distance. In 2014 I plan to SUP the width of Lake Tahoe at its widest point; about 23 miles. I expect it should take about 12 hours from sunrise to sunset to do it, which are my favorite kinds of microadventures.

A few others I have lined up are Circling the Big Apple: Kayaking the Circumference of Manhattan, seeing the Pacific Northwest for the first time by biking from San Francisco to Seattle, and longboarding across San Francisco from the Embarcadero along the Bay out to Ocean Beach 12 kilometers away.

I plan to film more of these microadventures, and will be doing several of them for causes I’m passionate about as well through my foundation, The Don’t Just Watch Projects.

Lauren’s Tips for Planning a Microadventure

There are a few guidelines that will make your excursion fulfilling and cause your adventurous soul to smile, but they’re pretty flexible:

  •  Microadventures are human powered: Biking, SUPing, kayaking, canoeing, skateboarding, walking, etc. No segways or automobiles. These must be fueled by your own two feet.
  •  They are not a race: Microadventures should never be about getting to the destination. Ever. Time should slow down and you should be present. You should take in every passing tree or wave break or rolling hill.
  • They can be solo or with a partner, and each option creates different experiences: One brings you inwards and lets you spend time with yourself. It can get lonely, but it’s worth it. The other, will create a bonding experience between the two of you that you’ll always remember.
  •  They’re open-ended: Bike across a state, walk the circumference of your hometown, SUP across a channel, hike to the top of a mountain to watch the sunrise.

There’s something about a long and interesting journey to get from point A to point B, even if point B is undefined, that calls to the adventurous spirit in all of us. And that’s why people should do microadventures. Getting outside into nature and away from everyday life, seeing what our surroundings as well as ourselves are made of, and hitting the road one foot at a time all help us create interesting, fulfilling lives.

Tell us about a microadventure that you would LOVE to do… and then get out there and do it!

Category: Health, Mind

About the Author ()

A Michigan native, Megan has been traversing the country and world in search of adventure since 2008. Her love affair with international travel began on study abroad trips to Ireland and Australia, and she has fulfilled her obsession with wanderlust by moving around the U.S. and traveling pretty dang regularly. Austin, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; and now Boulder, Colorado have all earned the title of "home base" at one point. A huge proponent of travel (and solo female adventure travel, specifically), Megan blogs about her adventures at SeekingSomewhere.com, and she’s always willing to talk travel on Twitter (@megkhet).

Comments (17)

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  1. Mo says:

    Here’s a tip: prevailing winds go south from Seattle to SF, so riding northbound is miserable. Change your plans to go southbound and things will be fine. Also, Hwy 1 southbound puts bikes on the ocean side, northbound doesn’t have any views as it’s on the wrong side of the highway.

  2. Kate says:

    Love this article- very inspiring!

  3. nitagulati@yahoo.com says:

    Very Cool…I often do micro adventures in and around the Bay Area..I walked to SF from San Rafael..just the other day…thank you for your article.

    • Lauren Rains says:

      Awesome!
      I may have to barrow that one from you. I just moved to the Bay Area only a few weeks ago, so, I’m currently planning out a few to do in the next 2 months before I take off for Guatemala.

  4. Great article – glad to see Women in the US spreading the microadventure love. Great stuff!
    Alastair

  5. Tim Meek says:

    Really enjoyed reading this. Very inspirational. Incidentally, it was Alastair Humphreys that inspired us to start going of family-friendly microadventures. We share all our ideas for other families to try, here http://www.dotrythisathome.com/

    Great interview 🙂

  6. Great piece -couldn’t agree more regarding micro adventures

  7. Kiki Dunigan says:

    Love this article and the inspiration you bring! I never knew that all of my quick weekend trips around Michigan had a name – Microadventures! Been doing it for two years as part of an ongoing mid-life awakening, and I’m leaving in a few weeks to snowshoe in the Porcupine Mountains and live in a Yurt, following the wolf pack and hoping to finally see them! I love your idea about using my adventures to raise money and awareness for charity, thanks for the added depth.

  8. JG says:

    Thank you, I want to try this! I also think it’s not only a supplement for “macro”adventures but a good stepping stone to become more adventurous if you’re not used to taking risks (like me)

  9. Dylan says:

    Fantastic read! This article was my introduction to ‘microadventures.’ Note sure how I stumbled here in the first place, but I am sure glad that I did. JG, I completely agree. I also think that this is a perfect way for people to get moving and get out and explore their communities – it’s a ‘do what you’re comfortable with – sort of approach towards adventuring.

  10. Oliver says:

    I do like Al’s concept of “microadventures” very much and also like how you compare it with “small pilgrimages”! 🙂 I think it is indeed about changing perspective and perception and realize that we are never far away from discovery and adventure…
    Best of luck and take care, Oliver

  11. Karen says:

    I live for microadventures. For me, the best part about it is that I get a shower and your own bed at the end. I live outside of Eureka, CA, shoot me an email if you’re in need of a place to crash and/or shower for the night on your Seattle to SF bike trip.

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