In 2013, every day was an adventure. I’d packed in my full time job and headed off on my own to the wildlands of Latin America.
I was on a mission to discover why some people are prepared to stand up and take action to protect our natural world. Well, at least that’s what I was telling people I was doing…
Really, I had no idea. I was terrified. I was just being guided by a feeling that I had to do it, but I had no idea what ‘it’ really was.
During this year, I would often get up before dawn to climb a steep, muddy hill in the dark. I would sit in the forest, shivering in my sweat-ridden clothes and wonder what the hell I was doing. Until, the sun began to rise. And suddenly it didn’t seem to matter that I had no idea what I was doing. I was just doing it. And whatever it was, I was happy.
I forced myself to do this, even though as I was curled up under the warmth I’d have preferred to stay just where I was. But I drag my legs up those hills because I had just 14 months to experience everything. I knew, when I looked back of this adventure, I wouldn’t remember the warmth of that bed on that day, but I would replay the image of those sunbeams slowly stretching across the tree tops.
My adventure in Latin America led me to meet inspiring people, living in some of the remotest corners of the planet, who are struggling to protect their forest. They are doing it so that their neighbours can drink clean water, so that wild animals and plants don’t become extinct, so that our planet can flourish. It was the most rewarding experience of my life.
Everyday adventure: escaping the routine
I’ve been back in my homeland of Wales for over a year now and I’m no longer climbing hills in the dark: that urgent need to experience everything has gone. Other priorities in life get in the way of adventure.
Some are real priorities, like how on earth am I going to make a living out of being a freelance writer who specialises in nature conservation? Some are not so real priorities, like hibernating over winter to catch up on all the films I’d missed while on adventures.
I haven’t given up on going on more adventures, but they are a distant dream. I have to wait until I’ve got a stable income, I need money and time. I’m going on an adventure again soon, just not right now.
This is what I told myself, until I met Anna.
I happened to sit next to Anna in a pub – in fact, it was Cardiff Couchsurfing weekly meet up – and we got chatting over a pint. We shared a love for nature and it wasn’t long before one pub turned into a few, and a pint turned into several.
That’s when I told Anna about Alastair.
Alastair Humphreys is an adventurer (yes, that is an actual job – who knew?!). I’d recently gone to an inspiring talk he’d given at Explore, an event held by the Royal Geographical Society that has this amazing ability to make you feel completely normal for wanting to live a life of adventure.
Alastair is promoting the idea of microadventures. In a nutshell, as I told Anna, the idea is that anyone, anywhere can have an adventure. You don’t need money, you don’t need time. You just need to climb the nearest hill and sleep under the stars.
This year, Alastair has set a challenge: to go on a microadventure at least once every month. Anna grinned when I told her this and said:
“Let’s do it!”
She then spent the next 10 minutes listing all the reasons why we shouldn’t do it. One being the real fear of freezing to death. After quite some time, she finished her list of all the possible and implausible – but equally terrifying – situations that we might find ourselves in. And then she said:
“But yes, let’s do it!”
Anna was just who I needed. You see, even though I loved the idea of microadventures – of escaping the routine and bringing a little bit more wildness into everyday life – I had, like Anna, come up with my own list of reasons not to do it. But unlike Anna, I hadn’t said: ‘Yes, but I’m going to do it anyway.’ Not until now.
Soon Anna had convinced me to help her set up a Cardiff Microadventures Facebook group, where we started getting lovely messages from people who were having their own microadventures or were excited to join ours
Then last Friday night, we sat under the Rapunzel’s tower of a moonlit Castell Coch. Dark shapes shifted across the sky. Beyond the naked trees, the silver ribbon of the River Taff snaked towards the city. Cardiff lay twinkling at us. My feet became numb as the owls hooted.
When dawn broke, I drifted awake to the sound of the birds’ morning chorus to find we’d slept in a car park strewn with rubbish. I turned to Anna, who was lying on some pizza boxes and Lidl’s bags that she’d used to construct a surprisingly effective waterproof sleeping mat, and we vowed to get a little more organised for next month.
But this is proof that all you really need for a successful microadventure is to say:
“Yes, let’s do it!”
So, what’s stopping you?