Have a mini ad­ven­ture to­day!

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You don’t need to be the first to reach the top of a moun­tain, or to travel the globe or zoom into space to be ad­ven­tur­ous – there’s an en­tire world of ex­cite­ment wait­ing to be ex­plored right out­side your front door, says Mike Peake

By the time Cap­tain Robert Fal­con Scott set out on his ill-fated 1910 ex­pe­di­tion to the South Pole, he had al­ready been plan­ning the mis­sion for more than four years. When he wasn’t por­ing over charts or se­lect­ing mus­cu­lar com­rades for the jour­ney, he was trav­el­ling the world and press­ing the flesh in pur­suit of fi­nan­cial back­ers.

In many ways it was the start of the mod­ern ad­ven­turer’s tem­plate: plot your course, bank your funds and then dis­ap­pear on a life-chang­ing ex­cur­sion – and Scott was a master of the game. But it isn’t the only way to have an ad­ven­ture. Most of to­day’s pro­fes­sional ex­plor­ers will tell you that when it comes to world firsts, there is lit­er­ally noth­ing left to do.

All of the im­por­tant wilder­nesses/ moun­tain ranges/oceans have long since been tra­versed. But as each was re­moved from the ex­plorer’s to-do list, the ad­ven­ture com­mu­nity didn’t wither and die. Far from it – a quick look at Mount Ever­est’s ev­er­in­creas­ing list of an­nual sum­mit at­tempts shows that our ap­petite for the ex­treme is as buoy­ant as ever.

If the prize when it comes to ex­pe­di­tions is no longer to be the first – and for most of us it isn’t to be the fastest – might it be pos­si­ble that to have tried at all is the main thing? A new school of thought ar­gues ex­actly that – and that in or­der to test your­self in a deep and mean­ing­ful

way, bot­tom­less pock­ets and an army of per­sonal guides need no longer be part of the deal.

“Go­ing on an ad­ven­ture can be as easy as walk­ing out your front door,” says ex­plorer Ja­son Lewis, who was the first per­son to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the globe us­ing hu­man power – a com­bi­na­tion of cy­cling, roller blad­ing, hik­ing and ped­alling a wooden boat. “Just keep go­ing for a day, a week or a month. If for­tune favours the bold, then des­tiny smiles on the im­pul­sive.”

Ja­son’s epic 13-year jour­ney that started in Green­wich, London, in 1994 and ended back there in 2007, clearly didn’t hap­pen on the spur of the mo­ment, but the spirit that car­ried him around the world and into the record books is one that lurks within many of us.

By dis­pens­ing with what you think you should be do­ing to­day, Lewis says, you can em­bark on an ad­ven­ture to­mor­row. “Why wait?” he im­plores. “Even that may be too late.” While Ja­son and his fel­low ex­plor­ers’ ad­ven­tures typ­i­cally in­volve months away from home and some ex­otic­sound­ing, far-flung des­ti­na­tions – pri­mar­ily be­cause of the need for some­thing to write and lec­ture about when they get back – th­ese are just the ic­ing on the cake. A short ad­ven­ture that you do at the drop of a hat can be sim­i­larly in­spir­ing – just as own­ing a Fer­rari isn’t the only way to get a buzz out of driv­ing.

As Lewis ex­plains, “The po­ten­tial for ad­ven­ture is all around us: we just have to change our mind­set to recog­nise and embrace it.”

A popular Twit­ter hash­tag to have emerged over the past 12 months is #microadventure, a term first coined two years ago by Bri­tish-based ad­ven­turer Alas­tair Humphreys. Like Lewis, Humphreys is no stranger to globe-trot­ting ex­ploits – he has cy­cled the world, rowed the At­lantic and walked across In­dia – but when he started to ques­tion how au­di­ences at his post-ex­pe­di­tion talks re­lated to what he’d done, he found him­self won­der­ing if he could make ‘ad­ven­ture’ more ac­ces­si­ble.

“I got the sense that ev­ery­one likes ad­ven­ture even if they don’t do any­thing ad­ven­tur­ous, so I tried to think of a way that ev­ery­one could try it,” he says. Set­tling on the term ‘mi­cro ad­ven­ture’ to sum up a se­ries of new, mini-ex­pe­di­tions he planned to un­der­take, he set off with a friend on a 240km walk on London’s unloved M25 mo­tor­way in freez­ing Jan­uary weather. It lasted a week, and what sur­prised Humphreys was that it was far more of a wilder­ness ad­ven­ture than he’d en­vi­sioned.

In fact, he says, it had ev­ery­thing that he usu­ally found on his ma­jor ex­pe­di­tions, only on a smaller scale.

Fol­low­ers of Humphreys’ blog and Twit­ter ac­count seemed to love his cheap-and-cheer­ful, close-to-home voy­age, and one chilly morn­ing one of them even cy­cled out to the leafy spot he was sleep­ing at to in­vite him back for a cooked break­fast.

“All the rea­sons I cy­cled around the world were also to be found on that M25 walk,” Humphreys in­sists. “Go­ing some­where new, meet­ing peo­ple, learn­ing about dif­fer­ent places. Rather than think­ing that a mi­cro ad­ven­ture is small and a bit

rub­bish, it’s much bet­ter to think of it as a proper one, but shorter.” And, as he as­tutely points out, it’s a lot bet­ter than the al­ter­na­tive – do­ing noth­ing at all.

In­spired by his am­ble along London’s con­gested gyra­tory sys­tem, Humphreys em­barked on a whole year of small, do-able mi­cro ad­ven­tures, clev­erly ex­tolling the virtues of a “5-9 ex­is­tence”, in­stead of liv­ing – as most of us do – with 9-5 at the fore­front of our minds. “You the­o­ret­i­cally have 16 hours of free­dom to play with ev­ery sin­gle day,” he says, “so leav­ing the city at 5pm, find­ing a hill, light­ing a camp­fire and sleep­ing un­der the stars are all pos­si­ble. Then it’s back down the hill, swim in a wadi and back to your desk by 9.”

It’s a phi­los­o­phy not lost on Dubai-based ad­ven­turer Adrian Hayes, whose own mega-ad­ven­tures are aug­mented by a great num­ber of much smaller trips. “In a world where many of us are glued to com­put­ers or smart­phone screens,” he says, “there is some­thing pure and re­fresh­ing about get­ting away from it, even for just a day.”

A for­mer Bri­tish Army Gurkha of­fi­cer who also set two Guin­ness World Records for po­lar ex­pe­di­tions, Hayes goes on to talk – with nos­tal­gic glee – about one par­tic­u­lar week­end last win­ter in which he spent two nights in the Ha­jar Moun­tains with friends. “We slept on the ground at 2,000m above sea level in per­fect weather un­der a canopy of stars. It costs noth­ing, and it just can’t be beaten.”

Ja­son Lewis adds: “An oc­ca­sional leap of faith like this presents us with the op­por­tu­nity to learn about our­selves and what we are ca­pa­ble of. What are our lim­its? What are our strengths? In the most ba­sic sense of the word, ad­ven­ture should be a con­duit to pro­vide some mean­ing to your life.”

Fur­ther­more, Alas­tair Humphreys says that we owe it to our­selves to put a lit­tle ad­ven­ture into our dayto-day ex­is­tence. “In my ideal world, ev­ery­one would have some sort of na­tional ser­vice-style com­pul­sory ad­ven­ture,” he chuck­les. “Be­cause a bit of ad­ven­ture will change you for the bet­ter – even if you don’t en­joy it and don’t want to do it again. It will make you more aware of your­self and force you to be hon­est with your­self and not take life too se­ri­ously.” It re­minds you, he says, that it is good to laugh at the ridicu­lous.

If you’re nod­ding along in agree­ment but now won­der­ing which patch of grass out­side Mall of the Emi­rates to try pitch­ing your tent on, you might need to think just a tiny bit big­ger.

“You’re only a 30-minute drive from vast, empty deserts,” says Humphreys. “I’m sure most peo­ple liv­ing in the city have been out and slept in the dunes: do it again! Do it more of­ten and with dif­fer­ent peo­ple. Spend­ing a night un­der the stars with min­i­mal stuff is great, and the fan­tas­tic moun­tains of Oman are only a cou­ple of hours away.”

Hayes adds: “We have an in­cred­i­ble area of desert, wadis and moun­tains right on our doorstep and all are fea­si­ble by foot or 4WD be­tween now and April. The crags for rock climb­ing are a year-round pos­si­bil­ity.”

Hayes’ tip is to try and get away from the places you see writ­ten about in guide­books. “All you need is a map, safety in num­bers and enough food and wa­ter in case of any in­ci­dents.”

Both Hayes and Humphreys are no strangers to the area, Hayes hav­ing writ­ten the book Foot­steps of Th­e­siger, which de­tails his 44-day, 1,600km jour­ney by camel and foot across the Empty Quar­ter, on the trail of 1940s Bri­tish ex­plorer Sir Wil­fred Th­e­siger. A sim­i­larly in­spired Humphreys com­pleted his own Th­e­siger odyssey more re­cently – although it didn’t get off to a text­book start.

“Day one was ac­tu­ally the worst,” Humphreys winces. “We couldn’t af­ford a camel so we had a cart to haul our stuff, and it was only on day one that we tested it fully loaded and re­alised it didn’t work.” Luck­ily, a cou­ple of back­street me­chan­ics were able to “whack and weld” the con­trap­tion into shape, leav­ing Humphreys and his trav­el­ling com­pan­ion Leon McCar­ron to em­bark on a mem­o­rable jour­ney that was to prove abun­dant not just in sandy vis­tas, but in Ara­bian hos­pi­tal­ity, too.

To give the jour­ney a clearly de­fined, almost totemic fin­ish­ing point, the pair set­tled on the Burj Khal­ifa and, hav­ing do­nated their cart to a mu­seum in Al Ain, they be­gan their fi­nal trek to­wards the world’s tallest build­ing. “I re­mem­ber walk­ing through the mas­sive mall that leads to it, not hav­ing show­ered for 1,000 miles, ab­so­lutely stink­ing and get­ting some very strange looks,” says Humphreys.

By his own ad­mis­sion, it’s the strangest place he’s ever ended one of his ad­ven­tures – but per­haps it is the per­fect place to be­gin yours. Just add a back­pack and travel buddy and point the com­pass south, and if it all gets a bit much a few min­utes in, the Palace Old Town Ho­tel and its sump­tu­ous dou­ble rooms will be right there to wel­come you.

A mi­cro ad­ven­ture may be more do-able than you first think

Alas­tair aims to make ad­ven­tures more ac­ces­si­ble

A mi­cro ad­ven­ture could help you to take life less se­ri­ously...

...and per­haps be­come more self-aware and hon­est

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