This ‘advertisement’ from The School of Life makes a very poignant point about one of the great motivations to travel: “The real desire to travel isn’t to go anywhere. It’s to leave parts of ourselves behind.” In reality, of course, it is impossible to just decide to shed the bits of ourselves we dislike and magically, on the spot, be done with them. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say impossible, but it certainly has never happened that way in my own experience or the experiences of those around me, from what they’ve reported. For example, a few weeks ago, I shared a short animated video of Brené Brown talking about how blame has absolutely no adaptive value and how stopping ourselves from blaming confers some very attractive outcomes like better relationships and a stronger capacity for empathy. Compelled by the research, I decided to stop blaming but the desire to do it still arises and I have to actively stop myself from blaming, over and over, each time that desire comes back. It takes work, not just willpower, and sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but that’s what it takes to leave the unwanted bits of ourselves behind. What travel does afford us is the mental space from our nearly automatic cognitive and emotional habits and ingrained responses. In new environments and engaged in new experiences, we are more able and often more willing to question our assumptions and to pause our reactions.
Which is where microadventures come in, giving us an opportunity to benefit from the mental space of travel without the financial costs or time requirements of traveling to faraway places. Microadventures, a term coined and championed by British explorer Alastair Humphreys are, “short, perspective-shifting bursts of travel closer to home, inspiring followers to pitch a tent in nearby woods, explore their city by moonlight, or hold a family slumber party in the backyard.”
Originally I set myself on a course of being a quintessential heroic British explorer and did that sort of thing for quite a few years. But a couple things happened. During the motivational talks I give, the audience would call themselves “normal people,” while I was “the adventurer.” But I’m a normal person, too, and I wanted them to see they could go on their own adventures. Also, I have a wife and two young children, and I couldn’t go off for months at a time. To stop myself from going stir-crazy, I came up with adventures closer to home.
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Yeah, the first was when I decided to walk a lap of the M25 motorway, the 120-mile road around London. I live quite near it and while it seems rather boring, I started to get curious about where it went. It was also a metaphor for finding pockets of beauty wherever you are, one of the things I love about adventure. I absolutely loved that walk. My original idea was to try to do the most epic things I possibly could without going far, but I found that “epic” limited people from participating in the idea. The key is getting beyond the excuses. If you can’t climb a mountain, climb a hill. –Alastair Humphreys
Source: The Virtues of Microadventures