Microadventures for the Solo Traveler

Microadventures for the solo traveler

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What is a microadventure? Learn about this type of local travel that just may be a perfect fit for someone traveling solo for the first time, or for those who want some wonder and awe in their lives without traveling a long distance and spending a ton of money.

It’s pretty typical for most episode topics that I do a good amount of research, because I want to bring you the best information out there on each topic. And then I’ll weave into the topic my own experiences and knowledge, and sometimes others’ feedback and experience that they’ve shared.

As I was researching about Episode 123, Why You Need to Travel Solo, and also Episode 122 about travel trends this year, I encountered a term that I hadn’t heard before – microadventures. It was a New York Times article from July 5, 2021 by Emily Pennington, and I’ll link to it in the show notes. The article was called “Who Needs the Grand Canyon? Try a Microadventure.” 

Let’s rewind to when this article was written, in the summer of 2021. A lot of the world was still in lockdown over the COVID pandemic. Travel was just starting to make a comeback. So it makes sense that the New York Times would publish an article about finding adventure close to home.

What is a microadventure?

Alastair Humphreys, author of “Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes”, defines a microadventure as “an adventure that is short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding.”

I talked in Episode 123 about how when we are planning travel, we have to think about our various resources and how to best use them, those resources being our time, our money, and our energy. If you, like me, have a job that gives you paid time off work, then you want to maximize that time. I have a big trip planned for September, our Adventures by Disney group trip to Southern California and Disneyland, and I’m going to extend it to visit family and to spend at least another day in Disneyland after the group part ends. Plus, I already have 2 cruises booked for 2025, one being our Alaska group cruise next July, and I have other big travel plans for next year that you’ll learn about very soon. So all that means that I need to not use a whole lot of vacation time this year, which is where microadventures come in. These shorter types of vacation are also great for those who are caregivers or have other responsibilities at home and find it hard to take a break from those responsibilities. And these microadventures are usually much more budget-friendly than a longer vacation. 

A microadventure could be as short as an hour, or an overnight trip, or a weekend getaway.

I think microadventures are a great way to start becoming comfortable with traveling solo. So let’s go through some examples of microadventures, and then how to plan for a microadventure.

Examples of Microadventures

  • Go on a local hike or on a nature walk. I’m so fortunate to be close to several nature preserves, and I’m about a 90-minute drive from the nearest beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Go to a nearby park that you’ve never been to before, or even a city park in a downtown space. Be curious, and take in the details around you. Put down your phone (I’m saying this as a reminder to myself as well), disconnect, breathe deeply, and really take it all in!
  • Or pick up your phone, or camera, and go on a photography adventure. Look for unique ways to photograph buildings, landscapes, and everything else around you. 
  • Go to a scenic spot to take in the beauty of nature. Maybe that’s a clearing where you can see the stars really well at night, away from city lights. Maybe it’s a beach to take in the sunrise or sunset. If you like storms like me, maybe it’s somewhere that you can safely observe storm clouds in the distance, and maybe you’ll spot a rainbow as well. I love watching from a cruise ship how it will be raining off in the distance, and at night how the clouds light up from lightning when the rest of the sea around me is so dark. 
  • Go for a walk or take a bike ride down a familiar path, but at night. Everything looks and feels different at night. Obviously, be safe doing this – travel in a well-lit area or bring your own lights, and wear reflective clothing so any passing vehicles can see you. 
  • Go to your town or city’s downtown area, park, and walk around, discovering new shops and restaurants. I need to do this in my city of Winter Garden. The main street has so many fun shops and restaurants, plus a farmer’s market on Saturdays, but I’ve only been downtown a few times. There are so many more places to explore.
  • Take yourself on a picnic. Pack some food and a blanket, head to a nearby park, and hopefully you have a nice sunny day to enjoy a picnic outside. I’m actually considering doing this in a park at Walt Disney World for fun.
  • Ride a train or bus to the last stop and navigate your way home. Have you ever done that? I did it a few times when I lived in New York City. I saw neighborhoods that I never would have seen had I not just taken the train to the end of the line. 
  • Go on a local food tour. Choose different neighborhoods or nearby towns to sample local cuisine in restaurants, food trucks, or markets. Challenge yourself to go to local establishments that aren’t chain restaurants. 
  • Volunteer for a local cause or organization. If you aren’t sure what volunteer opportunities there are near you, Google find volunteer opportunities near me, and all kinds of results will come up. Or go to VolunteerMatch.org. 

Plan for a Microadventure

So now that we have all these fun ideas for microadventures, how to do we go about planning for one?

I suggest starting with the timeframe. Do you want a microadventure now, as in today or tomorrow? That may limit what you’re already prepared to do. Or do you want maybe an overnight microadventure that you’re going to plan to do in a few weeks?

Next, pick a location that is fairly local and fits into your schedule and the amount of time you have for the microadventure. If you want to do a microadventure tonight, maybe that’s stargazing at a local park. If you want to wait a few weeks, then maybe you want to explore that small town that’s about an hour’s drive that you’ve always wanted to go to. 

Once you pick a destination, do a little research to decide what you want to do. If it involves an overnight stay, do you need a reservation? If you’re going to be out in nature, what supplies and clothing do you need? That leads to the next step…

Keep checking the weather leading up to your microadventure. If you have your heart set on an outdoor picnic in the sunshine on a Sunday afternoon, but it’s going to be storming, that won’t work. 

Do let yourself be spontaneous and in the moment. If you’re on a local food tour and you picked out 3 places, but you walk past a food truck and the aromas wafting out to you call you to it, then go for it. That’s part of the fun of a microadventure, kind of going with the flow of it all and loosening control (again, that’s a reminder to myself as much as anyone else, I love to follow a solid itinerary!). 

Soon before you leave, it’s time to pack. Living in Florida, I almost always bring a tumbler of ice water in the car with me. Definitely pack water, and maybe some snacks, sunscreen, a first-aid kit, and any special items you’ll need, depending on how far you’re going and what you plan to do.

Safety reminder… always let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Carry not only your phone but an external charger, and familiarize yourself with the area where you’re going to. If it’s a state or national park, there may be some rules and regulations that you’ll need to be aware of to follow, as well as an entrance fee.

As you experience your microadventure, capture it for your memories. It’s up to you if you want to share the experience with others, whether that’s on social media, sending photos or videos, or even telling others all about it. But capture your experience for your own benefit. If your goal is to disconnect, then bring a journal to write down your experiences.

Experiment with different kinds of microadventures and see what you like best. You might just surprise yourself.

Planning for and going on a solo microadventure can be a very empowering experience, especially if you’ve never done anything like that before alone. You will discover new things about yourself, likes and dislikes, and maybe some strengths that you didn’t realize you had. As it goes with most solo travel, you’ll have the freedom to set your own agenda. Most of all, solo travels, including microadventures, give you the opportunity for meaningful connection. You may develop a new appreciation for your local community. You may connect more deeply with nature. You will connect more deeply with yourself in mind, body, and spirit. 

So why wait? Plan your next microadventure now. 

Resources

Read the full New York Times article, “Who Needs the Grand Canyon? Try a Microadventure” by Emily Pennington.

Read the book Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes by Alastair Humphries. Also, check out Alastair Humphries’ website with great inspiration and resources for microadventures.

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