Microadventures: What They Are and Why We All Need Them

Article by NEMO

Microadventures: What They Are and Why We All Need Them

Sometimes work, and life, makes breaking routine nearly impossible.

It’s often the opportunistic adventurer who finds themselves squeezing in long weekend road trips. It can seem like an endless cycle, with small, gratifying windows for enjoying the outdoors. So this begs the question: where else do these windows exist in our routine to make the most of opportunities?


Origins of Microadventures

National Geographic’s 2012 Adventurer of the Year, Alastair Humphreys, made this his thesis for life. He believed that capitalizing on small, close-to-home adventures was not only fun, but healthy for the explorer in all of us. Or as Alastair says, adventures that are “small and achievable, for normal people with real lives."

This might be a walk around your neighborhood on the next full moon. Camping in a nearby field. Slumbering in the backyard under the stars. These microadventures come in varying intensities, but a quick web search will tell you it’s really up for interpretation.

Our take? Just get out and do something you wouldn’t normally do. Alastair’s website has an entire page dedicated to inspiration for your next microadventure. He also frequently updates his social feeds, releasing videos over time encouraging them to participate in his latest challenge. It’s a social call to action and we dig it.



Break the Routine

Routine can stymie creativity and inhibit our innate excitement from the new or unusual. In other words, there’s no novelty. Switching things up on the other hand, can improve focus and memory. Think of it this way; when your brain gets to play it has the opportunity to do some pretty awesome things. Microadventures come with all of these neurological benefits, without the hassle of intricate planning or unrealistic time consumption. Seasoned pros know that microadventures can be the cure to the urban blues, work week routine, or morning commute.

Another added advantage is microadventures are cheap. Obviously more strenuous adventures means more equipment, but it doesn’t take much gear to sleep outside on a warm summer night. Either way, these adventures will hardly cost you a dime.

Interestingly enough, for a lot of people, microadventures aren’t necessarily new. They just never had a name before. Beating sunrise to be the first one to paddle out is its own variation of a microadventure. So are spontaneous dog walks at the local trails or a phony sickness on an epic powder day.


Microadventuring Here at NEMO

At NEMO, we've been embarking on microadventures since the beginning, whether racing our skateboards through town to grab lunch (15 years ago) or closing down the office to go climbing on a Friday afternoon (eh hem, last week).

So we polled the team to make a list of our favorite microadventure ideas to share with you.


1. Physical Challenges

Yes, that's what we call them here, and they're part of the NEMO culture. Whether it's climbing around the underside of a picnic table without touching the ground (benches included), striking a power yoga pose, strength challenges with rocks and logs, or testing our pain tolerance by jumping into ice cold water, it's what we do. At any moment someone can call a challenge, and everyone (save those with better judgement) join in.


2. The Morning Surf

Brent loves to hit the ocean first thing in the morning to explore a new surf break. No wave is ever the same and exploring a new surf break can be exhilarating, and definitely gets you out of your comfort zone. It only takes one wave to make it a memorable microadventure, ripping down the line, shooting past submerged, barnacle-encrusted boulders...


Catching the morning surf

3. Bicycle Donut Run

If you've got a hankering for some donuts, and a basket on your bike sized just right for six donuts, you've got a recipe for a bicycle donut run. Gabi uses a donut shop in Maine as his an ideal turnaround point on his 40-mile bike route.


4. Rock Hopping

Here's one of Cam's favorites: pick a long length (a mile or more) of a mountain brook and try to rock hop the whole way without touching the water.


5. Lunchtime Birding

Bill disappears around noonish to a nearby park where he tunes into a different soundtrack – the songs of the local bird community. With camera in hand he loves to capture new friends in action, like this Black and White Warbler.


Lunchtime birding

6. Power Outage Stargazing

Zack took the chance during a recent power outage to take in the stars without all the light pollution. A late night stroll through town offered a view of the night sky that's usually glutted by street lamps.


7. Bike, Bar & Draw

Our design team is known to pack up a sketchbook, bike to the bar, order whatever the best IPA on tap is, and draw people in the bar.


8. Explore New Islands by Kayak

Kate and her 6-year-old daughter hop into a kayak on early mornings to explore the uninhabited islands they can see from their kitchen table. What do they find? Old lobster traps, buoys, beautiful stones, new plants, and abandoned camps.

Exploring islands by kayak

9. Paddleboard to Visit Friends

Why drive when you can float to see your friends? Spar loads up his beer belt and paddleboards to visit his neighbors.


10. Hike in the Dark

When the moon is out, put the headlamp away. There's nothing quite like a hike through the still woods at night by moonlight. (Bonus points if you turn it into an astrophotography session).


11. Buildering

All you need is a building or a bridge to try to solve how to climb it.


12. Let the Dog Lead the Way

Sam lets her dog Beetle take the lead sometimes, and is always amazed at the places they end up.

Letting Beetle lead the way

13. Find New Trails

Pat takes off when he can to discover new trails through the woods. With the help of Google Maps, he finds ways to connect local forests into a continuous network of trails.


14. Pick a Mountain, No Trails Allowed

Pick a mountain on a map and try to get to the top without using trails. Extra points if you don't end up with a case of poison ivy (lesson learned...).


15. Catch Your Dinner

Bill drove north to a frozen lake, cut a hole in the ice, and caught his dinner. Even more fun, try hunting, fishing and foraging for an entire day's worth of food. Or a week!

Bill ice fishing

16. Follow the Frozen Stream

When the streams freeze, pop on your XC skis and see where they go. Spar follows the twists and turns of local streams to discover new places.


17. Be on a Boat

If you live near the water, get out on the water. Joe took that philosophy and takes every opportunity to poke around the Great Bay's unique ecology.


18. Wedding Camping

Who needs a hotel when you can pitch your tent? Sam recommends pitching a tent for the next wedding you're invited to. Plus the irony of taking off your heels before you entered your tent to call it a night is amazing.


19. Get to Know the Surrounding Towns

Grab some friends and plot a path you've never taken to get to know the surrounding area. A few team members and some friends recently planned a 20-miler that wound through the three nearby towns to learn all the side roads. Pitstops welcome.


Plan a 20 miler

20. After Work Skurfing

It's a summertime classic around here, where lakes abound. We head to the lake after work for an evening "skurf" (wake boarding on a surf board) and enjoy a sunset cruise around the lake.


21. Space Nerds

Chase the next meteorological event, whether it's a meteor shower, super moon or seasonal eclipse. Find the best place to take it in, and kick back with your favorite drink to see the sights.


22. Plan an S24O.

Kendall recommends a Sub 24-Hour Overnighter (S24O) bikepacking adventure, an easy way to pack in a great adventure in a short period of time. Find some inspiration for your S24O here.


Your Turn

What's your favorite escape? What keeps you inspired and exhilarated during daily life? Share the inspiration with us at #AdventureAnywhere and let's keep on microadventuring!