This year I am participating in the #1000hours Outside Book Club. To start off the year, Ginny Yurich fearless leader for the #1000hour Outside movement, recommended the title: Microadventures: Local Discoveries, Great Escapes by Alastair Humphrey. Microadventures was an inspirational start to the new year.
By the middle of the month, I saw posts on the #1000hours Outside community Facebook page musing about the applicability of this book. I was having some of the same thoughts.
The author is a single guy in England. He is an amazing outdoors adventurer and an entertaining writer. I was enjoying his book, but like many other parents in the trenches of raising littles, it seemed out of touch. At every turn in the book, he was hopping on a train and stopping for a beer at the local pub.
That really does sound great. But I have four kids, live nowhere near a train station, and can’t remember the last time I casually popped in anywhere, at any time, for any type of beverage.
I started jealous-reading!
I remember when I had this life. When I would hit the rock gym during my lunch hour, scoot up to the canyon after work for a few runs on my snowboard, or drive to some mountain on Friday afternoon for a backpacking trip and barely squeeze back into work Monday morning.
Yep, I once had a microadventure life. But not now, my friends. I am now a mom-of-four, run a business, drive a mini-van, have too much laundry, clean my house, and please let me come up for air kind of girl. My adventure is trying to find out what the kids flushed down the potty. Seriously.
I Still Crave Adventure
But I still crave adventure. It just seems in my mom-life that adventure takes so much planning and so much work. Because of my inner adventurer, I kept reading the book. I put on a new pair of lenses to “see” the book through. Instead of jealous-reading, I started reading for inspiration. I want to look at Alastair’s little mini-trips and see how I could have a similar experience with my children.
As I read each chapter, I thought to myself, how could I do something similar with my kids? How could I pull this off after a long day of schoolwork, housework, and childrearing? What did I need?
I need a list of open-n-go adventures. I need plan-free, regular gear, close-to-home adventures. This is what a came up with: This is my adaptation of “big-boy-free-living-single-dude” microadventure to
“mom-life-kid-full-low-planning-no-fuss” microadventure. I have a new name for these… MMA:
“Adventure is a state of mind, a spirit of trying something new and leaving your comfort zone. It’s about enthusiasm, ambition, open-mindedness, and curiosity.”Microadventures: Local Discoveries, Great Escapes
MMA: Mom Mini-Adventures
I thought of writing this list chapter by chapter. I actually typed out the title of each chapter, but I think I want to take you each on the journey of my mind. So this is my list of MMA as I jotted them down while reading Microadventures.
Bike the Panhandle Trail, stop for a meal, and bike back home. The Panhandle is a mostly paved biking and walking trail near my house. It spans land in both Pennsylvania and West Virginia along its 29.2-mile course. It’s not that we have not been on this trail, but I want to really take it to the next MMA level: take a meal. I know it seems tame, but remember the point here is doable. Maybe someday when all my kids can ride a two-wheeler we will bike the entire trail or camp out in one of the on-trail campsites, but for now, I will just see if I can get all the bikes in the car on the same day I pack a picnic. What biking trail is near you?
This one may be a favorite: go for a night walk around our neighborhood on every full moon. Maybe even level up the MMA and invite some neighbors to join us. Yes, I will need to wrestle all the kids into warm clothes and find working flashlights for all four of them, but I think I can muster the batteries! Think of it, an MMA every month and the sky tells you when to do it. If you need to take it down a notch, I feel you! Just go out on your deck or play in your backyard on the full moon. If you want to go BIG, go on a full moon hike on a trail. But remember, MMA’s are open-n-go adventures. No stress, just go.
For this one, I just wrote down, “Use your weekend, remember Montana.” Back when I was young, single, and fancy-free, I took off with a friend one weekend just after I got off work on Friday afternoon, drove 14 hours to Glacier National Park (because we had never been), did an overnight backpacking trip, and drove back home arriving an hour before I started work Monday morning. I won’t go into the details of a highway-side sleeping break or the ice-cold swimming experience, but it was truly a microadventure before the term had been coined. But I want to do better on my weekends. I get all wrapped up in the laundry, cleaning, and work that I often forget to take a few hours and do something fun. I have a sister who is great at this. Almost every Saturday she takes her kids on a hike. This is what I want to strive for… remember even as a mom you need a weekend adventure.
Camp in the backyard. We have done this a couple of times and when really need to do it more. I know many #1000hourside people don’t count tent sleeping in their outdoor hours, but guess what, I do! Maybe when my four kids are not eight and under, maybe it will be easier, and I won’t. But dang it, when I am nursing a baby in the middle of the night in a tent or taking a little one pee at 3 am…those hours count. So make it an easy few hours on your #1000hours chart and camp in the backyard for your next MMA. You will be the coolest mom ever and you can still pee in your own potty.
On a similar thought to number three, use your weekend, I wrote down on my list: use the 5-to-9. Now let’s be honest, the mom-gig is a 24/7/365 kind of gig, so using the 5-to-9 does not totally apply. But this is a reminder about margin: be intentional with your evenings and mornings. It will feel like an adventure to the kids if you take story time outside on the play set or if you watch a movie under the stars. That is an MMA you can all do tonight.
In Micoradventures, Alastair is always taking the train places. I live in rural Pennsylvania. We don’t take the train anywhere. But, as I read about Alastair grabbing a train here and there, I remembered the last time we were visiting my brother in DC. We took the metro to do our sightseeing. My kids were over the moon with their little train ride. So this MMA is simple: take the train, somewhere. Easy peasy: buy the tickets, get on the train, and win mom of the year!
Do the same circular hike each season. I am thinking we might walk a road near our house that goes in a circle. This little route even has a covered bridge on it. I don’t think it matters what hike you do; I just like the idea of doing the same hike each season so you can compare and contrast the similarities and differences.
Catch a fish and eat it for dinner. Maybe this one is not your cup of tea. But we are a family that fishes, but we usually catch and release. Now, fishing as a family, all by itself is a great MMA. But I think if we cooked our catch over an open fire for my crew, that might really up our MMA game!
Do a race. I once did multiple long-distance running and triathlon races every year. I got to be honest, it has been a while. My sister sent me a link to a local parent-kid obstacle course and I thought, now this is a great idea. What race can you do with your kids? This is the one we are doing!
Take the kids on an overnight backpacking trip. Now this one is a little big to be an MMA. But this has been on my list for a while. I once backpacked all the time. I led backpacking trips for kids at summer camps. Why have I not shared this with my kids? Well, I think 4 kids in 5 years can do that to a person. But my youngest is almost potty trained (finally) and my oldest two might be able to carry some pack weight. But this MMA is happening this summer.
Paddle somewhere. Anywhere! So, this MMA can span a huge range. We live on a lake and paddle often, so I want to up my game just a little, and paddle somewhere and then camp out overnight. Maybe your “paddle somewhere” MMA is to rent a boat on a pond and take a few strokes with the paddle. Maybe you will go BIG with a multi-day paddle trip. The point is, get in a boat and paddle somewhere.
In Microadventures, Alastair talks about hiking and biking on Roman roads and other historic trails. I got to thinking, are there historic roads or trails near me? The only thing I could think of was the Freedom Trail in Boston. Was this really it? With a quick Google search, I came up with a nice five-mile walking tour of Pittsburgh and this list here. Then I got completely detoured by looking at this huge list of ideas for Pennsylvania.
I have already talked a bit about camping and Alastair is constantly talking about grabbing his bivy bag and laying down for the night. Most of us in the US camp in developed campsites like state parks and KOAs. How about heading out for some wild camping? Is it legal to wild camp in the US? Yes! Wild camping is usually refereed also referred to as dispersed camping. It is permitted on BLM lands (Bureau of Land Management), WMA (Wildlife Management Areas), national grasslands, and state forests. It is free, often remote, and may have some restrictions. But it is so much fun. Give it a try. This was my go-to method of camping in college since I was poor but still yearned for adventure.
To go along with wild camping, which may not be your thing, how about trying some wild swimming? Try to go for a swim somewhere that is not chlorinated or roped off in designated swimming areas. Try a beach, river, creek, pond, or sweet local swimming hole. You don’t have to do an overnight swimming/camping trip as Alastair did, just a wild swim with your kiddos and that is an MMA win!
This next adventure is easy: count your steps. Remember in the book when Alastair was talking about how many steps in a mile a soldier took on a historic road? That got me thinking, kids love counting stuff. Also, knowing how many strides you take in certain distances is useful information in orienteering. So this MMA is super easy: find out how many steps your child takes at a certain distance.
Go into the forest. I cannot tell you how healing this is. I wrote about my feelings about spending time in the woods here. Time in the woods makes everything better. You never know what you are going to find or what adventure is just around the corner. So, be an MMA and take your kids for a romp in the woods.
Go to the beach. Okay, maybe you won’t sea kayak and roast your haul of sea crab over a driftwood fire as related in Microadventures, but I bet you can get to a beach. This year, I have made it a goal to get my kids to an ocean beach. But maybe you will have to settle for a lake beach. Maybe you won’t kayak, maybe you will swim. (You never know when you can rent a sea kayak and go for it.) But I bet you can bring a hot dog or two, roast them over a fire, and watch the sunset. Yep, you can do that!
Build a bush shelter with your kids. We did this in my wilderness survival class this past year at the schoolhouse, and it has been a hit. I planned one day for this activity and the kids have added on and enhanced their shelters all semester at recess. You can easily Google “bush shelter” and come up with lots of ideas to inspire you and your kids. This is an easy-to-do backyard, use-what-you-have MMA experience.
Learn food foraging. I am not an expert in this area, but I look forward to an expert coming to teach this at the schoolhouse. Take a class, buy a guidebook, and go outside and see how many things you can find to eat.
Number twenty goes right along the theme of eighteen and nineteen. These all could be combined into one great experience. Learning how to start a fire, build it up, and keep it alive are valuable skills and a great adventure for kids. Never have I ever been as nervous when we started fires with flint and steel at the schoolhouse. Read all about my deep feels here. The bottom line is that if I can give 35 kids a fire starter and have them go for it, you can do this MMA with your kids, too.
I am sure I could think of more ideas and I am positive you can add to this list. I hope this list inspires you to adventure one little, tiny, no-stress adventure at a time.
(Now on to the next read, Why Can’t We Just Play, by Pam Lobley)