Microwhat? Microwaves? Nope, not quite. Microadventures — a term coined in 2014 by British author and explorer Alastair Humphreys — are currently all the rage. They’re all about rediscovering and appreciating our immediate surroundings. Some of us may be lucky enough to live nearby lush forests, tranquil lakes, gushing rivers, rolling hills, dramatic mountains or the mighty ocean. Whatever the case may be, the point of a microadventure is to explore the gorgeous nature on our doorsteps, get out of our comfort zones and experience something new. In his book about microadventures, Humphreys writes that “you do not need to fly to the other side of the planet to find wilderness and beauty.” Microadventures, he says, are adventures “close to home: Cheap, simple, short” offering the “essence of big adventures, the challenge, the fun, the escapism, the learning experiences and the excitement.”
The coronavirus pandemic produced a veritable microadventure boom in 2020. With pandemic-related travel restrictions in place across much of the world, many Europeans spent their holidays at home. And with the doom and gloom of constantly updated coronavirus infection figures and hospitalization rates in the media, many people welcomed an escape into the outdoors. Google Trends show that searches for the German term “Mikroabenteuer” spiked in the summer of 2022 — Austrians, the Swiss and Germans were busily planning getaways in the great outdoors, albeit close to home.
Microadventures come in many shapes and forms
Bianca Gade, a Brazilian native based in Germany’s southern state of Saarland, was one of them. She is fortunate enough to live nearby the Hunsrück mountain range, which is perfect for nature lovers. Gade is an outdoor enthusiast who runs a blog with travel trips and first-hand accounts of her latest microadventures which she says are designed to “inspire others that sometimes you don’t need to embark on long-distance travels to escape your daily routine and have some fun.” To her, microadventures are energizing experiences that entail one or several overnight stays, ideally in a tent.
Sometimes she plans hikes that more or less follow a railway line, setting up her tent in local forests to get a night’s rest. This way, she has a destination staked out but also knows she can always catch a train home when she’s had enough. Other times, she will set off without a fixed route, which she finds even more exciting. “Those spontaneous, eventful jaunts feels like real adventures to me,” she says.
Like Gade, Berlin-based journalist René Wilbrandt also enjoys microadventures. Usually, Wilbrandt and a friend will set off for 24 hour excursions. He recently embarked on a winter microadventure in rural Brandenburg, south of the German capital. “We hiked about 15 kilometers (9 miles) on the first day, then spent the night by a lake, and walked another 5 kilometers (3 miles) the following day,” he recalls. Keen to travel light, they had only brought food, sleeping mats, sleeping bags and Bivouac sacks, which keep out the water and wind.
Do your homework first
Depending on the kind of microadventure you’re considering and the season, a bit of preparation may be advisable, especially when you plan on spending a night in the great outdoors. In Germany, as in most other European countries, it is not legal to camp anywhere you like. But in practice, people who set up a tent at dusk, pack up and go around dawn without leaving any trace or trash behind them are sometimes tolerated, Gade says. Notably, Sweden is one of the few European countries where the freedom to roam allows anyone to walk and camp wherever they want.
In recent years, more and more trekking camps have sprung up around Germany and Europe. Often situated deep inside forests or along rivers, these camps provide space to pitch tents, offer basic toilet facilities and sometimes allow campfires, making them ideal for anyone on a microadventure. Trekking camps tend to be closed during the colder months and may require pre-booking during spring and summer, with stays often limited to one night.
So the next time you crave a change of scenery and yearn for some off-grid fun and find yourself scanning the internet for flights, reconsider. A microadventure close to home may be just what you need. And a positive side-effect: Traveling this way is generally inexpensive and environmentally friendly.