The Microadventure Mindset

There are 365 days in a year — and not all of them can be memorable. Or can they?

Alastair Humphreys, who was named the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2012 for taking a series of microadventures near his home and wrote “Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes," asserts that adventure is about curiosity, surprise, and getting away from familiarity. “Once you go somewhere you’ve never been, you are being an explorer.” 

I'd counter that you don't necessarily need to go someplace new to experience curiosity or surprise because microadventures can easily unfold within your current environment: cook a new dish with that odd pantry ingredient (hello Beau Monde spice blend), play a long-ignored board game (could I actually win at Risk?), or turn left instead of right when walking the dog (can adventure be this easy?). Any similarly inexpensive and quick microadventure can spur curiosity, deliver surprise, or create an unfamiliar experience allowing us to punctuate our everyday with memorable moments. Much of it falls back on the ageless idiom: take time to stop and smell the roses

Humphreys specifically defines microadventures as adventures that span anywhere from a few hours to a short overnight and also squeeze "big adventure feelings" into the activity. Big adventure feelings are not necessarily raising your adrenaline with dangerous endeavors; the simple act of trying or doing things in a different setting (or time) can flip the mundane into novel and mentally rewarding experiences. And since "big" adventures can feel incredibly out of reach, starting small can be the bread crumb trail you need to eventually step forward to tackle bigger adventures, goals, ideas, or tasks. And as he points out, "...waiting for all your stars to align is a guaranteed way to ensure that the adventure you crave will never happen." (Nike's tagline "just do it" comes to mind as well.) It doesn't matter if you never strike out to climb the Himalaya — it does matter if you do nothing.

A few ideas to get you started include camping without a tent in your own backyard (hmmm, maybe before or after mosquito season), cook dinner outdoors at a local township park (haven't you always wanted to try those funky grills?), or go to a Great Lake beach on a crummy day. And repeat the ideas each season — they're guaranteed to be a different experience. Woods & Waters has many trips that fit Humphreys' microadventure timeframe — from our 2-hour Little Dipper to our Perfect Overnight or Full Moon paddles. We even offer our multi-night WOW! and ck trips (Women On Water and couples kayaking) for those wanting to stretch their microadventure out a little bit more. Regardless of which trip people choose, we help curious people step beyond their familiar and be surprised by something new like seeing a "wild" bald eagle for the first time, the Milky Way, or even camping out on an island. 

If these longer microadventures still feel too daunting, or something you can only do once a week/month/season, realize that doing any microadventure that connects you to nature can reap benefits. Microadventures can be super quick and easily be part of your daily routine — and should be for the health of you! Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley has found that intently focusing even on small natural wonders — flowers, insects, birds — cause reduced stress feelings. Being an explorer wherever you find yourself can over time lower anxiety levels, clear a head in preparation for upcoming tasks, or train a brain for future resiliency and optimism. Even by being curious and making observations of a beautiful view for as little as 2–3 minutes a few times per week can have beneficial impact.

Where can you find these pockets of nature to explore? Houseplants, flower bouquets, or even the floral department at your local grocer. Step outside, look out a window, squat down to observe a patch of where an insect goes. But before you start, set a 3 minute timer. The first few weeks of these "micro" microadventures will likely feel like forever! We are programmed for the quick fixes our brains get from picking up our phones and our attention spans are now only about 8 seconds — officially shorter than a goldfish! (see resources below). Focusing on something other than our smart devices will also help reset our attention spans and retrain our ability to focus — which can lead to being better listeners, more present with our loved ones, and better at getting things done. Over time, consider adding a few 10–30 minute microadeventures to your week.

You have 365 times to wake up and start anew every year. You are not what you say you'll do — you are what you do. Today, or tomorrow, make a plan for a microadventure. Use your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and body to investigate all the "roses" that you come upon. Be an explorer. Be surprised. Be curious. Enjoy the microadventures. Share what you're up to, or make a plan (maybe even booking a trip with us). 

More microadventure ideas:

  • Moonlight walk (or full moon paddle)
  • Berry picking (thimbleberries in the Les Cheneaux in August)
  • Get up for a sunrise (I'm not a fan of this in June BTW)
  • Let the dog sniff as much as they want on a walk (reading all the pee-mail is their microadventure)
  • Picnic lunch (beware Yogi)
  • Stare at water (find a puddle in the very least, or come kayaking)
  • Daydream while watching clouds (a favorite Instagram feeds is @adailycloud)


  • To find out more about Alastair Humphreys, click here for his website. Do note that the concept of public lands is VERY different in the British Isles and people in the United States cannot simply wander up a hillside and camp.
  • Did you know that in 2022, the average American checked their phone 96 times per day, or once every ten to 12 minutes. Though, we actually touch our phones up to 2,617 times per day and unlock our phones 150 times on average. !!!!!!!!!! To learn more, click here.
  • The average American uses their phone for at least five hours and 24 minutes per day. More specifically, just under half of all Americans spend between five to six hours on their phones per day, while a further 22% spend three to four hours on average on their phone daily. Believe it or not, less than 5% of Americans spend less than an hour on their phone per day. Click here to learn more.
  • Did you make it to the end? Most likely not... Check out these additional attention span stats by clicking here.

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