Alastair Humphreys is an adventurer from Yorkshire. Over the course of his career, he has rowed across the Atlantic, cycled around the world and found time to author eleven books, In Micro Adventures he encourages us to make time for short, simple local adventures.
Who do you think your book appeals to and why?
I wanted to make Micro Adventures for everyone – from those who might one day climb El Capitain solo, to the rest of us who are happy going for a Sunday morning stroll. Micro adventuring is about becoming more childlike. We live in such comfortable cocoons as adults, we forget how much fun it was being a kid. Cycling around on bikes, making camps and climbing trees. Sure, it’s lovely to climb in Tibet but even just a visit to the local 24/7 can be turned into a big adventure.
When was the last time you went on a micro-adventure?
Last Sunday I was feeling quite crumpled. My kids were asleep. My wife was working in bed. I sat down in front of the TV and thought about having a beer. Then I looked outside. It was a clear night. The moon was almost full. I looked in on my wife. She was asleep. I put my hammock and sleeping bag in my rucksack and tiptoed down to the local park. Slung my bed between two trees and woke at 5am to the dawn chorus.
How much harder is it to be a professional adventurer now that you have kids?
As soon as I leave my writing shed, I’m running my kids to school, cooking dinner, hanging the washing out, or any combination of these at the same time. It’s exhausting. These days, my micro-adventures have to be quick. I have to get out and get back home before they know I’m gone.
What activities would your recommend for a rapid reconnection with nature?
Wild swimming is a good one. Nobody regrets a wild swim. We all remember the moment when we took the plunge, caught our breath and turned to face our cowardly companions on the riverbank. Wild Swim is a worldwide, crowd-sourced, wild swimming map. Enter your postcode and your local swim spots will pop up.
And for those who might not love the water?
Climb a tree. Doing things that are a little bit scary make us grow. The first branch of a big tree is always the stretch. Ask your friend for a leg-up then reach down and help them. Climbing to the top is easy. And repetition is a good thing. I’ve been climbing the same tree once a month for over a year now. Seeing the changes each season brings keeps it fresh.
How can we motivate ourselves to do this stuff?
Don’t overthink it. Just pull on your shoes and go outside. For a bigger adventure, it’s best to state your intention, then make a financial commitment. I’ve noticed that each time I tell ten friends I’m going to do something, then buy a non-refundable ticket, I always wind up making the trip. Having a friend join in also helps. It’s much harder to reject the plan. Or stay in bed. They can also go and get help if you break your ankle.
But you still adventure alone?
I think you meet more people that way. I’ve kept a journal on all my travels. It’s something to do. Throw stones at a wall or journal for ten minutes. Makes life a lot less painful when I get back to the shed to write my stories up too. I’ve also recently got into learning different birds’ songs so I can identify them when I hear them. The RSPB have a wonderful birdsong identifier.
Alastair’s latest book ‘My Midsummer Morning’ retraces the steps of Laurie Lee, the author of ‘Cider With Rosie’ who walked to Spain from his native Gloucestershire in 1934. It is available to buy here.