8 Tips—and One Challenge—for Finding Big Adventure Close To Home
In 2015, Alastair Humphreys penned a sweet little tome encouraging folks to haul themselves off their collective sofas a little more often. The Brit — named a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2012 — quickly became the godfather of the “microadventure,” a term he likely coined and used in his book, Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes.
“Adventure is a loose word that means different things to different people. It is a state of mind, a spirit of trying something new and leaving your comfort zone. Adventure is about enthusiasm, ambition, open-mindedness and curiosity. If this is true, then adventure is not only crossing deserts and climbing mountains; adventure can be found everywhere, every day, and it is up to us to seek it out.”
Bravo, Alastair! There’s no need for a fat travel wallet, a heap of gear, or long-booked days off work. Instead, hop into the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and seek uncommon, “small-batch” adventures close to home.
For the outdoor adventurer
With an investment of little more than a great pair of boots, finding adventure is only a few (or a few more) steps away. In the US alone, there are over 200,000 miles of trails just waiting for your footfalls.
Tip #1: Is 50 million acres enough of a playground for you? That’s how much land and water is protected under the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System. And conveniently, many of the 560 refuges and 38 wetland districts are within a couple hours’ drive of major cities (there are 30 in Florida alone). More than a dozen are located right inside urban centers. And, lacking the celebrity of national parks, they also lack the crowds — despite how easy they are to get to. These spaces hold incredible diversity when it comes to flora and fauna, and some even play host to iconic species like bison, wolves, and bears.
Tip #2: Look for other green spaces with similar under-the-radar designations — state forests, national recreation areas, even county parks — or simply hop online for informal meetups in your neck of the woods. Scheduled hikes are the way to go when you don’t feel like doing the solo thing, and chances are you’ll meet kindred spirits who appreciate the ethos of the small-batch adventure.
Perfect example: Looking for a break from the glitz and glamor of The Strip? While in Las Vegas, head to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and opt for a hike to Turtlehead Peak. The 4.5-mile trek is strenuous, taking you around four hours. Your reward is the best panoramic views of the canyon.
For the culinary adventurer
A favorite restaurant is a good thing to have. But it’s far more fun — and decidedly delicious — to dive into the great culinary unknown.
Tip #1: Zero in on a nearby neighborhood you haven’t explored yet and plan to spend the day in a foodie frenzy. Better yet, plot a course for the next city, town, or village over — you know, that place you always meant to visit. Hit the road early to take advantage of the best diner breakfast and keep eating until the sun goes down.
Tip #2: In the true spirit of exploration, hop aboard a group culinary tour to parts unknown. Every city has them. Maybe it’s a new-to-you neighborhood or an unfamiliar cuisine. And don’t forget about those tours focusing on libations! Craft breweries, local distilleries, and neighborhood wineries will make you feel like a tourist in your hometown.
Tip #3: Buy a ticket to an underground supper club event, a farm-to-table dinner, or a cooking class exploring a food you’ve never tried, much less cooked. Bonus: All are sure to provide plenty of fodder for your IG feed.
Perfect example: While in New Orleans, hop aboard a food history and cocktail tour hosted by Doctor Gumbo. You’ll be treated to samples of classic dishes like gumbo and alligator sausage and sip on hurricanes, daiquiris, and juleps while hearing tales of the city’s colorful past.
For the cultural explorer
If your last trip to a museum came on a class field trip, it may be time for a redo.
Tip #1: Put art on the agenda by planning a gallery day. Pick four of the least popular — and probably the smallest — galleries nearest you, preferably ones with niche offerings. Maybe it’s a graffiti gallery. Or one dedicated to Inuit art. Or perhaps the Old Masters.
Tip #2: If a nearby community is hosting a festival, be there. Join the square dance, eat the pie, chat with a local. It may not be your thing, and that’s the idea.
Tip #3: Scope out your city’s tourism website. Most have complete listings of local attractions and events, and some even offer itineraries to keep you constantly intertwined in the fabric of the place you call home.
Perfect example: If you find yourself near Mason City, Iowa, partake in a tour of the Historic Park Inn, the last remaining Frank Lloyd Wright-designed hotel in the world. Peer out the original windows and imagine John Dillinger robbing the First National Bank across the street in 1934 (because he did).
The one-hour challenge
There’s one critical ingredient to the quintessential weekend road trip: spontaneity. Simply tuck that credit card into your pocket, pick a heading — north, east, south, or west — and drive. After roughly an hour, pop into the first tavern you spot, make nice with the locals, ask about lodging, that night’s events, and maybe even get yourself invited to tomorrow’s shindig. Fill your time with a stroll through the local park and a visit to the famous ice cream stand. Pick up a souvenir from a small, local shop that signifies the trip. With enough one-hour challenges, you’ll have quite the collection (of souvenirs, local knowledge, and wild memories).
And take a moment to celebrate the trip and yourself. Why? Not everyone can live life with such open-mindedness and curiosity — so when you do, kudos. You’re living life uncommonly.