Friday evening had arrived. The work was done, or at least paused with sufficient peace to leave it for the weekend. It was an evening marked by early autumn – just enough light in the sky, warm enough to begin in a jumper; jackets would be pulled on later. The day’s stories would have to wait for when darkness came. For now we hastily found out high vis jackets, lights, shedding to-do lists and perceived obligations, and got on the bikes before any more light slipped below the horizon.
Once we’d turned right instead of the usual left, that feeling set in. You know the one (I hope): freedom. That sense that, even though you probably won’t, you could go anywhere. We had a vague notion of direction, little of destination. Sometimes we talked, laughed. Sometimes we enjoyed companionable silence and appreciation of the crispness of the air as it skimmed past our cheeks.
We quickly allowed ourselves to be diverted by the unknown, and what joy that we did. A left turn and a few weaves and we’d found water. Southampton’s lack of sandy beach disappoints visitors annually, but this park had embraced her industrial history as a dock. Remnants of the wharf interspersed with people fishing, children playing, bike jumps that my brave city commuter bicycle tackled with gusto (she never lets me down).
We moved further out of the city, found routes off the paved path. We slipped off the bikes, slowing down our appreciation even more by foot. A tiny dachshund asserted her territory; we pushed the bikes past. The sun set behind trees and masts; more beauty in industry. The words “I think it’s time you tried off-roading in the dark” were uttered. As I said, my little bike never lets me down.
The temperature dropped a few degrees. It was time to don the high vis, arm ourselves with lights and head for a pub of good reputation and local ales. I suspect this is a critical component of microadventures. Our thirst slaked, we ventured deeper back into our city in search of that Friday night staple: chips. As we cycled down our local high street, we brought that sense of freedom back onto home turf with us. The inspiration for this Friday night outing lay in Alastair Humphreys’ book, ‘Microadventures’ (pictured above). The microadventure is one which fits around the nine-to-five of modern British life, born out of a recognition that though many people won’t have time to trek 4,000 miles up the Amazon, they could probably give a day to swimming down their local river. Though Alastair Humphreys outlines ideas ranging from wild camping for one night to walking the length of the M25 motorway encircling London, the book is not so much a checklist, as a manifesto, resource and inspiration for a lifestyle embracing microadventures. Rather than waiting for a season of extreme and prolonged adventure, ‘Microadventures’ calls people to set aside hours and seize the gaps for small adventures that are within your reach.
The book’s tagline is ‘Local discoveries for great escapes’, but for me, microadventures are not about escaping life, but enhancing it. Getting outside, going somewhere new, lacking a fixed agenda; these things refresh me for work, inspire me creatively, keep me in touch with nature, help me appreciate my local area. They remind me that exploration, challenge and fun are good for me, my family, and my impact on the world. They show me that this is time well spent.
Today’s soundtrack: Mat Kearney // JUST KIDS