It might seem strange for the editor of a responsible travel platform to advocate less travel at times — but by sticking close to home, we discover that the small worlds around us can be at least as rewarding as any great adventure or grand tour.
Mind you, I’m not suggesting NO travel — just a mix of bigger, broader experiences and more hyper-focussed local explorations. We may tend to assume that proper travel always means something exotic, seeing the far-flung places of our childhood dreams; but that doesn’t have to be the case. While I’m as dazzled as the next person by the prospect of storybook adventures, I’ve also grown to appreciate what’s in my own backyard.
This was partly by choice, and partly by necessity. Living in the Dublin commuter belt in Ireland, when very strict travel restrictions were put in place by the government a while back with a 5km travel limit during our tightest lockdown, close to home became the only option. Having moved to our current spot only a couple of years before the pandemic began, we’d done some exploration but had been distracted by setting up house, finding local amenities, and the usual everyday work, chores… you know, life stuff.
Suddenly, we found ourselves spending a lot more time on the many trails that cut through our town’s historic areas and wind through nature. We stumbled upon old sites, ancient cemeteries, canal pathways, and wooded pockets filled with birdsong. Though the choice to travel further had been taken away from us, it inspired a different kind of discovery that was just as valuable.
There are many ways to connect with what’s nearby, but here are two…
Made common by British adventurer and author Alastair Humphreys, microadventures are “small and achievable, for normal people with real lives”. As he goes on to say, they’re “short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding”. The emphasis here is on outdoor explorations that make adventure accessible to those who may have limited experience.
The New York Times described microadventures as “perspective-shifting bursts of travel closer to home, inspiring followers to pitch a tent in nearby woods, explore their city by moonlight, or hold a family slumber party in the backyard.”
It’s a flexible concept, without strict boundaries, extending from your back garden to the nearest mountain or forest. It’s a ‘choose your adventure’ proposition in real life, as long or short as you like. There’s little need for specialised equipment and travel costs are minimal or nonexistent.
The Collins Dictionary blog recognised ‘microadventure’ as a new word in April 2014, and it’s gained popularity ever since as a hashtag for social media users eager to share their own small but mighty microadventure experiences.
The concept of exploring nearby destinations rather than travelling internationally is on the rise. Micro-cations — shorter, more concentrated travel experiences — are also trending, and the two ideas naturally go hand-in-hand. Why hop on a plane when you only have a few days to relax and enjoy yourself? Airports really aren’t that serene for the most part.
Adventures on your doorstep are not only great for becoming acquainted with the local landscape; they’re also wonderful for families who could use some quality time and for getting to know your neighbours better. Pop next door to say hello, and you might find a new friendship blossoming.
You can also stargaze at the night skies over your back garden; go on a safari of the native flora and fauna in your area; and dive into the history and heritage of your town. Have you always wondered about a particular landmark, statue or sculpture that you pass every day? This is the opportunity to dig deep into local lore. All of this is at your fingertips, without the need to book anything or spend a cent.
Take a fresh look at your neighbourhood. This is also a chance to support all the local businesses you’ve been meaning to visit. Set aside a morning to investigate the weekend market that you’ve intended to check out for ages, and buy yourself some tasty low-food-miles treats. Browse the gallery that represents local artists; you might even bump into one of them if you’re lucky.
There are dozens of ways to connect with the people and places around you, once you take the time to holiday close to home or plan a small-scale adventure with big benefits. Discoveries aplenty are waiting when you narrow your focus and broaden your definition of what travel means.