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manufacturing microadventures


If your job involves going out into the world and doing stuff you probably encounter a fair few microadventures each week. This gives life texture, things to talk about and slows time down. But many of us live lives where not that much happens. As a writer- which is what I do most of the time these days- I can have a very nice satisfying day getting my words done, but then I look back on the weeks and think- what happened? Anyone in a reasonably rewarding but outwardly uneventful job probably feels the same. Hence our attraction to jobs that supply microadventures automatically- paramedic, policeman, tree surgeon, nurse, priest, investigative journalist- all these bring lots of microadventures home without any effort seeking them.

We sometimes think that activity is the answer, and take up a sport. But what could be duller than the life of a professional sportsman (Michael Phelps lives a life that makes a desert anchorite look like an action hero)?

The confusion is natural. A dull but inwardly satisfying life is weighted towards the yin end of the spectrum. Activity and adventure are both yang. We look for balance and lunge for whatever yang stuff is on offer.

Though activity may lead to adventure it doesn’t guarantee it. Take running v. walking. When we run it seems more manly and yangish but actually a walk through unknown terrain will harvest many more microadventures.

And I suggest there is an inner nutritional component to adventure that is beyond the lower division into yin and yang. Adventure, I think, is best characterised as microadventure (to get us away from the Bear Grylls requirement that eating a raw frog whilst jet skiing across lake Titicaca is a necessary component of any adventure) indeed I’ve found that any big adventure is simply lots of microadventures piled on top of each other, usually in a remote location which adds glamour of course, but doesn’t really alter the nutritional value.

Making something out of nothing is one of our uniquely human defining characteristics. People who make us laugh or can take something overlooked or discarded and turn it into something beautiful or useful- these are the people being ‘most human’, certainly in one meaningful sense of the word. So it is with a microadventure- it’s making an adventure out of nothing, or not much. All you need to do is stretch things a bit, reframe stuff, be just a tiny bit creative.

Instead of just going on the same old country walk, look on the map for some strange feature and design a walk around it, or go for a walk in an area that was the backdrop to a novel or a film. The actual microadventure won’t be this act of creative spin, rather the spin sets things spinning and then the microadventure happens. I often search out hills that look like stone age encampments on the map. Then when I’m there the microadventure might be finding flint tools or maybe just lighting a fire and making a cup of tea in a novel setting. But it helps to have a bit of spin before you go.

One way to add spin is dice travelling. Throw a dice to decide your route and mode of transport and watch the microadventures pile up. Another is to keep a note of any weird places that crop up in your reading- then visit them. I recently heard about a ghost town in Western Australia that has gone from a population of 7000 to 12- and I know that’ll be sufficient spin for a microadventure if I get to visit there. Closer to home I’ve noticed that after heavy rains the weirs on tiny streams near my house- streams you can’t usually kayak- become raging torrents for a day or two- definitely a microadventure to be had there. Or write to someone you admire and set up an interview- I did this for a 95 year old explorer- Rupert Harding Newman – and the stories he told during that encounter definitely ranked as a microadventure.

A microadventure is a combination of new stimulation filtered through the way you look at the world. In other words, once you have the microadventure ‘hat’ on you’ll start having them, you’ll start seeing them coming.  It’s something you tell as a story or an anecdote. It’s an experience that generates a new insight.

What is the inner nutrition of the microadventure? Have a few and then think about it.


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