Adventure isn’t all about exploring uncharted territories in far away locations. You can have just as much fun doing something new, different or challenging at home. Some of our best mini-adventures have been here in the UK.
Adventure is not about a particular place or activity; it’s about the spirit in which you do things. And having a new experience in a familiar place can be just as rewarding as spending a fortune to be somewhere completely different.
Create Your Own Adventure Break
While we've had some amazing adventures in far away places, we’ve also done some pretty cool stuff much closer to home. We've had UK breaks camping in the New Forest, cycling around Arran, skiing and sailing in Scotland, walking in North Wales, cycle touring in Cumbria, and exploring cities like London, Liverpool and Belfast.
There are many advantages to UK breaks and adventuring at home; being able to book a hotel easily, the familiarity of language, food, customs, currency and climate. All this helps makes things a little easier. But that doesn’t mean it has to be less of an adventure. It just means you need to inject the element of difference, challenge or excitement elsewhere.
So how do you do that? Well, here’s seven ideas that have worked for us.
The UK is full of adventure opportunities, if you choose to go in that direction
7 ways to Adventure Closer to Home
1 Explore somewhere new
Adventure can simply involve going somewhere you haven’t been before; it could be a particular town, village or city you haven't visited, a part of the country or county you’ve never explored, a National Park you’ve never been to, or an environment unfamiliar to you - highlands, lowlands, wetlands, rivers and canals, coast and clifftop, island and shorelines, or wild uninhabited places. Don’t tell me you’ve seen and done it all!
2 Visit another time of day or year
Ever heard the saying you can never walk in the same river twice? Well places are like that too if you visit at a different time of day or year. They can look and feel different, and offer alternative activities and challenges. A paddle down the River Wye in summer is wholly different experience to an autumn float trip after dark. And a winter walk in the Scottish Highlands can be as technical and demanding as a mountain day in the Alps or Himalayas. Although do remember if you switch seasons to make sure your skills are up to the job.
An ordinary walk can become an adventure if you turn it into a night hike
3 Travel in a different way
Another way to experience things differently is to travel differently. If you normally drive, try going by bike. If you like to walk, why not learn to canoe or kayak? A bit of a sailor? Get yourself some hiking boots.
Change your mode of travel and you change your experience. You’ll move in a different way, meet new people and stretch muscles you didn't know you had. It’s also a way to vary the level of challenge. Driving from Lands End to John O Groats in a classic car is one kind of adventure, cycling on a tandem is another still, while walking with a full backpack will stretch more than just your legs.
4 Sleep somewhere different
We spend about a third of our lives asleep and while we probably notice little of our surroundings while snoring, where we nod off and wake up can be defining parts of an adventure experience. Waking up in five star luxury looking out over a pool isn’t better or worse, more or less adventurous than waking under the stars on top the Lake District fells, but it is a qualitatively different experience.
So why not reshape your adventure experience by mixing up where you stay. If you’re a hotel addict, try a camping barn. A devoted B&Ber? Try hostelling. Glamper? Try a spot of cave camping or biviing. Wild camper? Why not check out that boutique spa hotel with the hot tub on the terrace.
Changing where you stay changes other things too, apart from the sheets and towels; you get to meet different people, and who knows where such chance encounters may lead.
Why not sleep somewhere different and change the experience
5 Develop a skill or learn something new
There is something intrinsically satisfying about using your skills and learning new ones, of achieving things you know are the result of your decisions, your effort, your actions, your learning. Some say it’s only when you’re working at the edge of your capabilities that real adventure happens. Which is why trying a new activity or learning a new skill is such a simple and powerful way to turn ‘ordinary’ experiences into mini-adventures. And these days lots of UK hotels and tourism businesses offer packages that make it easy to "add on" a bit of adventure.
Wherever you head in the UK you’ll find people keen to share their skills and help you develop yours. So instead of walking around the Lake, why not hire a canoe and paddle around it? Why not turn that trip to Wales into a white water weekend with the help of a local instructor? Or get to know the local landscape by learning to sketch and paint it? You can build skills for future adventures by learning about micro-navigation, scrambling, climbing or winter walking. You could even turn a week long hike into a survival experience with a bit of Bushcraft training. Learning of any kind is a great route to adventure.
6 Create a unique personal challenge
It’s easy to think the UK has all been explored, that’s there’s nothing new left to do or see. But that misses the point. Adventure is personal; it’s about doing something new for you. You can choose to challenge yourself against others if you want or you can dream up your own personal adventure challenges, crazy or otherwise.
Adventurer Alistair Humphreys is an advocate for this. After cycling around the world he faced the challenge of what next and launched himself into a series of micro adventures at home in the UK. Can you think of anything less adventurous sounding than London’s M25 motorway? Well, he made an adventure of it, by spending a week walking and camping around it in the depths of winter.
Great adventures are born in the imagination. Anyone can walk along the Grand Union canal but could you be the first to stand-up paddle board the length of it?
These days you can even learn snow skills in the cities. Why not spice up a city break with adventure sports.
7 Make your own rules and constraints
Paradoxically freedom can be the antithesis of adventure. Touring the UK for a month on an unlimited budget could prove to be the holiday of a lifetime, but touring for a month on a budget of £1 a day is likely to be more of an adventure. Big goals, challenges and constraints introduce the uncertainty needed to create a real sense of adventure, and hopefully the ultimate feeling of “We did it” although sometimes it may be more “Well, at least we tried.”
Some constraints and goals present themselves, like walking an established route or getting down a particular river. But you can spice up an ordinary feeling experience by imposing goals, constraints and conditions upon yourself. So if your trip is sounding a bit boring why not tighten things up with a constraint or two, some goals, rules, rewards and punishments. You can constrain anything you want as long as it’s legal – your budget, your mode of transport, type of accommodation, how long you’ve got, the distance you must cover, what you will eat, what you wear, who you speak to, which way you go. Whatever makes it interesting for you, especially when it comes to rewards and punishments.
Adventure is not about being the best, being world class, or beating your friends (although it can be about all those things), adventure is personal, about doing something personally challenging, developmental and satisfying. Don't believe those who say you've got to spend time and money jetting off to the other side of the world for the ultimate adventures. There's no need to leave the UK. With a little imagination and the smallest of budgets you can create your own unique adventures that start right on your doorstep.
Don’t do someone elses adventures, make your own.
Invent your own challenges and create your own personal adventure. Swim every lake in the Lake District anyone?