By addressing the idea of heading out into the countryside for a night of sleeping beneath the stars, completely without a tent, I likely conjure some image of hell for the majority of university students. Given that we already pay extortionate fees for freezing cold accommodation, why then remove those walls and sleep in the wild? This is not some random whim, however: microadventures are all the rage amongst those dissatisfied with normal 9-5 routines. I set out into the country to find out why.
Likely, there are students out there who will have spent a night sleeping rough. More likely, this will have been alcohol induced, either caused by being locked out after a night out, or being too blind drunk to care which side of the door you sleep on. Microadventures tend to be more organised and intentional than this.
The term ‘microadventure’ was coined by adventurer and blogger Alastair Humphreys, who spends most of his time sleeping in hills and much of the rest raving about how other people should join him. His efforts do have more of a purpose than this alludes to: a microadventure is the idea of breaking the 9-5 routine and using your 5-9 more interestingly. You head out into an area of country (Humphreys claims that no-one is more than 15 miles from somewhere suitable) and camp down for the night, without a tent, in an effort to invoke a feeling of wildness that has been lost by modern lives.
Surprisingly for most, this idea has actually spread like wildfire through the masses of disillusioned office workers and wanna-be adventurers. Humphreys’ book Microadventures is a bestseller, and the personal trips that you can join him on cost up to £200. However, the simplicity of the concept means that you can just go by yourself with little experience or specialist equipment, though preferably with someone else.
Students are still penned in by the same concrete walls as others and rarely get a glimpse of life outside campus or the confines of the city
Of course, this idea may resonate less with students than it does to fully-fledged adult beings. We aren’t stuck in an office, and most have more free time than they know what to do with. Yet students are still penned in by the same concrete walls as others and rarely get a glimpse of life outside campus or the confines of the city. As such, I decided to test whether microadventures are worth all the hype afforded to them. Preferably this would have been the nearest area of green country available (Wollaton Park and Sherwood Forest spring to mind), but the trip planning was left to my brother, and given that he lives in Twickenham, we headed off into the wild, untamed landscape of Surrey.
Coming from different parts of the country (we were joined by my cousin from Bristol), a 5-9 trip was off the cards. As such, we gathered in Twickenham on Friday night and left Saturday morning; it wasn’t an ideal way to test microadventuring, but it would still give us a taste of the sleeping rough aspect of it. Our destination was Box Hill and Westhumble, Box Hill being our final resting place. The weather forecast was less than fantastic, so our ebbing morale was instantly rejuvenated on finding a pub right at the bottom of Box Hill.
Box Hill threw up an additional hurdle, with a steep ascent more akin to the Scottish Highlands than the rolling hills of southern England. The first job was to find somewhere suitable to bed down for the night. Humphreys suggests somewhere out of sight. Sleeping wild isn’t technically illegal, but people do have the right to evict you from their land, so the best idea is to find somewhere secluded and leave no trace of having been there. Our campsite ended up being on the north face of Box Hill, off from the path and out of sight of the road, but with views commanding the entire countryside before us.
Buying beer at normal prices is always a shock after weeks of Bag’O’Nails, but I heroically persevered
Sleeping wild will always be more agreeable after food and beer, so we headed back down to our watering hole and filled up. Buying beer at normal prices is always a shock after weeks of Bag’O’Nails, but I heroically persevered. Our ascent back up the hill was taken at a more leisurely pace, and we arrived back with just enough light to set up camp.
I said at the beginning that no specialist equipment is needed, and this is true; given that you have no tent though, a substitute is needed. This comes in the form of a bivvy bag: a large, waterproof body bag, essentially. These are cheap online, though it is worth forking out a bit more for quality, as mine did develop an annoying layer of condensation on the inside. A sleeping bag is all that is required after that, though we decided that for additional luxury (we were in Surrey, after all) we would string up a length of tarps as a windshield and get some inflatable pillows from Tesco. All in all, it was a veritable palace.
Without romanticising the idea too much, lying on a hill under the night sky with a flask of whisky and damned comfy pillow remove most worldly cares. It’s easy to see why this might appeal to those whose lives revolve around offices and the pressure of number-crunching
It’s hard to appreciate the simplicity of life at university: lectures, dissertations, house parties and bar crawls all contribute to an unrelenting pace of life. Without romanticising the idea too much, lying on a hill under the night sky with a flask of whisky and damned comfy pillow remove most worldly cares. It’s easy to see why this might appeal to those whose lives revolve around offices and the pressure of number-crunching.
We woke up with the light and headed off early. By 10:00am we were back in Twickenham. Humphreys wasn’t lying as to how easy a microadventure is: you don’t need expert knowledge or a great deal of planning. In fact, these kinds of trips are usually more fun when you just wing it (though Humphreys’ book is good place to start for those less willing to just dive in). Microadventures are refreshing, enjoyable and a reminder that the world can look very different, but you don’t have to go far to see it.