MicroAdventures

A little while ago I stumbled across  Alastair Humphreys and his idea of the “microadventure”:

Simple expeditions and challenges which are close to home, affordable and easy to organise. Ideas designed to encourage ordinary people to get Out There and Do Stuff for themselves, even in these tightened financial times.

I absolutely love this idea. It really stresses how Adventure is not a destination, but a state of mind.

You don’t need to be flying across the globe or walking across a continent to be having an adventure. Having an adventure is not limited to those that are rich or have the finest fanciest gear or even those who are at peak fitness. Adventures are for everyone, and the idea behind microadventures really highlights that fact.

A microadventure can be anything – any outing or expedition that is a challenge to you and an inspiration to yourself and others.  The main thing is your attitude and way of thinking. It’s not just a walk in the park, it’s an adventure – a microadventure! This could be tenting with the kids or friends in the yard for a weekend. Taking a hike up that mountain the town over. A roadtrip exploring new-to-you areas. Running a marathon.  Exploring the woods out back of your house.

Who knows where your next adventure might lead. This one lead to poor Koopa being stuck in a tree – but that’s okay, because it was surely a grand adventure getting up there!

The important part is getting up and out and challenging yourself.  Because that’s what adventuring is all about – challenging yourself and others to push beyond the norm.  As Mr Humphreys says,

“Adventure is stretching yourself; mentally, physically or culturally. It is about doing what you do not normally do, pushing yourself hard and doing it to the best of your ability.”

So what will your next microadventure be?

Sometimes I wonder how I survived.

There are times when I look back at some of my experiences and decisions on my Walk and think to myself, how the heck did I actually survive that?  Like this one from day 2 in Hancock, Maryland where I was hiding from a massive storm:

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The funny thing about this video is it wasn’t until I was watching it last night that I realized that what I called a fire station alarm was most likely a TORNADO SIREN OMG.  And it had gone off three times already.  And there I was sitting in a wire and aluminum shelter.  Seriously, how did I survive this trip?

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To be fair, I had been listening to my little weather radio and was aware of tornado spottings in the area. It’s just…I’m from Maine, people. We don’t have tornado sirens here. If you hear a siren it’s a pretty sure bet that it’s just the fire station downtown. Logically I knew about tornado and storm sirens, I just didn’t think about it at the time. Thankfully I was lucky and no tornadoes actually touched down where I was. I remember hearing about one or two little ones in the nearby areas, but only golf ball sized hail, strong winds, thunder and rain where I was.

Honestly, I had the best luck along this trip. It didn’t seem like it at the time, but looking back I’m just constantly amazed at the dangers I narrowly avoided.

This Time Last Year

I’m working on re-vamping and updating the website (so if you notice things disappearing or moving around, no worries, you’re not going crazy, that’s just me fiddling) and found this entry from about this time last year:

One Part Hippie, One Part Nerd, All Parts Awesome

Walking across the country, or any long term walk, is not always glamorous. Or even comfortable. I rarely know where I’m going to sleep each night, and more often than not sleep is on the ground in a tent. Showers are few and far between, and it’s hard to tell when I’ll even see a proper bathroom. It’s long and occasionally boring and hard work. It’s lacking most of the comforts of home.

So what do I miss most out of all of those comforts? Is it the easy access to a bathroom? The proper meals? The comfy bed and pillow?

No, what I miss most, and I what I end up thinking about a lot during the day, is pretty nerdy. Out of all of those comforts of home, I’d say the one I miss the most is video games.

A week ago or so I was climbing a mountain when at the top I suddenly heard an eagle scream. It was a pretty cool moment, hiking this old dirt camp road straight up a mountain, and then at the top a large field with an eagle soaring above. But what did I immediately think of? Assassin’s Creed and Guild Wars, both games that have eagle screams worked in to certain areas. And as much as I was enjoying the majesty of the moment, I suddenly had a strong longing to go scale tall buildings and jump in to hay carts. Or to run around in the cold of the Shiverpeaks and help out some dwarves.

I am totally enjoying myself, don’t get me wrong. I like the challenge of walking, talking to strangers, seeing the small little towns and farms. I like sleeping in a tent, and I have a super comfy sleeping bag. I don’t even really mind not having a proper bathroom to pee in. I just wish there was some way to hook up a solar powered Xbox 360 or a super laptop that I could play Guild Wars on now and then.

Because I am a nerd. True story.

That’s from June 25, just about a year ago now. I still remember in vivid detail that exact moment in West Virginia and hearing that eagle scream.  It was just one of a long list of really awesome moments on the road.

What amuses me is I’m pretty much in the opposite situation today.  I play a lot of video games these days (mostly down to Skyrim, LoL, and Guild Wars) and always have the comforts of home at my fingertips.  Instead of missing gaming, these days I’m missing being out there on the road. I miss sleeping in a tent, the feeling of accomplishment after struggling through the heat and hills all day, meeting strangers along the road…I miss it all.

I miss it all, but for now I’m enjoying the here and now and soaking up the pixelated adventures.  I have no doubt someday in the future I’ll be out having an offline adventure somewhere and be thinking about gaming. Because that’s just how I roll.

An Update

I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately about what I’ve been up to since I finished my Walk.  Figured it’s about (past) time I update my blog and maybe throw a few answers out!

Well, I’m still in Maine still crashing at my parents place.  It’s not the most ideal situation, but my adventuring tapped out all my resources and my parents are pretty generous of letting me stay here rent free in exchange for being so entertaining and awesome help around the house.  I was originally planning to be out of Maine by January, but that, obviously, didn’t happen. And about a month ago or so my car died, so now I’m a little bit stuck here.

Luckily, I’ve found a part-time job that comes to my home! I’ve been watching a little boy since March. He is super adorable and I’m having a lot of fun playing with him each day. He was a wee 10weeks old when I met him and couldn’t do much but be adorable and bat at toys. He’s now a big 6 month old boy who has mastered crawling, laughing, grabbing stuff, and has even started on real foods (baby foods, that is).

I’ve had nannying gigs before and really do love working with kids. His mom is someone I went to school with and, as I said, drops him off each afternoon. It’s really been a perfect experience.

Walking with the baby in the field. He loved all the waving tall grass.

As for the book….blah. I have been slowly slowly working on writing the book about the Walk, but I’m having a much harder time than anticipated. I originally planned to have this done this past Winter. The new goal is August. We’ll see.

I’ve got to admit, I’m having a lot harder time adjusting to Not Adventuring than I thought I would.  I knew it would be an adjustment, I’m just really surprised how hard it hit me. I was on my own, independent, physically fit and walking up to 30+ miles a day. Seeing new sights and meeting new people every day. Then bam! I’m right back where I started- back in Maine and at my parents house. That alone would be a tough adjustment, but then if you add on a dead car, being literally stuck here, not much sun and blah weather….it’s been rough.

A picture from the winter, Anna and Boomer frolicking in the snowy field. As you can tell, Anna has not minded being “stuck” in Maine at all.

As for future adventuring….I’ve got ideas. I’m never out of ideas for adventures! The trouble is I’m tapped out financially. And honestly, when I convinced my family* to back me up on my Walk Across America one of the things I promised was that after this I’d try to “settle down” and get a “real job”. They’ve been patient with my vagabond lifestyle, but it’s probably time for a change.

So while it’s not what most people think of as an adventure, the next one will be finding a career path.   I’ve got some ideas that I’m pretty excited about and I’ve thrown some applications out there. No word back on anything, but I’ll keep trying.

And hey, if anyone out there wants to hire an adventurer (and her dog) for anything, please do contact me! (I’m totally serious. Whatever it is, throw me an email – Ameranth.at.gmail.com.)

 

Oh, and I’ve also been playing as much Guild Wars 2 as I can during the Beta Weekend Events.  The game is amazing and I get a kick out of seeing “Ameranth” and “Anna” whenever I run through the Black Citadel. I don’t think that’ll ever get old.

My Engineer saying hello to Ameranth and Anna in Guild Wars 2.

 

 

*Not that I need my family’s permission to do stuff, I just really like to have their support and so do my best to convince them of my wacky ideas.

 

 

 

How awesome is this? The real ending:

I’ve been sitting on this info since November, but I can finally tell you all about the amazing ending to my adventure.  Sure, sure, technically it ended at 11am on 11/11/11, but for me the real amazing ending happened about a week later – when I walked into the doors of ArenaNet to meet the people who created a world that helped inspired my adventure in the first place.

We were invited in, given a tour of the (really really beautiful) studio by the Community Team (sans Martin, who sadly wasn’t in that day) and generally treated to a wonderful afternoon.  I got to meet people I had been following online in person for the first time.  And it was so cool to meet the people who inspired me and to find out they had been following my adventure and that I in turn had inspired some of them!

It was the absolute perfect ending to an amazing adventure.  A year earlier I was sitting in my apartment playing Guild Wars and lamenting about the lack of adventure in my life, and then there I was after having an epic journey actually meeting the people who created Guild Wars. My life was certainly not lacking anything in that moment.

And to add to the super coolness of it all, I am now in Guild Wars 2. My mind is still blown by that.  ArenaNet has a blog entry all about my NPC (Non Player Character, for those not in the know) and our adventure.  You should definitely go check it out: Meet Ameranth

My norn character talking with Ameranth and her trusty hound Anna, during the Beta Weekend Event in Guild Wars 2.

Someday….

You know what I think would be fun? Taking a road trip across America loosely following my walking path and seeing all the people who helped me along the way.  It’d be pretty nice to be able to let the ones who don’t follow online know that I made it safe and sound.

And road trips are always fun!

I’m imagining we’d go in a tricked out VW Van.

Travel in style! Plenty of room for a bed and storage of gear.

I think Anna would really take to van travel.  She’s excellent in a car (as many people across America can attest to), and I think she got a little bored with the constant foot travel.  I think travelling in a van, and taking day trips would really suit her.

We could stop places and do day hikes and explore areas we couldn’t get to while passing on foot.  Maybe schedule in some organized public/town walks.   Do some public speaking at local schools, encouraging kids to get outdoors and explore more. I don’t know. These are the things I contemplate and dream about. What my next adventure will be, what I’d do differently, different modes of travel.  It’s fun to plan and dream.

 

Edit to add:

After reading this blog entry my mother commented: And to think, that’s what I suggested you should have done the first trip.

To which I replied: Yes, but it wasn’t the right time for that kind of trip. I needed to go on foot first.

Which is true. Everything in it’s own time, and all that jazz.

A Quick Update

For those of you wondering, yes, I’ve been working on writing a book all about my adventure walking across the US.

I had, rather foolishly optimistically, hoped to be done by now. That is very much not the case.  I got a good start back when I arrived in Maine, then sunk into a miserable depression and got nothing done.  I suppose, in retrospect, it shouldn’t have been so unexpected.  The combination of winter in Maine (cold, gray, short days) and ending such an awesome amazing adventure was quite a blow.

However, the tides have turned and I am back to being productive. Huzzah!

In the coming weeks I plan to post bits and pieces from what I’m working on for the book.  Chopping bits down to a good blog-entry size to give all you awesome loyal followers a sneak peak at what’s to come.

So thanks to those of you who have stuck with me, and if you have any questions you’d like to see me answer or topics you’d like me to write about, as always feel free to email me (ameranth at gmail dot com) or comment on any of the entries here.

And because I know you’re all curious, Anna has been doing great. She is, at long last, fully rested and recovered from our adventure. And she is just loving the snow. Forget all that desert, it’s all about the snow covered forests for Anna!

Anna, checking for more partridges in the trees.

Depression? Anxiety? Challenge Accepted.

I’ve talked about approaching life as a game before, specifically in how I approached walking across America.  That approach doesn’t just apply for Epic Quests, but can be applied to every day life.  As with any game, you just have to understand what it is you’re playing and adjust your gameplay.

I clocked hours and hours of play time on my Walk, and leveled up pretty much to the max. The challenges were tougher, but level appropriate. When on the road, an acceptable goal and achievement to aim for was walking 20 miles, or crossing a state line, or maybe something more like talk to X amount of strangers.  But I’m not on the road anymore; the game has changed.

The name of the game: Depression and its less popular add-on, Anxiety

I’ve been stuck on a low level dungeon of this game since December.  I’ll level up and think I see the stairs up the next level, when BAM, killed by an ogre lurking in the shadows.  It’s been frustrating, to say the least.

You have to adjust expectations and achievements to the game. You have to tackle challenges and go after achievements that are level appropriate.  It’s not always easy, and you’ll find yourself getting frustrated, but that’s the way it is.

For example, today’s first achievement was Getting Dressed. (Okay, if I’m being honest here, the very first big achievement was Getting Out of Bed.) Achievements that followed were along the lines of Brushing My Teeth, and Eating a Healthy Breakfast.

These may seem overly simple or silly, but as I said, you have to adjust your expectations to the game you’re playing.  I have to remind myself that I’m starting off fresh. The game has changed; I lost all the XP and leveling up from walking across America, and I’m starting off a low-level noob.

So now I have to figure out how to level up in a whole new game.  It’ll be tough for awhile, but I’m up for the challenge.

Equipment List: Walk Across America

Making an equipment list for my walk across the US was a lot harder than making the one for walking the Erie Canal.  For one, I used a lot more gear (400+ miles vs 3000+ miles). And then what gear I had was always changing and adapting.  I’d enter different climates with different demands (winter gear for mountains) or I’d mail home gear I ended up not needing (extra clothes) or stuff that didn’t work out.

Here I’ve put together a basic list of all my gear. I’ve tried to put notes with gear that didn’t work out or stuff that I didn’t need until later. Hopefully this helps some people out while planning their own adventures. If you have any questions about gear, feel free to email or comment here.

Stroller (I had an older version of this stroller.)
Backpack
Clothes
– 1 pair of jeans (later thrown away)
– 1 pair of conversion pants
– 2 pair shorts (one for sleepwear, mailed other home in PA)
– 1 pair long cotton pants (sleepwear)
– 1 long sleeve shirt
– 2 t-shirts (1 cotton, 1 hiking)
– 2 tank tops
– 5 pairs of underwear
– 5 pairs of socks
– 2 bras (by Ohio I had only 1 for the rest of the trip)
Cold Weather Gear (gathered as I hit the Rockies)
Winter Jacket
Fleece Jacket
– Winter hat
– Winter gloves
– long underwear
– heavier winter socks (mostly to sleep in)
Shoes (New Balance trail runners)
Sun hat
Rain jacket + rain pants
Sleeping pad
Sleeping bag
Tent
Odor-proof bags
Bear Vault (added in Colorado)
Cooler (given away in Colorado)
2 Nalgene bottles
Knife
Flashlight/emergency radio
Rope
Clothes pins
Journal + pens
First Aid Kit
Stove & Cookware (both added later, and only used a handful of times)
Toiletries
– quick-dry adventure towel
– toothbrush
– toothpaste
Noxzema wipe thingies (once the first pack was gone I didn’t buy more)
– face cloth
– contacts + solution
– glasses
soap
Electronics
cell phone
netbook
– mp3 player
– digital camera
– Kindle
Solar Charger

Anna’s Gear
Anna’s Pack
-dog food
-treats
-travel dog bowl
-poop bags
-vet papers
shoes (added in Utah)
-spare collar
sleeping pad (cut in half)
-blanket to sleep on

And that’s it. I think. I had other bits and bobs – hair ties, spare batteries, lip balm, sunscreen, etc – that I didn’t include, but that’s all the major stuff. Unless I’ve forgotten something, which is completely possible.

Oh, and I also had a small ziplock bag always within reach, which carried a small notebook, pen, a bunch of my business cards, and (as time went by) business cards and notes that people I met would give me along the way.

Like I said above, if you have any questions or want a more in depth review of something, feel free to comment here or email me at Ameranth (at) gmail .com

Home

Look how much fun we're having!

The road trip back east was a lot of fun – as evidenced in the above photo.  I’m not going to go into too much detail right now, but if you want a more thorough report, with photos, head on over to my Mom’s blog.

It was a lot of fun, though. Got to see a lot more of the country – and places I had skipped by on the walk out.  We ended up going back through Utah and through Zion, then up towards Montana to see family, over to Minnesota to see my niece, and then zipping on up to Maine.

If you ever walk across America, I highly suggest getting back home with a road trip. Softens the blow, since you go from walking every day to driving-but-still-traveling everyday. I imagine it would have been a much more difficult transition to fly back and just BAM you’re done.

Plus, who doesn’t like a roadtrip?!

And now I’m back home.  At the moment, Home means back in Maine and staying with my parents.  Ultimately, my home is always changing.  I know that some part of me will always think of Maine – and New England in general – as home.  It’s where my parents are, where I spent most of my childhood, where a lot of friends still are.

But home to me, in all honesty, is not a building or a concrete place.   Home is a concept, a feeling, an idea.  Home is comfort and love. Home is wherever I am; wherever I end up laying my head at night.  Home is being with Anna and doing what I love, and that’s travel, having grand adventures, and connecting with people along the way.

Home is wherever I'm with you