An Urbanite’s Introduction to Microadventures

Bogged down by living in the concrete jungle and routine daily life, Lester contemplates "microadventures" as a means of spicing things up.

LESTER TAN BY | UPDATED 3 MONTHS AGO

“So, what have you been up to lately?”

Oddly, this polite attempt at initiating small talk was starting to sound like a challenge. Something akin to: Are you leading an exciting life? I’ll reflect on my typical activities - groggy mornings, lukewarm coffees, processing emails, attending the occasional meeting, a lunch swim, clearing more emails, an evening run, dinner, lights out. It didn’t take long for me to get hit by the realisation that my life has become sheepishly routine and predictable. To put bluntly, boring. And so I feebly deflected the question: “Nothing much. How about you?”

I daresay I’m not the only one who has been in this position. Distance runners in particular generally share a passionate love for the outdoors. They resonate with the tranquility of nature and relish the thrill of exploration. Many would pick lush forests and breathtaking (literally!) mountains over urban landscapes and cramped gyms.

Cooped up in a concrete jungle, however, it wouldn’t take long for sluggishness and lethargy to set in. A once blazing inner flame reduced to a flicker of ember.

Alas, many urbanites perceive themselves as being ‘stuck’ in inflexible routines stemming from demanding corporate jobs and familial responsibilities. As urbanites pour through films and articles of outdoor travels in a bid to reconnect with nature, they lament that they no longer have the time and resources to partake in epic adventures. With a sigh, many urbanites resign to their situation and reminisce the ‘good old days’ of their previous exploits. Absent of novelty and danger, life has become but a ceaseless passage of time, and the urbanite an automaton merely going with the flow.

What are Microadventures?
Enter Alastair Humphreys - a man who rebelled against a life of banality by bicycling 74,000km around the world. He is also the one who shattered my ‘can’t do’ paradigm by introducing the concept of microadventures. For Humphreys, microadventures are represented by short, local, accessible adventures achievable for ‘normal’ people with ‘real’ lives.

Microadventures are tailored to be simple and cheap - yet still fun, exciting and rewarding. To name a few examples: spontaneous camping trips with friends, an overnight cycle, or simply even exploring a different part of your neighbourhood on foot. Microadventures do not take as much planning and resources compared to full-scale adventures, yet feature the same spirit of exploration and discovery. If you run dry of ideas, Humphreys has in his webpage a list of different microadventures that one may partake in.

Microadventures challenge us to embark on something above and beyond the norm, albeit never straying too far from home. Most of us are bound to a nine-to-five workday, but how many of us considered having a microadventure from five-to-nine? After all, much can be done within a 16 hours window!

A Microadventure in Singapore
Inspired by Humphreys, I pioneered a microadventure of my own. I was at town the following weekend and came across Fort Canning Hill - a small hill that overlooks Singapore’s civic district. Having last ventured to Fort Canning nearly two decades ago, I could hardly recall a thing about my experiences there. It was thus an ideal place to begin a literal and figurative journey of (re)discovery.

And so I wandered, quite aimlessly, through winding paths and steep slopes that formed the contours of Fort Canning Hill. It was perhaps the lack of a pre-defined goal that allowed me to unintentionally stumble upon various sights that I never expected to find in Singapore:

Archaeological findings note that Fort Canning Hill has rich historical significance dating back to the 14th Century. Imagine my surprise at discovering the ancient ruins of a royal palace situated not more than 500 metres away from a 18th Century lighthouse! It took me close to two hours to cover the entirety of Fort Canning Hill - never have I expected to make so many discoveries so close to home. I left Fort Canning Hill feeling rejuvenated and satisfied to have gained a greater understanding of Singapore’s history.

Microadventures for the Busy Runner
You may be wondering: what does this all have to do with running? For starters, a microadventure motivates one to go beyond his or her immediate comfort zone without the need for extensive planning and speciality resources. A microadventure, after all, can be as simple as taking an alternate path along your usual running route to see where it leads. A new trail, perhaps? The general definition of ‘microadventures’ provides an avenue for one to tailor the degree of novelty and challenge to suit one’s personality and readiness.

As distance runners, the spirit of adventure is in our blood. Why else would we favour a sport that often requires us to traverse great distances? Studies have shown that we humans are engineered for adventure; physical activity in the outdoors stimulate the production of dopamine. In layman’s
terms, it feels great to sweat it out (preferably in nature)! So instead of your usual fitness routine, why not spice things up by incorporating a microadventure?

Life always has more to offer. Get outside!

Share your microadventures by tagging #MicroadventureSG on Instagram. Who knows, you may even inspire others to embark upon their own!



LESTER TAN

Lester Tan’s interest in long-distance events primarily stem from a desire to test the limits of human endurance. While many may dread the longer distances for a variety of reasons, he views it as a cathartic experience. He says, “Endurance racing liberates my mind of the stresses of daily life and teaches me to appreciate the joys derived from the present moment.”

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