The Art of Little BIG Adventures
Ever felt like you could be giving more time to your inner adventurer? We asked the creator of Do Try This At Home and all-round nice guy Tim Meek to explain how he and his family turn big ideas into manageable chunks to really #MakeTheDaysCount...
It's all too easy to read about other people's adventures and be left feeling a little bit feeble. Whether it's climbing one of the world's tallest mountains, cycling across the world, or swimming the length of Great Britain, such amazing feats of adventure and daring can feel out of most people's reach -particularly families'.
But adventure doesn't have to be the preserve of grizzled men with weathered, leathery skin and excessive facial hair. Excitement doesn't have to be experienced vicariously through documentaries or magazines.
My family and I wanted to experience the world first-hand and feel like we were living life to the full. So, our response to seeing others thrive and achieve, was to try and turn other people's epic adventures into little BIG adventures of our own – bite-sized versions of awesome experiences that were family-friendly but had the same sense of fulfillment. The beauty of this approach is that anyone else can do likewise.
How to come up with an idea for a little BIG adventure
All you have to do is think of an adventure that someone else has done - one that really inspires you. It might be Bonita Norris's ascent of Everest as the youngest British female or Sean Conway's Length of Great Britain Triathlon. Whatever it is, it doesn't matter, just think BIG and don't worry if it is achievable or not.
Once you have chosen your adventure (to run, climb, cycle etc) think about how you could simplify it for your family; it's often best here to think of the least able family member to make it achievable for all.
Ways to simplify an adventure:
- Make it shorter
Big adventures often take place over long distances e.g. skateboard the width of Australia. Make a long distance adventure family-friendly by making it shorter. Obvious isn't it?
- Work as a team
Another way to make a long distance adventure viable is to complete it as a tag team. This just means breaking the journey down into legs so that not every family member completes the whole distance, but as a family team, you have.
- Reduce some of the risk and danger
Change the time of year you complete a challenge to reduce the risk of extreme heat or cold; complete a cycle ride or run when conditions under foot or wheel are more favourable; climb when the days are long and dry to reduce slips and falls.
- Think creatively
Think of how you can do a specific activity differently, but still retain the essence of the original adventure or expedition.
The knack is to generate an idea that is grounded in grandeur and a sense of scale and then interpret it in a way that enables you to actually go and do it. The feeling of achievement on completion will be authentic and real, and this is the point: you and your young adventurers will feel on top of the world (even if you haven't actually climbed to the top of it).
As a family we are constantly looking for new adventures, and we look to the elite adventure community for ideas and inspiration that we can then tone down to our family ability level.
5 little BIG adventure ideas
500 Fresh Air Miles
This family adventure idea was inspired by Dave Cornthwaite's Expedition 1000 (which involves travelling 25 journeys each of 1000 miles or more using non-motorised transport). As a family there was no way we could realistically embark on something so huge as 25,000 miles, so we came up with our own family-friendly interpretation of Dave's challenge; we called it the 500 Fresh Air Miles Challenge which saw us ride, walk, pedal, cycle and scooter journeys that had a combined total of 500 miles. Our journeys ranged from short 5 or 6 mile walks and rides around new places we visited, to walking the length of the Ayrshire coast… all 100 miles of it. We broke the journey down into manageable sections and took it steady, completing it in 8 days.
A fair number of people attempt to climb Mount Everest each year – and succeed – but despite this, it is always going be out of the reach of a family. Or is it? Well, not if you apply some creative thinking! That's what we did when we came up with our Climb Everest Challenge. This challenge involves climbing the ‘height' of Everest by climbing smaller mountains and adding up their combined height. Everest is 8489 metres above sea level, and by climbing summits of over 1000m (our self imposed criteria) we only need to climb eight and a bit mountains. (At the time of writing, we are at just over 3,500 metres and on our way to Scotland to bag some Munros).
Width of GB triathlon
As much as we'd like to follow in Sean Conway's footsteps (and wake) and complete a Triathlon of the length of Great Britain, I think we can all agree that it is very unlikely to ever happen; the length of GB is just too, well, great. But the width (at Great Britain's narrowest point) is definitely well within our reach. So, last year we paddled the width of the Scotland via the Great Glenn Canoe Trail (working as a tag team to ensure we only paddled within our comfort zones) and at the time of writing we are two days away from starting the second leg of our Width of GB Family Triathlon, walking Coast to Coast along the Hadrian's Wall footpath. In June 2016 we'll complete our triathlon by cycling across the Trans Pennine Cycle Trail from Southport to Hornsea.
Yorkshire Three Peaks
The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is a 12-hour 26 mile walk taking in Peny-Y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales. It may not be possible to complete all three peaks in 12 hours as a family but don't let that put you off – think of creative ways of completing your own interpretation.
Below is a rough breakdown of how we have taken on the Yorkshire Three Peaks over the last few years:
- One Peak at a time – take your time and enjoy climbing one of the peaks in a day. Pick a nice day and have a picnic on the top.
- Two Peaks in one day – climb Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough in a day using Horton-in-Ribblesdale as your start/finish.
- Three Peaks in 2 days – Start and finish at Horton and break the journey up by bivvy-bagging at the end of day one (ensure you leave no trace and take all litter away with you).
- Three Peaks in 12 hours – we finally completed the 12-hour Three Peak Challenge just last week!
A Year of Adventures
Inspired by a Lonely Planet book, we decided to have our own year of adventure as a family by planning and having 52 family adventures in a year – an adventure EVERY weekend. We had a large sheet of paper on which we drew pictures and wrote ideas of the things we wanted to do at the weekends and then made sure every weekend – regardless of the weather – we completed one of our adventure ideas. The ideas were small, cheap and simple to do, on the whole, yet very rewarding. As we look back on our year of adventure, it was one of the best years we have ever had.
Remember, whatever you do, there are no right or wrongs. The key thing is that you do something. If it goes wrong or you make a mistake, don't worry. Try and laugh about it, but also learn from it, and then have another go. Don't take it too seriously, and try and have fun. OK, sometimes the going gets tough, but then these are the experiences that define who we are, and persevering and digging deep together to overcome a challenge as a family, will result in shared memories that will last for many years.
And if you ever find yourself asking "Why are we doing this?". Remember, the answer is "Because life is too short not to."
You are not going to live forever, so make sure you make the days count.
And as our family motto goes, "Adventure is out there; you just have to go and find it."
About the Author:
Tim Meek - Do Try This At Home
Blogging as DoTryThisAtHome, Tim Meek and his family sold their home in 2014 to pursue a life of 'ed-venture', teaching their children Amy and Ella through a life of travel and outdoor experiences.