It was August 2014 and I was enjoying the summer off. Well, I say ‘off’, I’d been made redundant 3 months prior and was using the lure of summer sun to put off figuring out what I’d do next. But I knew I wanted a complete change. This was the perfect fresh start and I felt liberated by having the decision to move on made for me. Now, the world was at my feet and I wanted to start exploring it, experiencing life outside of my current day-to-day.
Yes, a round the world trip would have been amazing and made up for not taking a gap year, but that would be a big commitment, time wise and financially. So instead I opted for taking a punt on a new weekend festival in the woods ‘within an hour of London’. And that was it, ‘within an hour of London’ was all I’d been told when I booked tickets, and the rest of the details were pretty sketchy too. Even the organisers didn’t have it all figured out yet, but then that’s all part of the adventure, right?
This might sound a little crazy, and my partner at the time certainly thought so, “what, you’re going to sleep in the woods with a bunch of strangers who want to ‘do something different’? Sounds like a cult to me!”. But Escape to the Woods was being organised by Escape the City and Ben Keene, and if you’re looking to find people who you would never normally meet but are in the same head space of looking for what to do next, these are your guys.
The weekend was great, no hippy stuff, just lots of lovely genuine people sharing their experiences, plans for future businesses or adventures, and lots of beer around the camp fire. It was fun to hear about how people were taking career breaks and jetting off to explore, often with no return flight booked. As a result there were some great tips being traded for finding cheap flights. I particularly liked the idea of open jaw flights — where you fly into one airport and out of another. For example if you were coming to London you might arrive at Heathrow but go home from Edinburgh. It gets you exploring more of the country you’re visiting.
But who said you need to travel to another country to have an adventure, or even take a long time off work. The festival was wrapped up by the adventurer Al Humphries giving the Sunday Sermon. A tale of round the world cycling contrasted with walking the M25 and really set the seed for me of the idea of mircoadventures. Al’s approach to finding adventure in the countryside around us and fitting it in to our normal busy lives is incredibly achievable and opens us up to thinking about how we spend our time. I picked up a copy of his book there and then.
I mean, would you rather be snuggled up on the sofa in front of EastEnders tonight, or walking up a remote hill with friends you haven’t seen in ages from which to watch the sunset and sleep under the stars?
Since the woods I’ve been on two microadventures during 2015; a 5–9 in Kent with some new friends from Escape the City’s Start Up Tribe and another 5–9 that turned into a 3–12 and involved being circled by horses in the night, but more on those later.
It’s certainly not something to do every night, but once in a while it’s nice to do something different.