The video above is a Tedx talk delivered by Alastair Humphreys, an adventurer, writer, and public speaker who cycled the world for four years on less than £7,000, walked across India and the Empty Quarter Desert, rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, canoed through the Yukon, and much more. The kicker: when he first pedaled away from his home in Europe he was 24 with minimal outdoor experience.
It’s truly incredible and inspiring what can be achieved with a tolerance for uncertainty, a willingness to break societal expectations, and courage over one’s fears.
The type of month to multiple year adventures Humphrey has undertaken are one of the major activities I’d like to fill my life with. There is something holding me back, however–and I think this is a factor that tends to hold many other people from realizing their own goals, whatever they may be.
For me, it’s money not for the sake of purchasing consumer items, but for the sake of purchasing my freedom from nine to five employment. Let me explain. By living simply, I do not need lots of money to live well. About $7,000 a year fulfills my needs for housing, transportation, food, and other expenses. By saving and investing the difference between my expenses and the income I’d gain from an average American nine to five job–or any other source of income–my investments can, over an accumulation period of five to ten years, provide $7000 a year of passive income. The point when annual passive income from investments match or surpass yearly expenses is called financial independence. Reaching this point would not only mean that I would no longer be required to work for income, but that I can embark on long-term, low-cost adventures without being too concerned about funding or financial security.
At this point in my 21 year old life, however, a part of me wants to eschew the ten years of employment required to amass the capital necessary to achieve financial independence. I’d prefer to begin travelling now, starting this summer. Another part of me wants the financial security before the long term travelling. It’s been a tough choice for me over the past few months.
Thankfully adventures and financial security are not necessarily mutually exclusive; it’s possible to both have adventures and accumulate capital for financial independence. Enter micro-adventures.
Micro-adventures are short one or two day adventures that can be undertaken even while the majority of one’s time is spent in employment, or another activity that takes up the majority of your time. An example of a micro-adventure can be an evening camping after a Friday spent behind a desk, or a cross-city walk, or riding a train and climbing the nearest mountain over a weekend.
Although I am interested by the idea of micro-adventures, I do not think they are necessarily easy to fit into nine to five life. For one, after a day of work, the amount of willpower required to initiate an adventure might be too high. Also, a series of micro-adventures seem harder to consistently initiate rather than one long term expedition. One of the hardest hurdles for me to overcome is initiating an activity, or creating the system for that activity; It is much easier for me to continue an activity, or simply use a system I’ve already created. Comparing micro-adventures to expeditions, I think it might require great willpower to repeatedly ready and haul equipment to the adventure site, then haul it back home just after one day, or even a few hours. By contrast, it might require less willpower to, for example, tie a canoe (with a rain cover) to a tree and sleep in the canoe, then wake up the next day and keep paddling. Another example would be partially emptying a touring bike’s camping contents daily for a month, as opposed emptying and storing a touring bike’s entire contents after one or two days of riding in a micro-adventure. I do not think these are prohibitive factors of micro-adventures, just factors that I’d like to account for when creating an effective system to undertake them.
In any case, I think I’m leaning toward achieving financial independence before striving for long expeditions. In the accumulation phase, I will try my best to increase my willpower and efficiency when undertaking micro-adventures. I think I’d feel more comfortable watching my investments grow passively as I’m travelling in a tent, rather than worrying about where the few thousands required for my next adventure will come from.
Although my adventures tend to be based in nature, I can also use the term loosely. Whatever path is most meaningful and growthful to you–whether starting a business, an inner-spiritual journey, growing close with friends, etc.–I think it is liberating and encouraging that simple living can allow us both the time to explore, and the financial means to do so.