The long expedition

Why You Need More Than a Microadventure

I hear a lot lately about the “microadventures”—the small trips you can squeeze in after work or in the 48-hour span of your weekend.

Longer trips, on the other hand, are hugely demanding. There’s the pre-trip planning and logistics; losing time visiting family who might not understand why you’re spending summer in the woods; taking time from work; or simply relaxing, for a change. And all that planning might be for nothing if it rains the whole week anyway.

And yet when I do the microadventure thing, it doesn’t really scratch the itch that I go to the wilderness to sooth—it leaves me feeling hungry, unsatisfied.

With our time so precious and the rewards so uncertain, what is it about the “long expedition”—staying out in the wilderness for a week or even a month—that makes it worth it?

Being good to yourself

It’s true that going to the wilderness for a week or more looks like a selfish thing to do. You’re spending a week or more doing something for pure pleasure (yes, even when you get blisters, that’s why you’re there). But if going to the wilderness is what energizes you, then it’s a necessary act.

Being away for an extended time lets you find a new rhythm in fulfilling your simple, basic needs, and fully let go of your frontcountry worries. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be able to be more attentive to the people around you as well.

Knowing a place well

Close-up on moss and snow

Photo by Tim Schramm

On a weekend trip, you can cover maybe 30 miles (or more if you are insanely fast and fit). In a high-traffic national park, that might not even be enough to get you away from the theme park feeling many of the more accessible areas have.

Triple your time in the outdoors and suddenly you triple the area you can access. Or, if covering more miles isn’t your thing, you can choose that one perfect campsite and explore your way through every inch of it, savoring its every boulder and even the mosquitos welcoming their new residents.

Building self-reliance

On short trips, you can get away with forgetting a lot of stuff. There’s not much that you can’t live without for two days.

But when you get to day ten of a month-long trip and your stove poops out, you have to start some serious problem solving. By learning to deal with the problems that will inevitably come up, you learn both how to plan ahead of time and develop greater reliance in your own skills.

Self-reliance is hugely empowering, and it opens the door to more and bigger adventures in the future.

Forming deeper relationships

Short trips can keep you safely in the realm of superficial chitchat. That’ll wear thin around day three or four, and then you’ll get into the meat of your relationships.

Going on a longer trip almost guarantees that you and your group will have numerous important and shared experiences, and a lot of time to think and talk about them.

Your best and worst sides come out when things get tough, and you’ll have a chance to see that in your friends and in yourself (whether you like it or not is another story).

Spring is here and summer’s around the corner—how are you going to make your long expedition happen? Leave a comment below.

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