I’ve been running an experiment over the last few years. Each time I catch up with a friend, I ask them to describe the moment in their life when they felt most alive.
I noticed something interesting about their responses.
Over 90% of them describe a travel experience. Maybe it’s the time they backpacked Europe. Or the time they went bungee jumping in Australia.
This comes despite the fact that most people spend less than 5% of the year away from home.
Why is it that so few of us feel alive when we’re not traveling?
When we’re home, we stick to routines that leave little room for adventure. And we justify our monotony by committing to short, week-long breaks throughout the year—moments where we feel “alive.”
But there’s another way to live.
There are ways to adventure regularly (even daily) without sacrificing ongoing obligations. When we prioritize these adventures, our lives become exciting and fulfilling.
In fact, there are people who are enjoying thrilling adventures within the comfort of their own cities—no travel required. Let's copy their tactics.
There’s another way to live
An "adventure" is simply an exciting or remarkable experience. That's it. Adventures are experiences that make us feel alive.
Fortunately, there's a way to live more adventurously without getting on a plane.
Here’s what top adventurers are doing to optimize their lives:
- They seek out small, local adventures with frequency.
- They act like they’re traveling, even while at home.
- They block time for adventure (and always prioritize it) each week. No exceptions. And they stay on top of work obligations to allow for spontaneity.
- Then, they plan ahead for occasional big adventures.
You don’t need to be traveling overseas or climbing mountains to feel adventurous. You can have exciting and remarkable experiences close to home.
Learning how to adventure locally is high-leverage: We spend the vast majority of our time at home. You could spend most of your waking days fantasizing about international adventure, or you could learn how to generate the same excitement and fulfillment from local adventures.
Explorer Alastair Humphreys coined a term for this: Microadventures.
“A microadventure is an adventure that is short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding.” —Alastair Humphreys
Microadventures break us out of our routines.
Since they're "short, simple, local, and cheap," you don’t need to have a lot of free time and cash to adventure.
- Hike to a local high point.
- Take new routes while running.
- Wake up on a Saturday morning and walk 10+ miles. Take breaks in parks to journal about what you’ve seen.
- Camp in your backyard.
Microadventures make adventure more accessible. The barriers to entry are much lower than more serious adventures (like climbing mountains). People can dip their toes in the water through microadventures, and build up to more challenging—and often more fulfilling—adventures, in time.
Act like a traveler at home
It’s hard to beat the feeling when you’re traveling. The free-spirited wandering. The openness to radically new experiences, people, and places. The spontaneity.
But when you break it down to first principles, we simply crave the feelings we experience while traveling (e.g. free spirited, openness, and spontaneity). And those feelings are a result of the mindset we adopt while we’re away.
We have one mindset that we’re in at home, and another—more positive—mindset we’re in while traveling.
So we feel unhappy at home yet excited while traveling because we lack the ability to control which mindset we’re in.
True adventures don’t fall victim to this trap. They learn to view their entire reality through the lens of adventure. They fully adopt an adventurous mindset.
They act like travelers, even when they’re home. By consistently doing the things that normal people save for their travels, adventurers make a habit out of viewing the world through an adventurous mindset.
They realize that travel in and of itself isn’t the solution. It’s the mindset we adopt while we’re traveling that makes us feel alive.
Here’s what you can do today to act like a traveler at home:
- Wander aimlessly around your city: Explore your home city (or town) inside and out. Look for hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Find hidden parks. Learn about its history. Get up and search for scenic spots to watch the sunrise. Walk 5+ miles per day, even when it’s cold and windy—you’ll see a side of your city that not many do.
- Try new restaurants: Use Google Maps to create a list of new restaurants in your city that you want to try. Each week, go try a new one. Bring a friend if you’d prefer not to dine alone.
- Make new friends: If you go out for a drink, talk to bartenders. Book an Airbnb experience. Join Meetup groups related to your hobbies. Instead of avoiding eye contact when you pass people in the street, be the first to say "hi." Stop and talk to people who are walking their dogs—they’re usually happy people.
- Appreciate local art and music: Go to a local music venue to see an artist you’ve never heard of before. If there’s a local art show, go and talk to the artists. If you like their work, consider supporting the artist by buying something and gifting it to a friend.
There’s a framework for coming up with a list of ideas that work best for you.
Each day, when you have free time after your other obligations, think to yourself: What would I do in this moment if I was traveling? Then do it.
Prioritize adventure through time management
We all know the story of the classic “adventurer”—the person who drops everything, flies halfway across the world, becomes a Buddhist monk, and posts a bunch of landscape photos on Instagram.
But the truth is, you don’t need to quit your job or give up your life to be an adventurer.
In fact, the most fulfilled adventurers are experts at balancing their responsibilities—they’re advancing their careers while living adventurously.
It comes down to time management: Don’t let work obligations keep you from adventuring.
Sounds easy enough, right?
Not necessarily: Driven people often get caught up improving their work and leave little time for adventure. Instead of dropping work when the clock hits 5, they hold themselves accountable and go the extra mile.
Instead of assuming we have self control when it comes to the amount we work (we don’t), we need a framework that helps us prioritize adventure.
- Block time in your calendar to prioritize adventure.
- Then overcome procrastination so you can enjoy guilt-free adventures.
Step one: Block time in your calendar.
Our calendars dictate how we spend our time. If you don’t block time for daily adventures, you’ll ultimately let that time slip for other priorities: work, upkeep tasks (like grocery shopping), or mindlessly watching Netflix.
Here’s how you can ensure that you don’t sacrifice adventuring. Put a block of time on your calendar each day. Label it “Adventure Time” and guard it with your life.
After about 30 days of consistently getting out and adventuring when your calendar says to, adventuring will be a habit—you won’t even have to think about it and make a decision.
Step two: Beat procrastination.
Procrastination—NOT laziness—is the reason why so many of us feel unfulfilled.
Imagine this: It’s Friday. You’re working on a big work project that has a hard deadline. Just as you start digging into the meat of the work, you find yourself uncomfortable. So you reach for your phone and scroll through Twitter for 30 minutes. Then, all of a sudden, it’s 5 o'clock and you had plans to get out with your friends for a weekend camping trip.
You feel guilty because you didn’t get your work done. And now you're realizing that the pressure will mount on Monday when you’re behind on your project.
But you ALSO feel guilty over the weekend on your camping trip: “Ugh, I’m so behind on that project.” You feel so guilty that you don’t even enjoy your adventure. Your attention is on work.
When we procrastinate, we feel guilty twice: once for not getting enough done during our work time. And again when the guilt interrupts our adventure time.
Handle procrastination so you get more done in less time, leaving more room for spontaneity.
There are many great resources for fighting procrastination. Two of my favorites are Tim Urban’s piece and James Clear’s piece.
I won’t go into detail here, but a few tactics that have helped me beat procrastination:
- Find someone who'll hold you accountable.
- Create hard deadlines. Trying to write a blog? Put “new post each week” at the top of the page.
- Put your phone in another room and use a site blocker. We reach for distractions the second we feel uncomfortable.
Improve your time management and you’ll feel even more fulfilled because you’ll be making comprehensive progress as a human—a sense of purpose from growing in your profession and a zest for life from living adventurously.
You can have both.
Plan ahead for larger adventures
All of the above points make it clear: You don’t need to go overseas or travel far to access meaningful adventure. There are plenty of ways to adventure close to home.
But I’m certainly not against travel. And I wholeheartedly support big adventures. In fact, the adventures we experience when we travel can be both exciting and remarkable. And big trips often have lasting benefits that you bring home with you:
- You learn about and appreciate different cultures. And these learnings improve your worldview.
- Seeking discomfort leads to personal development and growth.
- Physically challenging adventures help improve mental toughness so you can overcome tough life obstacles.
- You meet friends all over the globe, and you realize that most humans are good.
But here's where our daily adventures come into play. The adventures we have at home put us in a place where we will actually enjoy—rather than rush through—big adventures when we have the time for them.
True adventurers do make time for larger trips. They plan ahead so that they enjoy the anticipation as the trip approaches.
And, when they do travel, they are thoroughly present and patient—taking the time to absorb the culture, the nature, and bring a unique perspective home with them to enhance their daily lives.
Adventure will improve your life
As you introduce more adventure into your life, you'll feel more fulfillment.
Let’s recap what you can do right now to become more adventurous:
- Prioritize microadventures—small adventurers close to home.
- Act like a traveler, even while you’re at home.
- Block time for spontaneity and beat procrastination so you can adventure more often.
- Plan ahead for the occasional big, thrilling adventure.
As a result of becoming more adventurous, you’ll:
- Be more fulfilled at home: You’ll feel as though home and travel live in harmony.
- Be more present while traveling: You won’t feel the need to rush and “experience everything.” You’ll be comfortable moving slower, with patience.
- Take your learnings from travel, and deepen your appreciation for the small adventures at home: You’ll take the best insights from your experiences while traveling, and integrate them into your life at home.
Become an adventurer without the consequences of leaving everything behind.