Microadventure day 2: sleeping outside

This post is part of the 30 Micro-adventures in 30 days of lockdown series. You can find all our microadventures so far, on that page.

Sleeping outside divides the population. Some think there is nothing better than every hour spent in the comfort of our own bed, snuggling up and keeping warm. The alarm is our enemy. On holidays we tolerate other beds. Comfort rules the roost.

But for others, comfort is nothing compared to the freedom of the outdoors! For the feeling of being close to nature. For the thrill of falling asleep looking up at the stars. To slow down the rhythms of life, and forget the hum-drum of life and the rush that we seem to have got our minds into.

What do I mean by sleeping outside?

Well although I have occasionally slept outside with nothing but my clothes on (most occasions this was not an intentional choice I made hours before – I just happened to fall asleep and stay there all night – I’ll keep those stories for later), I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, 2 main ideas come in to my mind:

  1. Camping in a tent
    This is probably the one that appears the most expensive option, but one that over time, is actually far cheaper than hostels, Airbnbs, or wherever else you or your family like to stay. I’d recommend you still have a roll-mat for
  2. Sleeping outside in a Bivvy bag
    Sleeping under the stars in a waterproof layer (as well as a sleeping bag) may sound ludicrous in countries like Ireland where it always seems to rain as soon as you consider such ideas. But there’s more opportunity for this than you might think, and it’s cheaper, more flexible and more inconspicuous too, away from the public eye. If being up close to nature and the stars is a big seller for you, yet you’re still in a rainy country, then you might consider adding on a Basha to your kit to keep the rain off.

For me last night, I was a little too scared of the overcast skies to go for a Bivvy bag idea, but a little too bored by a tent to simply go for that. So I went for a third option: the pop-up festival tent!

Bought from a mainline supermarket in Ireland for a little over €20, transporting this tent to other countries has cost us more than the actual tent cost! As festival tents often don’t have the two layers of material, to protect you from the rain (touch the material in a festival tent, and you’ll often get soaked, if its wet), I’ve rarely used it in anything apart from hot countries like Tunisia! But tonight, with only light April showers forecast, I thought I would get it out and see if it still was surviving!

Although I camped in my garden of the house I’m renting, you wouldn’t need grassy gardens necessarily for such things. I’ve tried front pathways to houses, balconies of apartments or even when I was really stuck – a hammock inside a city house (ok, I may as well have taken the sofa!)!

The advantage of starting in your garden is that it is most likely private, and if anything disasterous happens, you can quickly bolt back to your warm comforts inside the house. It’s a great place to introduce kids to camping, and during a time like this, one or two families I know have even exchanged their real holiday they’d booked (before Covid19) for a “camping holiday” in their back garden, just to give themselves a change from normal life, and a bit of an adventure!

My sleep was a little shortened at the start of the evening by a call to join a “Houseparty” app conversation with friends involving a glass of wine (or two), but after that, and a short time reading some more of old Irish adventurer Dervla Murphy, the stillness of the night ensued, causing me to rest from my frantic thought patterns, and sleep soundly through the showers, til 6am. When, unbeknownst to me, at this hour each morning, our heating boiler machine starts making a racket in the back garden, along with the more pleasant twittering of the birdsong as they sense dawn coming. There are some disadvantages of the garden!

But as I stumbled into the house for a final couple of hours sleep before work, I was already thoroughly happy and had a deep sense of peace at having slept an evening part-way into nature, re-finding my place in the world and enjoying re-living the memories that have come from that small, orange tent across the world. And for the rest of the day, I’d a feeling that I’d made more of the last 24 hours than I ever do waking up on a normal morning.

The 6am view, slightly disrupted by our garden light.

If I wanted to learn a moral lesson too, I might think of all those in the world who sleep in far worse conditions each night, in other lands, or even on our own streets as the southern housing crisis continues for many. Shaping our perspective of the world by sitting with others who have less materially than we do, round the world, can indeed be done in our back gardens (though perhaps not escaping indoors part way through!). Waking to a new day, I sense a small piece of why such people who have materially less than I do, still may wake each morning far happier than me. My comfort, I have tragically elevated to immovable status – might a night camping helping with this?

A prayer:

We thank you for the world you made – awesome, diverse, fun;
And ask your forgiveness when we isolate ourselves from elements of it in bubbles of comfort, in western spheres;
And look to you to shape our perspective, to help us explore and enjoy;
And to lay down our heads, knowing that you are in control, even as we sleep.
In Jesus name,


15 Microadventures for April lockdown

Many of you will have come across Al Humphreys’ helpful short introduction to “Microadventure”s below, but I wanted to take up the gauntlet laid down by all those around the country who are crying that they are bored in their houses in this Coronavirus lockdown. To alleviate our boredom, I’m going to suggest 15 days of microadventures in April. And to help fuel ideas, record experiences and enjoy it, I’ll be recording 15 microadventure ideas and stories (linked) here on this blog post which you can come back to if you want some inspiration.

But what is a microadventure?

(One other response might be to tell those crying over such “boredom” to “suck-it-up” as many in other lands would happily take boredom over their ‘choice’ to die by hunger, or die from the virus. But in the spirit of staying friends with everyone, and in the very real battle of many of my friends with mental health issues, I guess that 30 days of Microadventures may be a better way to help us in our more bored moments!)

The difference about our Microadventures of the coming 30 days, will be that we have the unfortunate travel limits of 2 kilometres in the south of Ireland, and in the north, although technically legal to do more than that, it is not appreciated by the emergency services if we start climbing mountains (for risk of needing rescued or touching styles/gates), filling cars with petrol (which involves shared surfaces which may transmit the virus) or other things which may cause risk. And much as some lucky friends of mine have just moved to the foot of local hills, most of the rest of us are stuck with the city streets around us. Our adventures must not just be physical ones this time.

So please send me any of your suggestions. Remember, they don’t necessarily need to be the world’s hardest adventures – I’m hoping they’ll be accessible to most of us, whether 12 years old or 60.

What microadventures can you think of, that we could do in lockdown?

Here’s a few that came to my mind, that I might include, that were inspired by Al and others.

  • a night in a Bivvy bag (or a tent) in the garden
  • walk one usual route in your area, but keep an eye out for any birds or other species we can learn about locally – take photos if you can!
  • read a short fantasy novel to take you on an adventure into another world
  • write a short story of a memorable adventure you’ve been on in the past that you think others might enjoy reading
  • walk one usual route in your area, but keep an eye out for any plants, flowers or trees that catch your eye but you don’t know about – take photos.
  • paint a picture of one of the plants you’ve seen on your walk another day
  • an evening watching a stunning documentary about nature or adventure (online)
  • turn off your phone and all electronic screens for one day – enjoy being present with others, or by yourself for the day in all you do
  • let a housemate or friend (online) pick 4 random ingredients that remain in your cupboard (having not been to the shop for a week) and see if you can make something for dinner from them

So that’s just a few ideas of mine to get you started – I hope to update this post (bookmark it!) with each idea as it happens. But I’d love to hear more from you – let me know! Perhaps you could even guest-post an idea or a microadventure you’ve taken during this lockdown season.

Not sure these are all truly adventures? Think the idea is a little naff?

Well, I hope these are the type of adventures that leave us as rounded humans, not exceedingly gifted in one area (physical ability) but lacking in character, curiosity, imagination or awareness of others in the world.

Adventure is a state of mind, a spirit of trying something new and leaving your comfort zone. It’s about enthusiasm, ambition, open-mindedness and curiosity.

Al Humphreys, Microadventures
Walking past the same market stalls each day, but recognising the small changes!

So yes, the month ahead will frustrate us all at some point. We’ll all probably struggle with how simple some parts are, how impossible other parts seems, how little motivation we have to do some of the ideas we don’t connect with, or how much we still struggle to control our craving for what people like me can sometimes falsely deem “real” adventure.

But amidst the frustrations, challenges and learning about ourselves and the world around us, I hope it’ll forge time to savour and enjoy even the horrible season that our world has been plunged into.

Could the cry of our lockdown experience be not “I’m bored”, but instead “what a wonderful world!”?

Could the cry of our lockdown experience be not “I’m bored”, but instead “what a wonderful world!”?

And for me, whose curiosity is driven by the awareness of doing life with the Maker of the Universe beside me and within me, I might also add some thoughts on these adventures from the perspective of a Jesus-follower as we #travelintandem with Him. But you’ll have your reasons, motivations and reflections during this month too, so don’t be afraid to share them!

So let’s pack our bags and get started…

….are you joining us?

Remember to bookmark this post, as I’ll be updating it each day with a new microadventure idea, or someone’s story or how they got on with another microadventure.

  1. Microadventure day 1: failure!
  2. Microadventure day 2: sleeping outside
  3. Microadventure day 3: a walk into the unknown
  4. Microadventure day 4: Voices from round the world
  5. Microadventure day 5: Nightfall
  6. Microadventure day 6: Curiosity killed the cat
  7. Microadventure day 7: Pushing Boundaries
  8. Microadventure day 8: After Darkness, Light
  9. Microadventure day 9: The birds and the bees
  10. Microadventure day 10: Finding colour
  11. Microadventure day 11: Fighting Zoombies
  12. Microadventure day 12: Imagination: Socially Distant Discos
  13. Microadventure day 13: Seeing Opportunity in Adversity
  14. Microadventure day 14:
  15. Microadventure day 15:

7 reads for Coronavirus season

Each year I try and get through over a hundred wide ranging books, whether old classics, the latest releases, or ones I’m slow to catch up on. Here’s 7 that have deeply influenced me this in the last year, that have particular relevance to us as travelling people and also to the Coronavirus season. I must also add – this is not what I feed myself spiritually on as a Christian traveller! It’s the extras on the side.

  1. SCIENCE: Why we sleep. (Matthew Walker, Penguin, 2018)
    If you’re anything like me, you’ll have tried at some stage in life to be living such a productive life, that you get up early and stay up late – burning the candle at both ends, so to speak. Matthew Walker writes quite a shocking book in that regard, making me realise that such patterns of living longterm would make my health, mental wellbeing and life crumble. He does so simply through outlining the science which he has spent years researching with many others. He also has very practical tips about drinking before bed (those whiskey nightcaps!), screentime and caffiene which may help improve life too. It’s a heavy read in places (you may want to skim at times), but one that shouldn’t be avoided because of that. Ultimately, I hope that the Coronavirus will return many to rhythms of rest which they hadn’t before, particularly amongst those of us who travel and always desire “more”.

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  2. BIOGRAPHY/APPLIED THEOLOGY: The Common Rule (Justin Earley, IVP US, 2019)
    Potentially the millennial’s book of the year! I have not heard many my age be able to read it and say “that’s not me”. Justin describes his life as a successful cross-cultural business person and traveller, seeking to thrive and live life to the fullest, only to find his life crashing on the rocks, in ways many of us will say “that’s me – just a few steps further down the line!” Addiction to work; distraction; busy-ness; alcoholic tendendcies; indecision; paralysis; medications; mental collapse and more – this book doesn’t dramatise or tell glamourous tales, but instead shares of an ordinary life. The downward spiral was one that had him (although a missionary) at the end of his tether with God, deciding to pack it all in. But over the years that followed he was able to come back to the truths he’d neglected, that would have actually helped him flourish and grow as a human. This is his story. But it’s part of mine too. And I’m guessing many of our generation. Not sure? It’s worth a read. Again, my prayer is that the Coronavirus period will slow us down enough to stop many of these “rushed” patterns in life that cripple us mentally and physically, and instead will let us get back into daily, weekly and annual rhythms.

  3. FRIENDSHIP/THEOLOGY: Why can’t we be friends? (Aimee Byrd, P&R, 2018)
    As we think about isolation and community a lot, may we think about our regular patterns of isolating ourselves or developing deep community. Gender is one of the big topics of recent years, and sadly, many of us as Christians have been busy defending 1960s cultural conservatism, rather than Biblical good news. Aimee seeks to unpick a massive movement in Christianity that claims we shouldn’t get too close to members of the opposite sex, lest we fall into temptation. Showing provocatively how this is not good news at all, for a #metoo world, she calls us to engage wisely and hold out a marvelous Biblical picture of cross-gender friendships, that honour and empower each other, whilst having holiness at the centre. She answers common questions about the fall of so many Christian leaders through sexual sin. When you’ve travelled through cultures which disrespect women, and have segregated genders, there is nothing more free-ing than knowing good news of liberation – a liberation which doesn’t descend into sexual chaos and dishonour. Review here.

  4. MISSIOLOGY: Stubborn Perseverance (Nyman, Mission Network, 2017)
    What we do as humans when we perceive an urgent need or a seeming problem: panic! And its not just in response to viruses that we do this. Another complete change of topic brings us to the latest in missiology that all the main mission organisations are buying into. This is an easy-read fictional account based on real life stories from ‘Creative Access Nations’. It is gripping, very helpful in places, but like much of current missiology in such places, it is largely shaped by panicked pragmatism. In a bid to get the gospel to as many as possible, as quick as possible, we over-emphasize things the Bible does not emphasize. I’ve already written on this briefly here though more full treatment can be found on this website. What should shape our views on urgency? The Biblical pattern. And I think some of us more task-orientated cultures in the west will be shocked that God’s glory is greater than simply some of the tasks He calls us to.

  5. COMMUNICATIONS: So Everyone Can Hear (Crosby, SPCK, 2019)
    The Church has gone online! With Coronavirus stopping any gatherings of people over a certain size where it’s possible to socially distance, livestream events and social media have taken over. But as one who works part-time in communications (including social media), I’ve noticed a wave of panic, as many churches just put up whatever content they can. Every church would do well to read this beautifully presented book, and then to discuss as a leadership team afterwards, how their church’s theology drives communication. It’s not a how-to-guide but an empowering read that will help guide you from your theology to practice. Of course, many in other parts of the world would chuckle, that western Christianity has tied itself so much to buildings and large gatherings, and can’t perceive of other ways of easily being a local church. But regardless, this book is a helpful read.

  6. THEOLOGY: Understanding Christian mission: participation in suffering and glory (Sunquist, Baker, 2013)
    One of the things that strikes me most about my own life, is my feeling of entitlement and desire for control over my life. The Christian doctrine of suffering and joy both running concurrently in the Christian life (1 Peter), is simply baffling for many of us in the west, even to those of us who’ve preached about following in Christ’s sufferings (as well as his resurrection hope) for years. We just can’t fathom suffering when it hits us. We want to say it’s evil, but then struggle when its used by God for eventual, ultimate good. And so this virus shakes the western world and has thrown us in disarray. This title, (recommended to me online by a lecturer at Edinburgh Theological Seminary), helpfully puts participation in suffering at the front and centre of God’s mission. There is so much that is helpful historically and to meditate upon in this volume, that I hope we can overlook the broader side to it. May this virus humble humanity to realise how to incorporate suffering into our worldview well. What might that look like for us pleasure travellers? I’ll leave you to figure.

  7. HISTORY: Dominion (Tom Holland, Little-Brown, 2019)
    This much acclaimed volume I’m sure has reached your attention a long time ago, but I believe still deserves a mention. Secular historian Tom Holland is certainly no friend of endorsing the Biblical text (taking a very liberal view of the Old Testament), but makes astounding claims, which seem fairly undeniable, around the fact that the way that we think in the west, is undeniably Judeo-Christian. Even if you are a hardened atheist reading this, you will be standing on Christian foundations, according to Holland. How are we thinking about the virus? In Christian ways. We mourn at such suffering! Why? Because we have expectations stemming from the Christian worldview. Why do we have the moral response we do in light of the virus? Because we steal our moral framework from the Christian one etc. But ultimately, Holland’s just a great writer who has got me back reading history (having been bored stiff at school by it). It might help us as we travel, to see outside our narrow cultural lenses.

Isolation: the opposite of travel?

With the Corona-virus keeping many of us isolated or indoors, I’ve been back pondering what good news there is in all this for travellers, and the travel industry.

In many ways, the industry is being decimated, day by day, as this continues. Small airlines are weekly being put into administration, travel companies are packing up and even most normal summer holidays plans are now in doubt for many of us too. Is the virus then, the antipathy of travel?

My last sunset on the road, before heading back for weeks in the house.

Is the virus the antipathy of travel?

Perhaps, in some ways. But as writer Marcel Proust (and later Alain de Botton) have reminded us, we daren’t harbour ‘travel’ as the ultimate goal, or else it will destroy us (particularly in times like these). Proust is famous in his writings, for deliberately isolating himself at times in one room, and still taking us on an incredible traverse of thinking, imagination and creativity, that leaves us marveling at the tiny subsection of the world around us. One could possibly, he claims, be more satisfied within a small room, than a world explorer is with the whole world at our fingertips.

The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them us.

Marcel Proust, The Remembrance of things Past (translated, Moncrieff)

And that’s striking exactly what the Christian good news also says. We can visit other strange lands and still not learn or grow, depending on how we view our travels. Travel ought not be our ultimate goal, or else we’ll be broken by it when it’s not freely available. We ought not be bored, even if we were stuck in isolation, if we view things well.

I’m fairly sure self-isolation could happen on beaches like this, in mountain ranges and other stunning location – but the feeling of wanting to be of use to less able members of the community, mean that I largely stay in the city to help.

By a lonely prison wall…

But it’s also different to what the Christian good news says. What Proust is left with, is looking inwards to ourselves, in order to view the vastness of the world, and glimpse the diamond through different lights. Not only do we struggle to do this (just think about how quickly we “other”/distance any viewpoints that are different to ours in the world), but looking within to find true vision and imagination for life, is shrinking your universe to a prison cell. Or so Rebecca McLaughlin would have us believe….

The fact that Proust actively chose to self-isolate in a cork-lined room (to help protect him from the noise and outside world) may baffle many of us at this stage in our virus-strewn world:

“…it was my intention to resume the next day, but this time with a purpose, a solitary life.   So far from going into society, I would not even permit people to come and see me at home during my hours of work, for the duty of writing my book took precedence now of that of being polite or even kind.”

Marcel Proust

But ultimately Proust came up with great works of art, which captivate many like myself today. So perhaps it was worth it?

So as you isolate or socially distance yourself from others in the weeks ahead, I hope we can soon look through any boredom, any temptation to pick up your phone again (for the hundredth time) to scroll, to instead see the world with eyes that aren’t our own. And ultimately, it is my dream, that we would all see through the eyes of the maker of the universe, who can give us infinite glimpses beyond what we could ever muster from within. It is only through His eyes, that we can escape our rather warped, lopsided views of reality.

And that’s what I invite us to do as we #travelintandem – in the corner of our bedrooms, in the chaos of virus-affected-life, and in the bizarre moments we stop scrolling to think.

The beach at Kilmore Quay, County Wexford, Ireland

The Golden Assumptions of (western) Travel?

Everywhere I go in the world, I meet western travellers who will be living under certain travel assumptions. I am sure there are many assumptions we share, but here are two that immediately come to mind. Firstly, many assume we are all the same, right across the world. Secondly, many assume that education would solve most of the world’s problems.

As travel plans are put on hold in many parts of the world, and the travel industry watches with bated breath to see how long this will last for, it soon becomes apparent which of these is true, and to what extent.

Are we the same, right across the world?

In many ways, yes. The corona virus reminds us that we’re all humans – only here for a short time on earth. It doesn’t really matter where in the world we are, we can never transcend this, and while fitter humans battle on with no health worries, many of those in the travel industry are still paralysed by economic worry, or will soon be. Flybe have already gone bust, and airlines, travel companies and those in the tourism industry will soon find it hard to make ends meet, should this continue.

Will education solve our problems here?

If we all acted perfectly – would Coronavirus be contained and economies still continue? I’m not sure it would. Perhaps if we all hand-washed perfectly and stayed at home for weeks, the virus may stop. But then so might many businesses – permanently. If we continued on normal lives with no fear at all (whilst still handwashing etc), I’m sure the opposite may happen, and the virus would spread rapidly, as many may carry it without realising. And if we think there is a perfect combination of this, and that many of our governments are simply getting it wrong, I might suggest that it shows our mistrust in depending on our best minds to be trained to solve problems. As humans, we are not that perfectly rational. Not able to predict the future. Education may help, but its not our saviour for the travel industry or for any other.

So what can we do?

I was out working at a large sporting gathering yesterday, where we were forbidden to shake hands with the players and officials. What humoured us as officials, was that the victorious players were hugging, kissing, throwing themselves into the crowd, and piling on top of each other in a heap! An understandable reaction when you’ve won a cup! And not one which a handshake would have made much of a difference too.

  1. Accept our humanity

    Perhaps in coming to terms with our humanity, we’ll not try and be the saviours with all the answers. Watching another YouTube video or news bulletin will most likely not change anything. And in accepting our humanity, we won’t expect our governments to get it perfect – it’s a complex thing to understand, and hard thing to legislate. And we’ll admit that even the best business leader or fittest person on earth, will still be limited by our humanity. You can think you’ve done everything right, and yet still your business may go under, or your health may be taken from you (perhaps not by this virus, but on any given day, by anything).
    Yet this is one of the hardest things as a human who loves to push boundaries and develop myself, that I struggle to accept. It is so obvious yet I rail against it every day I wake up. Being diagnosed with a long-term illness helped me come to terms with this a bit, or at least revealed how much I crave independence as a world traveller!
  2. Confess our need of each other

    In fear and panic, it’s fascinating that one of the first things humans seem to do, is to look after themselves. Northern Ireland has gone relatively untouched so far by the virus, yet when I went to the shops yesterday at 10am, all toilet rolls (re-stocked at 7.30am) were nearly gone, and other food stuffs were dwindling. Instead of panicking, I wonder how many will look around to serve the needs of others today. To look to the needs of an elderly neighbour who is more at risk if they went out. To think of those in worse-affected areas and to support them.
  3. Look upwards

    Ultimately these two previous things will start to happen more and more as we look upwards to the One who is in control. The One who gave us our humanity. The One who made travel. The One who made us to be in relationship with each other, but also with Him. For those atheist travellers amongst us, perhaps your worldview may give you the first point (we’re all the same), but by what grounds ought it motivate you to care for the least in society? (Please note what I’m not saying – many of you will be the most marvelously caring in society, more than religious people.)

    I don’t say this glibly, as it’s not easy to do or to understand God’s way of working in this world. I have a wedding planned for July which I can’t get insurance for with this crisis – will it go ahead? Will family be able to fly in? I have friends who own travel firms who’ll be ruined by everyone pulling out from their holiday plans. I myself wonder about the risk of booking a honeymoon, or anything in the next six months. I have family who also (like me) are perhaps more vulnerable health-wise than many others in society. And I have friends, in some of the worst affected areas of the world.

    But evidence in history points me to One who’s dealt with far more turmoil across the nations than this. One who uses even the evil in this world, to bring about His purposes. One who stepped in to save us, when our own education, society and fitness could not suffice. It is His good care of all who He has made, which I turn to look towards at times like these.

So, as we wake up each morning, may we look upwards, remember others worse off, and confess our humanity. And perhaps if we are still craving adventure and think it wise, you can consider a micro-adventure and discover the rich diversity of life right on your doorstep – wherever you live! In the meantime on this blog, we’ll be trying to support some businesses who specialise in the faith and travel market, in the days ahead.