72-75 Columns.indd

This was the first of my bimonthly column, Wild Things, in Wild magazine.

Pocket adventures

Megan HOlbeck explains how cramming one in can save your sanity 

On a recent random Thursday my husband and I took our crappy kayak out for a paddle. It was one of those sparkling Sydney winter days when you can’t help but feel a little smug: I was wearing shorts, the sun was warm, the water blue, the day still and the beaches and water were all ours. We pulled the boat into the water without much of a plan, slipping into a comfortable rhythm as we paddled across the small harbour and explored along the rocks and beaches on the other side. We talked as we went, about all kinds of things: holidays, fun stuff, future plans, the paddle – but not the admin of everyday. We pulled the boat up on a neighbourhood beach and dove in, the water cold enough to bring out my customary swimming dance – hopping from foot to foot, arms flapping – but not take-your-breath-away freezing like in Victoria.  

Soggy and sandy, we stopped for a glass of champagne and some oysters at a restaurant with lovely views. A half hour bushwalk up the hill led to another café with a view through swaying gums to the shimmering sea. We wolfed down a delicious lunch and raced back, paddling home in time for school pickup.

It might sound like a lame version of one of ‘The Bachelor’ dates, but what it was really was a sanity saver, a small adventure to tuck away as an antidote to city life. It wasn’t a wilderness escape, it involved lunching (!) and it certainly wasn’t hard core. But it was a taste of the natural world and a break, without plan or stress, and I could fit it in.

Because I – like most people – am busy. Permanently, boringly busy. Proper wilderness escapes are far less frequent than I’d like, and this is where pocket adventures come in. These escapes are little hollows of golden time carved out of normal life. They don’t have to be big or impressive, planned or even particularly active. That time you walked rather than took the bus, wandering through trees you didn’t know were there? That’s one. The run you went on last month where you stopped while the light changed/the bird sang/the wallaby bounded away through the bush? Another. These adventures can sustain you in between bigger escapes, remind you that the world out there exists, and force you into planning a bigger challenge soon.

‘Pocket adventures’ also echo changes in outdoor activities. Most people are no longer ‘just’ walkers or paddlers or bikers or climbers – instead they choose to dabble. There’s not much time for regular, big trips: instead you might go sea kayaking while up in Queensland, do regular trail runs, day walks and mountain bikes close to home, squeeze in an overnighter, and plan a big walk in Tassie every year or two. (These changes are also reflected in Wild’s current editorial direction.)

There are myriad psychological studies showing the benefits of being active in nature, but it can be proved far more simply: go for a walk somewhere nice on a bad day and notice your mood change. So whatever you do and however you do it, the point is the same: to get out there and be open to the experience. Whether that’s a Wild-worthy trip or a potter through the bush, the most important thing is to fit it in, any way you can.