Adventure (slightly) augmented by design

Adventure (slightly) augmented by design

Part of MEX Inspirations, an ongoing series exploring tangents and their relationship to better experience design.

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going?

I don’t do NYRs but at the start of each year, I spend some time reflecting on what was important to me in the previous 12 months. I think about the people, places, events, activities and anything else that comes to mind as being valuable in my life. From this starting point, I develop certain Directions: not exactly goals, or resolutions, but ways of being.

One of the Directions was Spend lots of time outdoors. While some of this means jumping on a plane – I’ll be heading off to Corsica to walk the GR20; then, a little later, Sardinia for some sailing and scuba diving – it needn’t be too far away. A couple of years ago, I read an interview in the New York Times, The Virtues of Microadventures, which urged people to find adventure on their doorsteps. I rediscovered the article thanks to Facebook’s On this Day feature, which resurfaced my post with a link to it.

The subject of the interview, Alastair Humphreys, is the author of a book entitled Microadventures. After re-reading the article, I went to his web-site and bought the book. It provides lots of suggestions for short, adventurous activities to do close to home. One of my favourite ideas is that of the 5-9 adventure, using the time midweek that belongs to you, to go off somewhere not too far, right after work, and go and sleep on top of a hill, waking up at sunrise to head back to work.

The first adventure which Humphreys proposes in the book is even simpler. Fix on somewhere, say, a 30-mile cycle ride, or 10-mile walk, away from home, then find your way back. You could use map and compass. Or for added fun, he suggests the Crowsflight app.


Last weekend, running on the muddy woodland trails with a friend, on several occasions we pulled out the OS Maps app to figure out the route to our destination. Google and Apple are useless for this. OS Maps, which has an offline mode, will work perfectly almost anywhere in the UK, and has an outstanding level of detail, especially off road. But we didn’t really need a map, only an idea of the direction in which to travel. For this, Crowsflight is ideal, and it would have been great to have known about it 48 hours earlier. The description on the App Store says:

By combining location data (GPS) with the compass, Crowsflight provides mapless navigation in an intuitive, glance-at-it kind of way.

Basically, you plot your destination and the app shows you the direction of travel, without the need for data transfer, thereby also conserving battery life. Since the compass will always point to your destination, if a path takes you slightly off course, you won’t go too far wrong. Of course, you might find some obstacles on your way, like unfordable rivers or a cliff edge, but these are part and parcel of the adventure.

Part of MEX Inspirations, an ongoing series exploring tangents and their relationship to better experience design.

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