Sometimes I realize that a thing I do is quite Pagan without ever having consciously linked the behavior to my belief system. At some point over the last decade, I began to prize experiences over objects.The growing awareness that most objects do not get recycled (including the “recyclable” ones), and that most items we purchase ultimately end up in a landfill pushed me further and further away from acquiring and gifting physical things. I changed the way I give gifts as a result. Today, I want to tell you how that works for me in case you’re starting to feel uncomfortable about all the stuff as well.
I blew up my life many years ago now, and had to liquidate an entire household at the end of that marriage. I was shocked at how little I wanted to keep – some clothes, some family memorabilia, the books I read and referenced the most, a little bit of jewelry…maybe a carload of stuff total. The only mistake I made and thing I miss was the vacuum (if you’re ending your marriage and you own a Dyson Animal, add that to the “keep” stack). Within the huge number of items I sold at a yardsale, donated to charity, or tossed, were a large number of gifted things. Ultimately, when I made the break to leave a life grown poisonous, I walked lightly into the future.
That experience and the knowledge gained from it remained with me. To this day, I tend not to have a lot of stuff. It’s a little unusual for someone who identifies strongly with crow energy. Overall, we tend to be keepers of pretty rocks, shiny things, mementos, and other objects. I do have a hoard, though: it’s experiences. Memories. Knowledge. Non-tangible items that I actively seek out.
There’s a wonderful term I learned years ago: micro-adventure. A micro-adventure is an activity that occurs well within driving distance of your home and generally takes only one day, or is an overnight experience at the most. Micro-adventures are frequently inexpensive and require little in the way of logistics – get there, have fun, go home. This blog is all about how micro-adventures work in my world in case the concept appeals to you as much as it did to me.
Distance: The longest drive I’ve ever taken for a micro-adventure is three hours one way (for a museum exhibit in Philadelphia that my spouse and I really wanted to see). Most of my smaller adventures take place within an hour of home. Google maps is great for figuring out an adventure territory around where you live. For my part, I focus on the 60 miles around my home in all directions, making a rough circle. That’s a LOT of territory – nearly 3,000 miles if you calculate for the area of a circle with your home in the center. Expand to an hour and a half’s drive and you’re up around 6,000 miles. It’s worth actually looking at a map. In my region, there’s a lot of gravitational pull toward Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, MD. But places like Oakland, MD, Luray, VA, and Harrisburg, PA, are all about the same distance from my own home. It’s easy to forget about them since they don’t loom quite as large in public conversation, but all of them are good destinations for a micro-adventure.
Experiences: There are so many possibilities for things to do as part of a micro-adventure! I’ll give you my favorites, but please add your own interests to this list.
Nature: I love activities that bring me into natural environments, and the entrance fees for most state and national parks are very low. When you look at the map, are there parks you haven’t been to yet? Go visit. See what’s there. Take a picnic with you. I discovered my favorite park in Maryland (Swallow Falls State Park) by going on a micro-adventure. If you have a little more disposable income, look for natural attractions. I live in part of the world that has a lot of cave systems, and I find them fascinating and beautiful. We have big, fancy, cave systems like Luray Caverns, but there are also smaller caves to explore: Echo Dell, Crystal Grottoes, Black-Coffey Caverns, and more. Some activities can take you into nature and add even more to the adventure. If you’re a bit of an adrenaline fanatic like me, look for local climbing and zip-line parks.
Botanical Gardens: One of my personal hacks for getting through the cold, dark season is visits to Botanical Gardens that include greenhouses and conservatories. There are five botanical gardens within an hour and a half’s drive of my home. Again, keeping an eye out for discount codes and deals on passes makes these visits even more affordable. Rawlings Conservatory in the Baltimore area doesn’t even have passes – they encourage a $5 donation. Hard to argue with an adventure that costs less than a pack of toilet paper.
Museums: Using some coupon-clipping and deal-searching skills, museum visits can be very affordable. Even when I’m not fanatical about the focus of a museum (art museums are a good example – I love art, but it’s not my passion), I always enjoy my visits and end up learning something. Museums are a great option for cooler weather and folks who need places to sit and pause along a journey.
Zoos and Animal Encounters: I know there’s a discussion to be had around the ethics of zoos and other animal enclosures, and I do make a point to look into any animal-related business I frequent for their ethics and practices. If zoological parks of various kinds are within your ethical comfort zone, spending a day in the company of our non-human family is wonderful. Some zoos also offer animal encounters for an additional fee. My sister and I got to pet (and scritch) a rhinoceros named Tony during an animal encounter. For a milestone birthday (and a price tag scaled appropriately), we swam with otters. I’ve never been sorry for spending a day at a zoo or an aquarium. Again, watching for coupons and pass specials of various sorts is a great idea.
Workshops: I love workshop experiences. There are so many fun classes available for absolute beginners that can introduce you to a new skill. I’ve taken blacksmithing at Ms. Caitlin’s School of Blacksmithing, made a glass pumpkin at McFadden Art Glass, created a painting at a local Paint Night, etc. I prioritize things I haven’t tried before – I’m a good cook, and cook a lot already, so cooking classes aren’t on my list, for instance. Look into classes and workshops in your area. My region includes everything from opportunities to try throwing pottery on a wheel to learning to skin and tan your own animal hides.
Upon reading it over, one of the things that sticks out the most about this list is the individual nature of these experiences. I go for things where I’m personally interacting with my environment, an activity, or both. I don’t consider seeing shows micro-adventures simply because they’re me watching someone else have an experience. Those can still be amazing – I definitely go to live theater and buy tickets for Cirque du Soleil when they come through town – but they don’t scratch the same itch for me.
Gifting: There are a few ways to get into the habit of giving experiences rather than things.
Talk about it and make a change: This was the route my spouse and I took. We now figure out how much we would normally spend on a birthday, Yuletide, or anniversary gift and turn that amount into an adventure. We do like to surprise each other – most of the time, the recipient of the gift doesn’t know where they’re going or what we’ll be doing when we get there. The exception to that is Yule, when we combine our budgets for a larger adventure.
Select the experience and purchase it: A few different cities and regions have a cool concept called a City Pass. This pass is generally good for a stated window of time and includes admission to multiple attractions. The Philadelphia Pass is a great example. This plan also applies to gift certificates for experiences that do not have a specific date attached to them. For an outdoor enthusiast, did you know that there’s a National Park pass? Maryland, where I live, also has a State Park pass. They’re exactly what they sound like: free entry to the parks for an entire year. Make sure to really think about the experience you’re gifting – I think there’s a tendency to give people things that *we* want, not necessarily what *they* want.
Create your own gift certificate: I love this option. Create and print out a gift certificate for a shared adventure: “The holder of this gift certificate is entitled to one trip to the Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania with me on a date of their choosing.” If you know your gift recipient is comfortable with surprises, you can even just gift “an adventure” and add a couple little clues (“wear good clothes for movement,” “remember your swimsuit,” “you’ll want sturdy shoes for this,” etc). Canva.com is a free, user-friendly graphic creation website and has lots of editable examples for gift certificates if you’d like to make your own.
How to go: This is probably the most important bit. A perspective that comes naturally to me is being awed by beauty or complexity. The thing is, you have to choose to be present and intentional in order to experience some of the deeper, more beautiful feelings in life. We’re almost always tethered to distraction devices of some sort at this point. I remember going on a hike with a close friend and every time we paused, they were on their phone. You miss a lot when you do that. Some of how I stay present is by really connecting to my senses. I think about what I see, how the ground feels, what I smell, what sounds are around me. I look with an eye toward approval – I’m there with a positive attitude, looking for opportunities for joy and admiration. If my phone does make an appearance, it’s because I’m taking photos and really immersing myself into the beauty of what I’m capturing in a picture. Remember, the “do not disturb” feature is your friend.
The older I get, the more I value time spent with my loved ones and moments of exploring some of the things this beautiful blue planet and her beings have to offer. So, that’s my list of micro-adventures and how I gift them to others. What did I miss? What are your favorite micro-adventure ideas? Hit me up in the comments. You never know when your idea is exactly what another witch needs to see.
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