Summers are the time for big adventures. Kids go off to camp, families go on grand vacations, and everyone, in their own way, seeks an escape from the usual surroundings and the monotony of the yearly grind. As a lucky kid growing up in Toronto, summer was always about camp, in my case Camp Ramah, and escaping, for a few weeks, to a very different life.
Summer adventures provide much more than keeping kids busy while schools are out, they are an opportunity for kids to connect to the outdoors, to grow, and to challenge themselves in an endless variety of circumstances and situations that only arise away from the screens and predictability of the classroom.
One of the many casualties of the Covid-19 epidemic, is the childhood summer adventure. Instead of summer camp canoe trips, frisbee games, and family adventures there are more screens, more time indoors and, for the lucky ones, some time at the cottage.The blow is not only financial, to summer camps and ancillary industries, and not only social, although both of these blows are real and deep. The blow is also an issue of physical and mental health.
And yet, while the grand adventure is not available this summer, there is a unique opportunity to discover the power of the microadventure. A microadventure is a short, simple, local, adventure, that is still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding. Microadventures offer a sustainable way of spending time outside and reaping the benefits of time in nature, without the need to uproot your life, travel far away or leave home for weeks at a time.
I discovered the power of the microadventure after graduating from law school at the University of Toronto and moving to spend time in Israel. Upon entering the professional world, grand adventures became harder to come by. Fitting a three week trek into two weeks of vacation, and still finding time to visit my family in Toronto didn’t always work out. So I began to seek microadventures, hiking, biking and rock climbing my way through the weekends. I’d come back from each excursion feeling both physically and mentally rejuvenated.
In Richard Louv’s bestselling book “The Nature Principle” he discusses the “Nature Deficit Disorder,” arguing that in our urbanized societies people, and especially kids, are spending far less time outdoors than did previous generations, and that we are suffering as a result. Indeed, a growing body of research points explicitly to the myriad of health and developmental benefits of time spent outdoors, and, to the decreasing percentage of time contemporary children and people generally spend in the outdoors.
Exploring new trails in the hills outside my Jerusalem home, and heading out to weekend rock climbing excursions with my wife, gave me bite-size tastes of the grand adventures that summers once held. Coming home to Toronto to visit family, I began to seek out microadventures in and around the GTA as well, discovering the beautiful climbing, biking and hiking trails surrounding Toronto.
Sure, heading out for 9-5 adventures or weekend canoe trips may not replace the rich emotional experience of overnight camp, but it can provide a lot of the same benefits as well as the sense of release and freedom that we all need right now. Luckily for those in Toronto, southern Ontario offers fantastic opportunities for microadventures. From mountain biking in Durham Forest, to canoeing in Killarney, to learning to climb on the Niagara Escarpment, Toronto is surrounded by world-class microadventure opportunities.
This summer, with camps and families being forced to innovate in the experiences they can offer, it is the microadventure that is proving to be not only the safest way of recreating, allowing for social distancing and staying in open outdoor areas, but also the best method of giving kids and families the mental and physical release usually triggered by the grand summer adventure.
The added beauty of the microadventure is that it can last long past the summer season. Getting out and discovering new ways to explore Toronto’s beautiful backyard is a year long opportunity. Building the know-how, the skills and the passion for micoadventures provides a healthy, meaningful and exciting way to fill the gaps in our Monday-Friday indoor, screen-filled lives.
While we hope and pray for the Covid-19 epidemic to pass, we also intend to make the most of this summer by discovering more microadventures we never knew were available in our own backyard!
If you’re looking for information and ideas for microadventures near Toronto this summer, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or explore our Summer Adventure Catalogue!