The Art of the Miniature Adventure: How To Get Away From It All…

Overworked? Run-down? Need a holiday? But you can only spare a couple of days—or maybe just an afternoon? You don’t have to settle for binge-watching Peaky Blinders. You can get away from it all and still be back on Monday, and this week Farwell tells you how. It’s the first of a three-part exploration of the art of the “Miniature Adventure.”

by Farwell Forrest | May 15, 2018
Originally published in different form on May 24, 2005

There were four of us—George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency. We were sitting in my room, smoking, and talking about how bad we were—bad from a medical point of view I mean, of course.

We were all feeling seedy, and we were getting quite nervous about it. … What it was that was actually the matter with us, we none of us could be sure of; but the unanimous opinion was that it—whatever it was—had been brought on by overwork.

“What we want is rest,” said Harris.

“Rest and a complete change,” said George. … “Change of scene, and the absence of the necessity for thought, will restore the mental equilibrium.” …

I agreed with George, and suggested that we should seek out some retired and old-world spot, far from the madding crowd, and dream away a sunny week….

George said: “Let’s go up the river.”

—Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)


Paddling Article on

Sound familiar? I’ll bet it does, even if Three Men in a Boat was written a very long time ago, back when a no-nonsense lady named Victoria ruled an empire on which the sun never set, and the American Civil War was very much a living memory. Yet the complaint voiced by Jerome K. Jerome’s anonymous narrator is still a common one. We all get a bit “seedy” from time to time—though today we’d probably call it “stressed out”—and now and then we all feel the need for “rest and a complete change.” And just like Jerome’s three worried gents, we hope to find the respite we’re looking for by going up a river. Of course, we’re more likely to go down a river nowadays, but then not every river is as tractable as the Thames above Kingston, and whether we travel with the current or against it, the object remains the same. We’re tired or bored with our day-to-day round and we need to escape, at least for a little while. In other words, we want adventure. Or—bearing in mind what Vilhjalmur Stefansson had to say on that subject—we want something that’s as close to real adventure as we can get without actually putting our lives on the line. There’s such a thing as too much change, after all.

That’s the Why of it. But the How can be hard to pull off. Employers don’t always understand our need to get away from it all, particularly if getting away means not being back in the office (or the plant) on Monday morning. Our spouses and partners may have other ideas, as well, or one of the kids may need to be taken to the dentist next Wednesday. And even if our children have all left home and our partner is understanding, the grandkids may be coming to stay for the summer. Whatever the reason, a great many would-be adventurers find the classic lose-yourself-in-the-landscape Big Trip to be an impossible dream, at least in most years.

Does this mean we’re condemned to spend our free time in front of the television, watching professional adventurers doing things we can only daydream about? Fortunately, no. There are thousands of outfitters eager to help cyclists, hikers, and paddlers get away, whether for a weekend or a week. We only need to put ourselves in their hands, and they’ll do the rest, tailoring a trip to suit any window in our schedules. And for well-heeled people this is the perfect solution. But what about those of us who find spare cash as hard to come by as free time? Parents with kids in college, say, or folks just starting out, or any of the millions upon millions of hard-working men and women who do whatever needs to be done for little more than the minimum wage. What can we do to scratch our itch for adventure? Is the Outdoor Channel our only option?

No way! The secret to low-budget escapes lies in thinking small—in the miniaturized adventure, to be exact. As far as I can tell, that happy phrase was coined by writer Richard Frisbie, whose long out-of-print It’s a Wise Woodsman Who Knows What’s Biting Him is the definitive guide to the art of getting away “to the ends of the earth between breakfast and dinner.” I can’t recommend this little gem of a book too highly, but for those of you who don’t find a copy in your local library-turned-cappuccino bar, I’ll offer my own somewhat idiosyncratic gloss on Frisbie’s brainchild. Remember, though, that my suggestions are just that—suggestions. In pursuing the art of the miniature adventure, as in so many other pursuits, the most effective prescription is almost always the one you write for yourself. … Continue on our sibling site, Back in the Same Boat…