Why Micro-Adventures Should Be on Your List This Year 

Do any of these adventures sound familiar to you? The crunch of a fat bike’s tires on a snowy trail. The hush of snowshoes sinking into powder through a forest corridor. Excited shrieks from people zipping down an extreme tubing hill. The laughter of friends carrying across a vineyard in winter. 

Getting outside in any season is a great way to enjoy Michigan in any season, and micro-adventures are among the newest trends in travel. These tiny getaways can last a day or just an afternoon. They can focus on one fun activity, or pair things like hiking and biking with an outdoor picnic. 

The micro-adventure concept has been around for years, but it’s being embraced more these days by people across the country. The idea can be traced back to originating in the United Kingdom, where it is billed as a way to have a very short vacation or day trip that gets people outside. The key is to make these adventures simple, local and inexpensive. 

Snowshoeing is one micro adventure activity.

The COVID-19 pandemic and growing remote work atmosphere has helped to fuel the micro-adventure spread in Michigan, tour operators say. Solo or small-group activities are safer in this era of social distancing, and the changing way a lot of people work these days makes half-day trips more attractive and easier to schedule. 

In 2021, people seem to have a renewed focus on taking their vacation time, partly because of the uncertainty they lived through in the early COVID-19 era. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, U.S. workers left about a third of their paid time off unused in 2020. At the same time, many workers added about an hour to their workdays and took fewer breaks. 

Bite-sized fun. All these factors funnel into people’s determination to pencil themselves into their own schedules. Pre-planned micro-adventures have proven to be a popular option that fills that niche, some Michigan travel and tour operators said. 

Nick Wierzba, owner of Grand Traverse Bike Tours and Suttons Bay Bikes, said the pandemic prompted him to shift his company’s guided trips to wineries and other venues on the Leelanau Peninsula to the self-guided micro-adventure model. He expects that to continue. This winter, his tour company offered half-day adventures based around snowshoeing across vineyards or fat tire biking along the Leelanau Trail. Many are packaged with delivery of a hot lunch, or an outdoor igloo reservation at a local brewery. 

“We want to share the best of winter in Northern Michigan in bite-size pieces that everyone can enjoy,” Wierzba said. “We have combined our favorite activities with our favorite places to visit. These mini-tours are not too strenuous, and they take you to new places.” 

Pick your adventure. Another nearby source for micro-adventures is the M22 apparel brand, which celebrates all things tied to Michigan’s famous 117-mile scenic road that skims a handful of beach towns before ending in Traverse City. The M22 company has published a book detailing 30 tiny trips you can take in Northern Michigan. They focus on hiking near Sleeping Bear Dunes, paddling an inland lake, biking along a picturesque trail – even the best spots for freshwater surfing.  

“There hasn’t been a more perfect time to get outside and explore,” said Nick Madrick, chief operating officer of the Traverse City business. “One of the things we’ve been saying is: explore closer to home. Even if these micro-adventures aren’t right near you, there might be some activities right out your back door that you haven’t thought of. Some fresh air, beautiful scenery and activity that pushes you a little bit is healthy.” 

Good for your mental health. Research has shown that vacations are good for us, but micro-adventures pair two kinds of health benefits. Even a few hours away from work offers a mental break and can make you feel better, especially at times when your job is stressful. Pairing that with outdoor exercise is good for your body, too.  

 If little getaways are easy to take, chances are you’ll make time for them more often. This frequency also has big benefits. A recent study from Washington State University showed that frequent travelers reported being up to 7% happier than those who did not travel as often. So set aside some time just for you and get ready to plan your next micro-adventure. 

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Photo credit: Grand Traverse Bike Tours

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