Dream big, start small: ideas for 10 small-scale adventures – part I

It’s tempting, dreaming about big adventures. But hey, life is happening here and now, and not only when the time and money  is there to finally go on a “life-changing trip”. So let’s put some money aside for the big stuff, but let’s introduce smaller-scale adventures that can change our daily lives. I will share my ideas for some great, but short and inexpensive trips with you and I hope you will do the same in the comment section!

The travel magazines, blog posts with list of “best hikes in the world”, and adventure books usually contain the big stuff: epic, but far away, lenghty or expensive. Inspriring, but not helpful for dreaming small. So, I asked myself the question: what could I do that’s still epic (or at least adventure-proof), but on a small-scale and relatively unexpensive?

Two years ago, I’d never been hiking in the Ardennes, while it’s only a few hours driving to this low mountain range that covers parts of Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and France, and has beautiful forests and rivers. So adventure is basically around the corner, waiting for us.

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Discovering the Belgian Ardennes near Boullion

This year, I even found out that  epic winterhiking is possible in our backyard (i.e. the High Fens of Belgium). So let’s dream big about the endless possibilites for small adventures nearby the ‘low countries’. I thought of places I dream off, went through books, blogs, walking routes, and came up with the following ideas:

1.  Go for a walk in your own city

Dull? Obvious? Not adventerous enough? You may think so, but try, and you might be surprised. I love walking, but in my own city, I bike, or take the metro or car to be as fast as possible from point A to B. Untill recently. I decided to walk more often, and experienced that I noticed so many new things in my city. An old prison that I’d never seen before or beautiful buildings that I’d never paid attention to. Start small, and explore your own city!

2. Section hiking a long-distance trail along the famous Dutch coast

Holland’s Coastal Path (LAW-5-2) starts in Hoek van Holland, which is about 30km from Rotterdam and easily accessed by train, car, bike, or ferry if you would come from the UK. It covers the beautiful coast of the provinces “South Holland” and “North Holland” and it also takes you through the city centers of The Hague and Haarlem. I’m quite excited about this, because I’ve never visited Haarlem, while having the reputation to be a charming city with old buildings (which I love!!) like you find in Amsterdam, but on a smaller scale.

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I walked the first section of Holland’s Coastal Path in 2014. Let’s do another this year!

3. Switzerland on a small scale

Switzerland: Who doesn’t want to spend a long weekend in one of the Alpine countries? Oh my… if it could only be less hours travelling to make that feasible… Well, maybe it can if considering Switzerland on a small scale: ‘Little Switzerland’. Little Switzerland is also known as Mullerthal, which is located in the East of Luxembourg and characterized by a hilly landscape with rockformations, waterfalls, and dense forests. No wonder the nick name. And no wonder I can’t wait to go. It even has its own trail, the 112 km long Mullerthal Trail, which contains 3 routes that can easily be walked continously and seperately. Route 2 is supposed to be the most difficult, to encounter the most rock formations, and to go trough the hart of Little Switersland. No doubt about my choice!

4. The Veluwe

I like the emptiness of the heaths and sand drifts. The beauty of the forests. But it’s mostly the combination of heaths, sand drifts, forest, fens, grassland… A chance to see deer as well.

Located in the East of the Netherlands, the Veluwe offers plenty of outdoor possibilites: from a leisurely day walk or biking tour to a multi day hike (e.g. long distance trails ‘Trekvogelpad’ and ‘Marskramerpad’).

Practical note: some may think that the Veluwe is equal to the National Park ‘de Hoge Veluwe’, but the Veluwe extands to a bigger area, which does not require a visitor’s fee everywhere, except for the national park (10 euro pp).

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5. Packrafting: out of my comfort zone

Apparantly, out of your comfort zone is where the magic happens. This is what I learned from Anna McNuff’s stories. So let’s try this! We don’t need to plan massive trips to get out of our comfort zone. There are probably hundred of small things that you can think of to push your limits. Sleeping outdoors in winter for instance was definitely on this list, but I’m happy I gave it a try (you can read more about that here).

Packrafting* sounds cool to me, but I’m not really a boat person, so I don’t know if I like it. I do want to give it a try though, because it’s really an oppurtinity to cross rivers that form an obstacle when travelling by foot.

For next time, I will definitely think of more things that are just a little out of my comfort zone. Hope you’ll challenge yourself as well, and if packrafting is on your list too, you can find some practical info below.

*What about packrafting? A packraft is basically a raft that you can fold into a small pack and will fit into a backpack. They’re not cheap, so I would definitely advice you to rent one at first. This is possible at packrafting store (Germany) or Off Trail, a small Belgian company founded by Willem van Doorne, an inspirational adventurer who received the Golden Paddle Award of the American Packrafting Association for his solo packrafting traverses in Norway, Greenland, and New Zealand.

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