THE MICROADVENTURE – 20 FREE IDEAS FOR QUICKLY ESCAPING IT ALL
By Jo McCarthy
We know how beneficial a mini-break can be; a weekend away can be the perfect time to relax and unwind. In the real world, it can feel like a mammoth task to get away from the daily grind. By the time the school holidays roll back around, you often feel like a frazzled zombie.
What if we started to have quick, 60-minute breaks? The idea of the micro-adventure or one-hour vacation is becoming ever-more popular; taking a bit of time out, every now and then, can help to keep your stress levels at a manageable level.
A micro-adventure can also be a great way to feel like a tourist in our own towns and discover hidden gems that we might pass by in our daily routine.
We have rounded up 20 ideas for quick, one-hour (or less!) ‘vacations’.
Change your daily commute
If you walk to school with the kids, look at fun ways to change the usual route. Walk down the backstreets; use chalk to draw arrows on the pavement; make up stories about the people who live in the houses you pass. Try to activate their imaginations as well as their bodies! Londoners have the longest commute to work in Europe, so why not use that time to take a one-hour vacation?
Resist the urge to work! If you take the bus or train to work, could you walk a few stops or jump off earlier than usual? Try to break up the daily grind by being seeing your commute through the eyes of a visitor. Is there an old building you could learn more about? Is there a pretty street you could stop to photograph? You’ll be amazed how you not only feel more energised but more creative – surely that is how you want to feel after a holiday?
Walk around the City on a Sunday
An empty city means you can get a close up view of the amazing architecture in this part of town. Whilst you walk around, research the history of streets such as Bleeding Heart Yard and meander around the Inns of Court at your leisure.
Use Instagram as a Travel Guide
Dedicate just 60 minutes to exploring a new area using Instagram as your guide. Creative photographers tend to notice the small details that many of us don’t. Use the geotags to see other people’s photos of where you are, and use specific hashtags such as #doorsoflondon to seek out photogenic areas to discover.
Geocaching is a free treasure hunt. To play, you will need to use the free Geocaching app or a GPS device to navigate to ‘geocache’ containers that have been cleverly hidden somewhere. There are millions of geocaches around the world and the whole family can get involved in finding them.
RELAX AND UNWIND
Make your own natural beauty products
Look after your skin with natural products made from kitchen leftovers. Use left over coffee granules to make a body scrub – just mix one-part coconut oil, one-part brown sugar and one-part coffee granules and mix thoroughly then gently scrub away. If you make too much, share it with friends. It will relax you every time you have a wash.
Take a Really Long Bath
If you don’t have a bathtub, maybe you can pop round to a friend’s home. Light some candles, pour your favourite drink and listen to some relaxing music. Practicing self-care like this shouldn’t just be reserved for your holiday time. Breathing in essential oils and letting the concerns of the week float away can be extremely restorative.
Listen to a Podcast
These free programmes can be educational, entertaining and thought-provoking and can whisk you away to another world for less than an hour. Setting time aside each week to listen to a podcast can feel like such a treat that doesn’t have to be reserved for your holiday.
GET OUT INTO NATURE
Wander Around a Flower Market
Take an hour to meander around one of London’s beautiful flower markets. The New Covent Garden Market in Vauxhall is for serious early-birds – doors open at 4am, and you’ll see the most talented florists gather their blooms for the day. If you are taking your one-hour vacation on a Sunday, head to the East End for the Columbia Road flower market. It is every Instagrammers dream!
Visit a Free Garden
The Barbican Conservatory is open on selected Sundays and on Bank Holidays and has one of the most beautiful oases in London. Community gardens such as the Phoenix Garden in the West End (which has the West End’s only frogs!) are lovely escapes.
Walk Around a Park on your Own
London is one of the greenest capital cities in the world. Walking around one of the 1,700 parks is a great way to spend an hour of your day and will give you that relaxing holiday buzz in no time. Did you know that there are secret tunnels under Greenwich Park?
Have you ever stood at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park and told the world how you really feel? Or maybe try walking the three miles from the Houses of Parliament to Olympia through parkland – you will pass through Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and St James Park in an unbroken line of greenery. After your walk, reward yourself with coffee and a good book.
Water your own Plants
It's been proven over and over again that tending for a garden or for indoor plants if that what you have can do wonders for your mental health. Put on some relaxing tunes (or uplifting, if that’s the mood you want) and take time to go around your home tending to your garden.
Surrey Docks Farm in Rotherhithe is a fantastic example of an urban farm in the capital and entrance is free. Take the kids for an hour and have that feeling of being on a country escape! It’s open every day, so it could become a regular part of your routine. Spitalfields City Farm also has free entry, and hosts interesting events such as the Kid’s Kitchen. The tea room is also worth a visit!
TAKE AN HOUR TO PLAY
Write Postcards from Home
Living in London is like living in a movie-set – at least that’s how some of your friends and family might see it if they don’t live in the capital! Pretend you are on holiday by spending an hour to sit down with a stack of postcards and stamps and write about the things you have noticed about London (and not just the weather!). Get the kids involved too – it will help their recall and observation skills!
Play Traditional Games
Grab your colleagues at work during the lunch break, or the kids after school, and spend an hour just playing games. Board games, card games, Banagrams...whatever it might be, just relax into letting your inner child come out. These are the kinds of games we like to play on holiday when we have more time, so make time during your week to switch off and have some free, wholesome fun. For more ideas on how to keep the kids happy at home – for free – check out this article: School Holiday Ideas When Stuck Indoors.
Remember those hazy nights on holiday when you let your hair down? Recreate this feeling at home with the kids or on a night out with your friends. Do you work with a salsa dancer? Can they teach you new skills at lunchtime? Look out for free gigs and don’t wait for a holiday to let loose on the dance floor.
ENJOY SOME CULTURE
Free Lunchtime Concerts
London is overflowing with free musical events. The Royal College of Music hosts lunchtime (and rush-hour) free concerts which will no doubt transport you into holiday mode, at least for an hour. Every Friday lunchtime, The Royal Festival Hall at the South Bank Centre hosts free music events.
Visit a Tourist Spot
How often do we just whizz by London tourist spots? Take a tour of a part of London that is new to you, and try to see the city with excited, tourist’s eyes.
Watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, take photos in the Tate Modern; outside the blue door in Notting Hill, pose on the South Bank. Trek to Little Venice and discover a new café and go celebrity-spotting in Primrose Hill!
Plug-in after school treats to keep that school holiday feeling alive. Don’t go for hours – 60 minutes here and there is plenty. Many museums stay open later on a Friday night - The British Museum is open until 8.30pm the National Gallery is open until 9pm and Tate Modern is open until 10pm. Going later in the evening has that buzz of a weekend break about it!
Learn a Language
Why wait until you are on holiday to feel like you are immersing yourself in another culture? Try taking an hour a week to learn a new language. Free apps such as Duo Lingo mean that learning a language is easier than ever – they even offer lessons in Klingon! Look out for people in your community who speak your chosen language that you can inflict with your terrible pronunciation – but don’t give up!
Sometimes, you just really do need to get away from it all for longer than an hour!
Let us know in the comments how you like to de-stress and unwind without travelling too far from home.