10 Things I Learned From My First Adventure In Misery

MikeachimThe Everyday13 Comments


A week ago, I slept on the beach, in the rain. Here’s why.

So, Mike – that microadventure where you were going to walk up the coast and sleep rough? Was it a triumph? Can you tick that one off the list?

Here’s a list of things I learned, that day and the next.

1. Walking On Sand With A Backpack Is Exhausting.

Duh, Mike.

Ten miles on sand feels like fifteen or twenty on firm ground – unless you’re being fancypants and using Vibram FiveFingers trainers, which allegedly allow you to go jogging on packed sand if that’s your chosen flavour of misery.

2. On Sand, I Can Do Ten Comfortable Miles A Day, Or Fifteen Miserable Ones

On day 1, I chose the latter course.


3. The Distance From Hornsea To Flamborough Is 20+ Miles


4.  I Can’t Walk To Flamborough Head In One Day

Well…not yet I can’t.


5.  The East Coast Of Yorkshire, Between Hornsea And Bridlington, Is Frequently A Magnificent, Crumbling Mess Of Eroding Cliff, Rotting Concrete And Shattered World War 2 Architecture

I may be making this sound a bad thing. That’s not my intention. I found it fascinating – in a faintly Pripyat kind of way.

6. The Stretch Of Beach Just Before Bridlington Is Perfect For A Bivvy-Bag

The view is lovely, there’s usually a good stiff breeze that’s ideal for chasing sand-fleas away, and there are great grass-topped bites out of the low cliff where you can bed down for the night, laying on your back, watching a gorgeous sunset fade into a sky aglitter with stars, horizon to horizon.

7. It Doesn’t Matter How Gorgeous The Sunset Is – It Can Bloody Well Rain At Any Time

Say, 2.30am. And it can keep raining – even in deepest summer. It can even keep raining solidly until noon the next day, only to break into baking sunshine as you drag your sodden walking boots off at the back door and collapse on the kitchen floor, moaning in horror.


8. Incredibly, Hunka Bivvy Bags Are Waterproof

I was thinking that bivvy bags worked like flysheets – they deflected the rain, but whatever they touched got wet. This is not the case. The rain started at 2.30am (I checked the time on my phone, which was safely wrapped in one of a number of electronics-saving Tesco freezer bags), and after checking everything critical was water-protected, I rolled onto my side and pulled the hood of the bivvy-bag over,  leaving a gap so I could breathe.

The rain lashed me for 4 hours – and I remained completely dry inside my sleeping bag.

I’d never have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it.

9. How Did I Do At My First Microadventure?

Let’s see how I did.

1. Your journey must start and finish at your front door. Yes!

2. You must cover, through non-motorised means, a circular journey of at least 30 miles (or a distance that is moderately difficult for you). Yes!

3. It must take at least 24 hours. Yes!

4. You must sleep outdoors (no tent) in a place you have never been before. YES!

5. You must have an outdoor swim. I considered it. I looked over the top of my bivvy-bag at 6am, down through the curtains of rain to the churning grey sea, and I considered how committed I was to ticking this point off the list. I watched for a while, noting how even the seagulls were absent, and how the beach looked a lot colder than the sea, which created a little story in my mind – a horror story, with myself as the main character and the audience shrieking “don’t do it!” And I realized that I saw their point. And then I went back to sleep. Deal with it, world.

6. Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men. Oh great, you could have told me that before I went through the existential agony of point 5? Well, anyway.

VERDICT: B-minus. (Borderline Pass.)

10. You Get A Lot Of Thinking Done When You Go Walking

In this case, about the importance of endings.

All images: Mike Sowden. All views, too – and no, the folk behind the Hunka bivvy-bag didn’t sponsor this post or any of that malarkey. If you’re one of them, hey, make me an offer! As long as it involves money. Thanks.

  • Hah… I once experienced the similar situaton. It started raining and thundering after I climbed over the mountain and I had to stay the whole night with the Buddhist monks there.

  • Hunka should SO sponsor you retrospectively. You certainly made me want one. I was thinking of buying a tent, but this sounds so much easier.

  • Mike,

    Good to see you survived your first microadventure! I’m contemplating my first, but I can’t get past the sleeping rough thing. Sleeping in a bivvy just seems like a way to conveniently package myself for bears or serial killers. Maybe there’s such a thing as microadventure light?

  • Nick

    B+, you are too hard on yourself.

    I also assumed the same as you about bivvy bags. So they are basically a waterproof jacket for your sleeping bag? Do you get condensation inside, like you often do even with ‘breathable’ waterproofs?

  • This microadventure sounds pretty great to me!

  • I am so impressed that you survived! :)

  • sharon miro

    I love this and will carry your criteria with me on my next trip…does a – star
    hotel count as sleeping outside?

  • haha Mike, that’s some story! You are a survivor. I’m glad you said this coz usually it’s always the romantic adventure tales minus the bummers that are told. It was time somebody burst the bubble. And yes travel does give you a sense of humour ;)

  • A young blog writer taking her babysteps

    Oh sugar, I can only imagine what a miserable and execrable few days you had! You still left me two questions to chew on:
    1. Was your micro adventure only complete misery 24/7, or did you also have brighter moments?
    2. How on earth did you manage to survive?!?
    Anyhow, to change to a jollier subject, I want to give you an A++ for your magnificent talent of writing in such an interesting and entertaining way! You blog is true perfection in general, and it always gives me such a desire to go abroad!
    There is no doubt that you are an adventurous person. I mean, who would get such a spontaneous idea of sleeping/living on a beach? That is also a big factor that makes your blog so interesting to read! You have pretty much mastered this era of jotting down on the social media about your own experiences of locomoting, or as normal people would call it: running a travel blog.
    Your on the right track, my friend! Keep that up! x

  • Hi Mike,

    Personally, I’m impressed. I love your photos as they are strong images of nature and wilderness, and yes, images of random mutterings. I also like your writing “voice”. In fact, it was this article that brought me to your website in the first place.

    I only wish that I could go to one of your workshops but as I live in Germany….

    I’m hoping that I’ll be brave enough to go to one of the blog events in the future as my blog is just one week old LOL!

  • Nice post. It gives great pleasure walking on sand.

  • Hello mike,
    I really want to try this microadventure.. it sounds pretty interresting to me.. I really love the reasons you gave about spending your night on beach..

  • This sounds like an amazing experience! I think it’s great to challenge yourself in this kind of way, and however much it may have rained, sleeping on the beach is not something you’re likely to forget in a hurry.

    Good job!