fitness · holidays

Radical incrementalism and micro-adventures

As we’re heading into spring (slowly) here in my part of Canada, many of my friends, neighbours, and colleagues are talking about summer vacation plans.

I may be an academic (we’re notorious for not really vacationing and reading and writing while doing so) but I’ve always taken holidays seriously. That is, I take time off work and deliberately get away from my job. I don’t make rules about not reading philosophy or working on papers, and I do do some of that, I do it at my pace and sometimes don’t do it all.

Canadians aren’t Europeans. We don’t tend to take big chunks of time off work. But we aren’t Americans either. We do tend to take some time off during the summer.

That said, this year will be different for me. Spring will begin with 6-12 weeks of medical leave while I recover from knee replacement surgery. I don’t think I’ll feel like vacation right after that. And I’ll have physio twice a week all summer. I don’t think I’ll want to stray too far away from town that often. So this has my mind turning once again to small adventures.

I also enjoyed reading this: Taking Small Adventures Might Make You Just as Happy as Climbing Everest.

“In his book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, Oliver Burkeman briefly references the concept of radical incrementalism. Burkeman writes about psychology professor Robert Boice, who studied writing habits of other academic professionals. Boice found that PhD students who wrote a little bit per day—even as little as 10 minutes—were more productive and less anxious than those who tried to write in big chunks (which they often procrastinated on until they had a deadline coming up).

Radical incrementalism has been mostly embraced in academia, policymaking, and even self-improvement. But I think it’s also an interesting way to look at having more fun: Instead of wishing I had the money and time to take a month or several to do some sort of very notable human-powered adventure to the top of a mountain or across a country, how about doing some less-notable stuff near where I live every week, or every month?” 

I’ve written about this a bit before…

I love the idea of treating weekends like a vacation. So while I don’t plan to take a lot of time off this summer, I’m thinking I will plan lots of long weekends–biking, sailing, swimming, boating, camping…

But I am also thinking some weeknight evening drives to the beach might be in order too. Each summer, at the end, I regret that I didn’t go swimming more often and spend more time at the beach.

Even at work it feels especially summery when I take my lunch outside and chat with friends, or read fiction.

What kind of micro-adventures do you think you might get up this summer?

Water, photo by Nikhil Mitra on Unsplash
advice · fitness · motivation · planning · time

Exercise During Vacation and Work Time

Our blogging team has reflected differently on our vacation exercise: what we did do, what we did instead of what we planned to do, what we imagined doing, and how long we did it (long, short, and ideal).

But we are all thinking about vacation as time that is not non-vacation time. If you’re normally very active, on vacation you can relax. If you are normally too busy for activities, then on vacation you have that time. Vacation is choice: a time to do more (or less) than what you do when you are not vacationing (unless you are retired, but that’s another scenario from which I am still woefully far away).


a list with activities
List and calendar making for holiday activities

This past summer vacation, I wrote out a list of physical and social activities I wanted to do on my own or with friends and family: hiking, biking, kayaking, camping, etc. Then, on the next page I drew wobbly boxes and slotted each list item into my hand-drawn calendar—spreading out the activities but also ensuring I got them all into my vacation time.

Each vacation day I had at least one goal activity to look forward to. I had a blast: two weeks of a high-energy days that were filled with lots of fun and plenty of exercise, neatly all within in my local area.


Now, I am back to my regular work week. Back to the office. And I am kinda down about it.

melancholic woman watching video on laptop at home
Not me, but I feel this sad person with their hands on their cheeks moping. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Even though I still have most nights and weekends for summer exercise, I feel not nearly as motivated and encouraged to be active as I did when I was on my two weeks of holidays. Activity-wise, I peaked during my summer vacation time, then valleyed right after on my non-vacation time. And I am finding that it is not helpful to be this unmotivated, considering that now I exercise more than ever after being back sitting in my office all day!


What’s the learning here, and what’s next for me? It’s a long time away my next two-week vacation!

My vacation activities seemed galvanized by my ability to choose them. Now that I am back to work, I feel I have less free time and less freedom in how I spend my time. Would making another list and wobbly, hand-drawn calendar give me back that “vacation feeling” that would nudge me back to being more active?

Or, perhaps I should try mentally de-coupling my physical activities from my vacation time altogether. Perhaps exercise is the vacation from work, regardless of whether I am off on holidays or not.

Do you notice a difference in your levels of activity transitioning between vacation to work time? How do you manage that transition? What works for you?


Cycling holdays, Part 2: Organized tours in which other people carry the stuff

My favorite holidays involve bicycles. But you know that.

Yesterday I posted about some of our self supported rail trail holidays.  I’d like to do more of those. Easy, inexpensive, and just 3-4 days. But I also love longer trips, especially longer trips in which we take our fast bikes and other people carry all of the stuff. Today I’m looking back fondly on some of the formal tours we’ve done. These are longer, 7-10 days, and involve a lot more riding.

The most luxurious organized tour I’ve done might just be a once in a lifetime treat. It was in Arizona, featured a terrific host, and a lovely neon green bus that accompanied us along the way. Bags were dropped off in our rooms, someone else put air in our bike tires, and gourmet lunches met us en route. We were spoiled silly.

The scenery and riding were incredible. Thanks Bike Escapades. So too were the food and accommodation. We stayed in gorgeous B and B’s and historic inns. This would actually work well as a tour for a serious cyclist and his or her not so serious spouse. Many days we split up the group at lunch sending less serious cycling spouses on ahead to the next town for sightseeing and shopping. Even if I can’t do that exact tour again without winning the lottery, I’d love to go back and ride some of those roads. Amazing cycling country.

Our one hassle was US border security since we were riding so close to Mexico. It seemed every second car was border patrol. We kept our passports in little plastic bags in the back of our bike jerseys because we were stopped a few times. We joked that as Canadians we were actually a little far from our border. If we were trying to enter the United states illegally we’d almost overshot our mark.

Much less luxurious but breathtakingly beautiful and with some terrific riding was my trip with Atlantic Canada cycling up the northwest coast of Newfoundland. That took ten days and while a bus carried all our gear we camped each night in parks and cooked all our own meals. We saw moose and caribou. And lots of mountains. And of course, some rain did fall.

Here’s what the tour company has to say about this trip:

“This tour of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula will not be an everyday bike trip. It will be an excursion of rugged landscape and occasionally challenging elements. Those who accept nature’s challenge will be richly rewarded. To some, the Newfoundland Bicycle Tour will be a challenge, a goal and the satisfaction of completing it. To others, it will be a chance to renew and strengthen friendships, or to make new ones. For a great many, it will be the chance to explore an exotic location. For everyone, it will be an opportunity to see Newfoundland as no other form of travel can. It will be perhaps the most inexpensive, not to mention fun, vacation of the island available.We have planned this trip with adventurous cyclists in mind.”

This trip attracted hardy souls. The tour owner and operator joked that it would be better to go in July but that’s when they do their PEI trip. The people who want to ride in Nfld don’t care about the weather but the people who are going to flat, sunny PEI expect fine days. So it’s Nfld in June. As we warned, the weather wasn’t perfect. This is Newfoundland after all but everyone finished the distance everyday, including a couple in their 70s riding department store hybrid bikes. They set out ahead of us every day and arrived long after but with big grins on their faces. We also had some glorious sunny days. It even went up to about 20 C and locals complained about the heat.

We rode on main highways but got an excellent welcome from local drivers. Most seemed surprised and happy to see bikes on the road.

Where next? Maybe Cuba.