Live Large Pack Small

Live Large Pack Small is a Cosmic Bikes offshoot built around Brompton Bicycles, and the theme of packing maximum adventure into the most compact package possible.

The idea was inspired by the amazing packability and portability of a Brompton. It’s true that you can live large and pack small with any bike (some of which appear in the included images, and which we will definitely feature in upcoming posts), however a Brompton’s ability to transform itself from a relatively small piece of luggage to fully capable personal conveyance definitely expands the horizons of local adventurers, and begs the question of what other compact pieces of equipment can be used in similarly world-expanding ways.

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It also casts the very idea of adventure in a different light. What typically springs to mind is a picture of rugged landscapes, exotic peoples and animals, and a nomad, who has found the guts to escape the corporate grind, making his or her way among them. But what if adventure is possible without making a grand exit, a radical departure from life as it is? Would you be doing it “wrong” if instead of going on an epic journey, you opted for frequent local trips? Do you have to go big, or could compact, small, local adventures also have a world-expanding and worldview-altering potential? And could small journeys give you the respite, perspective and space to make any yearning of a grand escape completely moot?

Of course, I am not knocking the idea of exploring the world. It’s just that for many of us, frequent long-distance travel is expensive and impractical because of job, family and other life necessities. And —frankly— even though we get fed up with jobs, politics, gossip, obligations and commitments, many of us simply like to have a place to call home.

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Fortunately, it turns out that you don’t have to cross the ocean (or even state lines) to find hidden gems that will exhilarate and recharge you, and fill you with awe and wonder.

Live Large Pack Small is my lens for looking deeper into these ideas, through visiting the amazing (and largely unsung) treasures of the Midwest region, and the hidden corners around Chicago. A couple of years ago, when both my husband and I turned 52, we set a challenge for ourselves to have 52 adventures in 52 weeks.

Without leaving our jobs (running a neighborhood bike store in Chicago), without leaving our family or household (two older kids, four cats and a garden), we set out to seek places and experiences accessible from our own front door to within no more a few hours of our NW Side of Chicago epicenter. I started jotting down tried and true trails, but as I sought ways to link them together, I found myself running down all sorts of interesting rabbit holes, and soon found more possiblities for local explorations than a year’s worth of weeks could accommodate.

There are literally zillions of ways to experience outdoor adventure around Chicago, the Lake Michigan region, and the Midwest. Using my earlier experiences as a point of departure, Live Large Pack Small will highlight interesting destinations around Chicago and throughout the Midwest to explore when you have anywhere from just a few hours to a week+ for your adventure.

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Throughout this exploration my principles will be:

  • Go Small. Apply this small scale mindset to your equipment, packing strategy, time allotted, distance traveled and planning process. The less you bring, the less time you spend getting there and planning, the more you can leave to chance and whimsy.

  • Go Silently. Our adventures will center around the silent sports: biking (of course), but also walking and hiking, paddling, camping — and maybe cross country skiing.

  • Go Local. From ultra-local out-your-front-door explorations to week-long trips, we’ll focus on what outdoor pursuits Chicago and the Midwestern region have to offer.

  • Go Frequently. Some of our tour and expedition-length trips might require more than a week’s time, and you may be able to do that only a couple of times a year. But the idea of day trips and overnights is to encourage you to seize these opportunities all the time.

  • And, above all: don’t wait.