Adventure, The Heroic Life, Travel

How You Can Share the Heroic Life

To chase the Heroic Life is to adventure. To live free, travel as you wish, pursue your art, gleefully face challenges and—always—carry your ideals above you.

This may be a solitary life.

It has been for me. I have a vision of changing that. Seekers, first two or three, then six or eight, then dozens, who travel in loose bands to seek out challenge and choose their fates.

And what will these brave, questioning, wanderlust souls need?

Humanity.

The Heroic Life is not the only way. For every itinerant adventurer there must be a thousand happy householders. The myth of my generation is that everyone wants to travel, everyone wants to adventure. But they don’t. For some it’s not practical, it holds no appeal.

But everyone can share in the Heroic Life. Wandering or settled, errant or rooted, daring or careful: everyone is part of the story.

Sharing What We Have

One conceit of the Heroic Faith is that travel is a spiritual practice. It changes the course of lives, teaches what nothing else will teach, and leads the wanderer to a sense of purpose.

I believe that. I live it.

And I learned that my travels don’t just change me—they can change the people around me.

I came into towns sweaty, tired, feeling broken and ready to sleep. I didn’t feel inspiring. I was grateful for what people gave me, and for what basic comforts I could bring with me.

In the morning I was told: We will never forget you.

In some way that I can’t plan or understand, the very fact of what I’m doing affects people.

I experienced the other side of this, too. In St. Louis and Vicksburg I stayed with other travelers. One, a brilliant photographer, had quit her job to travel around the United States taking pictures. In some ways her story is so similar to mine, in other ways so different (she’s a better planner, for one). But just meeting her and knowing that she was on her quest inspired me, filled me with ideas and hopes.

Travelers have momentum. And we share.

An Even Exchange

If you are not inclined, able, or ready to drop your lifestyle and travel, here is how you can share the Heroic Life: help a traveler.

When you help a traveler, two things happen.

First, you make an immediate and dramatic impact in a human life. Travelers of all kinds, wealthy and boot-strapped alike, have uncertainty in their lives. No amount of money makes up for the freak storm, the broken axel, the missed connection. And no grand hotel can promise that most basic sustenance, human contact.

Helping a traveler reminds them that they are not alone in the world.

At the same time, the traveler has a chance to share with you something they couldn’t share with anyone else. There is no connection as profound as an evening with someone on a different path. When I stayed with a fierce conservative, I felt no hatred for his politics: only a deep sympathy for the loss of his wife. He taught me lessons about love, grief, and the bravery to carry on.

When you first open your door to a traveler, they will be hesitant. They want to make sure they don’t overstep, want to check that you don’t feel obligated.

When they see that the offer is made with love, the traveler will feel a sense of refuge. Something as simple as a shower or a beer can be a poignant reminder of the goodness in the world.

And as they replenish they will begin to share with you, and learn eagerly what you have to share.

We carry our gods with us, but where do we find them? In the voices and actions of the people who treat us with love.

There are many ways to help a traveler. Pull over on the roadside when you see a breakdown. Talk to backpackers, bicyclists and hobos when you see them. Register with Couchsurfing.org and offer your floor or couch or spare bed for a night.

In the end, no one is a hero. But we can always choose to help each other. That is the great strength of our species, and the reason I love humanity.

Has anyone ever helped you when you didn’t expect it?

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8 thoughts on “How You Can Share the Heroic Life

  1. Colleen says:

    This post reads much differently to a woman, a Oide. I cannot afford to stop on the side of the road, nor can I freely let someone into my home. In fact, let me broaden that, and say that this reads very differently to many that have a higher risk of violence: women, POC, queer and trans* individuals. While I try to help, it’s always in the back of my mind that my help must be offered with my safety in mind.

    • I think putting your safety first is important. But I don’t think it’s incompatible with helping strangers.

      Couchsurfing.org is a good example. I wouldn’t recommend a single woman invite strangers into her home, but plenty of single women do just that with pre-screened strangers on Couchsurfing. I was hosted by a number of women including an older woman who lived alone.

      I don’t begrudge anyone looking out for themselves, but I don’t believe fear should betray kindness. Often there are practical steps that allow you to be both safe and kind.

      Do you think that’s too optimistic?

  2. Are women as a category truly more vulnerable in this respect? I can, but yes, you need to have discernment as well. You cannot let anybody in. But there ways to determine what the risks are. And as a woman, perhaps naively, I do not necessarily feel more unsafe. This used to be different, but learning martial arts does help I found. And as soon as I do feel unsafe I feel free to dis-invite anyone.

  3. Carla says:

    Love this post, Drew! As a single young woman, I was at first hesitant to welcome strangers (obviously) but I really believe people should give it a chance. Couchsurfing is just a great tool, and it does not have to be a couch, but it could be a coffee, or dinner in a public place or offer your local knowledge for a day or an afternoon. I think our generation and the one before us had been raised to be so fearful that sometimes we forget how responsive people can be to a kind gesture. Obviously, use your judgement when trying to be nice, haha. But So far I’ve welcomed my house to about a dozen of travelers (Drew included) sometimes when my room mate is out of town. Every single soul has been great, in fact it is always a bit disappointing when guests stay for only one night. I learn so much from each and everyone that comes to the house! As of right now, it is a bit impractical to live the way some of these travelers live (given my profession of choice, mostly) so I comfort in the idea of being a good relaxing and enjoyable host.

    I would not doubt one minute hosting any of my previous hosts once more. Even more, If someone would really want to do harm, they have all the chances in the world to do so. But it is hard to see kindness if you are not willing to give it a chance!

    My two cents, :-)

    • Thanks Carla. You’re one of the people I had in mind :) I kind of want to get back to VIcksburg now…

      I think you make a great point:

      Every single soul has been great, in fact it is always a bit disappointing when guests stay for only one night. I learn so much from each and everyone that comes to the house!

      Many people let their fear stop them from ever having this experience, but this positive outcome is overwhelmingly what I had seen with hosting or meeting travelers.

  4. I first commented on my phone, and sacrificed clarity for brevity. (I know better!) Let me first clarify slightly…

    First, you cannot tar an entire group of people with one brush. Women are individuals, POC are individuals, etc, and no two individuals will respond the same way to the same stimulus (or idea). So while I am female and queer, I am certainly not speaking for all queer females, only myself.

    And I don’t think it’s impossible to help strangers and be a woman. What I do believe is that a woman, or other individual who is not white, male, straight, cisgendered, or traditionally able-bodied approaches this essay from a different point of view than Drew.

    When I read this, I wasn’t saying to myself “I could never do that!” I was saying “wow, there are a lot of things I have to take into account that many things that others don’t.”

    I think helping others is incredibly important, but you get to choose how you’re comfortable doing that.There are many ways I try to connect with my community without compromising my safety. Stopping on the side of the road isn’t one of them, because that doesn’t come out in my favor on my cost-benefit analysis.

    So, my argument was not at all that the theme was inappropriate, it was assumptions that seemed to underlie writing the piece. Again, I’m sorry that wasn’t clear, and I hope that no one, regardless of gender or any other “marker” thinks I was trying to speak on their behalf. As always, I can only speak to my own experiences.

    • I think the point is well taken. It’s different for different individuals depending on where they’re coming from.

      I also thought it was implicit. There’s no reason to read “you should help strangers” as “you should help strangers in the most dangerous way possible.” Hopefully that was not how my post came across.

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