Adventure, The Heroic Life

Why are you scared for me?

Photo by the talented Beth Varro

What is the difference between reading a story and reading this blog?

One major difference is that my own adventures—the ones I share here at Rogue Priest—involve true risks. Unlike a novel, there’s a chance your protagonist will lose or die. On any given leg of my Adventure, even the tamest, it’s possible I’ll meet my end.

That divides my readers into two groups.

Reader A, as we’ll call them, seems unable to distinguish a blog from other forms of entertainment. They read, essentially, because the story of a young man traveling far from home is exciting, just like in a novel or a movie. When I find myself in danger the reality suddenly hits: a human being is risking real injury. In these moments their discomfort becomes tremendous, and they chastise me for being so reckless.

Of course, the recklessness is why they tuned in.

The other kind of reader—Reader B—views me not just as a source of exciting stories, but as a figure on a quest. This type of reader believes in what I’m doing. They relate, on some level, to the main conceit of my philosophy: that challenge is a good thing, and that adventure and travel change lives.

To this kind of reader, the occasional severe risks I face are not horrible lapses of judgment, but a necessary part of living up to my beliefs. And, since these beliefs are to some degree also their own beliefs, they rarely chastise me for the risks I take.

If you find yourself fitting Reader A more than Reader B then the rest of this post probably isn’t for you.

“Damnit Drew!”
—a reader

Risk evaluation is an adventurer’s best skill. All my adventures require a huge amount of planning and preparation, most of which I won’t ever write about. I won’t write about them for the same reason that my favorite adventurer book can’t be a bestseller: because the reality of adventure is boring.

People want the stories. They want the strange characters I meet on the road, the intense love affairs and the coiled rattlesnakes. The fact that I survey bike routes by satellite before I set out, or that I continuously ask locals about road conditions, is not the stuff of legend—or even of particularly popular blog posts. (If you think otherwise, you just might be Reader B.)

The result is that my best dispatches terrify readers, especially the people who love me most. My final ride into Corpus, for example, involved a physically challenging (but relatively safe) trip along a narrow walkway on a bridge. In my video my excitement and enjoyment are palpable. Yet after seeing the footage, my girlfriend very nearly broke up with me.

Of course, it’s difficult to see your loved ones face danger, perhaps even difficult to see a stranger face it. But on the hard and lonely days that leave me shaking with worry, I cannot possibly explain the difference it makes when friends say warm and encouraging things—or the heavy blow I feel when, instead, they add their worry to mine. Their concern, in such moments, seems selfish.

On this earth there’s no one who wants me to come home safely more than I myself do. I give myself to reactive decision-making, a nonstop job that no one ever knows about unless they’re there with me. But no amount of smart risk management can eliminate all risk, and there are days when I have to choose between several terrible options. This is more traumatic for me than it is for anyone else.

In adventure, blood is compulsory.

“I want to stand on windswept bluffs and see the birds below me. I want to sit in ruined temples and imagine the voices of spirits…”

My journey is a reflection of who I am. I believe we each of us can live in a way that expresses our inner being. And I believe such a life is far better than one that’s only happy, or comfortable, or safe.

That’s why I run toward my fears.

When something confuses me I ask about it. When it scares me, I pursue it. I realize that the majority of my loved ones—and my readers—will never share this strange instinct. But it is the instinct that leads me to exploration, and the stories of my exploits cannot be separated from the instinct itself.

It is impossible to believe in me or love me and not believe in, and love, my message. My message is me, it is who I am—I have aligned my life, I struggle to align my life, to reflect my heart.

To me, risk matters little as long as life is lived with purpose.

Is that such a strange conviction?

My novella is inspired partly by my own actual adventure, and mostly by magic. Get Lúnasa Days now in paperback or Kindle.

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15 thoughts on “Why are you scared for me?

  1. You have to remember that the reason why people who love you don’t want you to die is because they have a problem with the way in which they confront their own imminent death. Or rather, part of the problem is that they don’t confront their death. So they think that insofar as they supposedly live forever, so must you, for otherwise you will be depriving them of your presence. And that wouldn’t be good for them. This idea persists at least for as long as people decide to love you – for that can also change all the time, including the love of your mother that will always be the strongest. So indeed, as you point out, if love is involved, then it must include something over and above concern for the other. And that amounts not only to an acceptance of your message, but more so also to a willingness to look at your own death across your concern for how others live out their purpose in life. To make your own death an offering of love is to me a far more interesting way to express why we want some people in our lives than merely telling them, ‘now don’t do anything stupid, because I love you.’ Thus I say, if it should matter any in the context of your life, just carry on.

    • Yes. This is quite it exactly, Camelia.

      Similarly, when someone harshly criticizes me for taking a risk (real or in their imagination), I can’t help but feel this is more for their own conscience than for my safety. After all, they are watching (reading) rapt as I go and live this risky life, making them complicit in some sense; if they truly disapproved they would stop reading. So by warning and criticizing me, they feel absolved of their part of the responsibility for enjoying the blood sport. I mentioned novels and movies above, but it’s really more like watching gladiators.

  2. ==========
    I’ve just recently discovered the late Alan Watts, and that’s his message to all who will hear it, “Do what you desire; don’t pursue money. Better to live a short life filled with doing what you love than a long life filled with tedium, boredom, and misery.” A 3:09 intro here:

    I can’t imagine anything more boring or less intellectually challenging than living a risk-free life. That would quickly become a prison of our own making.
    ==========
    sail4free
    ==========

  3. Sharla says:

    Believe it or not, I’m mostly a “Reader B”. I admire you for following your dreams and overcoming obstacles. You’re my friend and I would hate to see you come to harm, but I believe in you and your journey. But I must say, I’m so glad that you are wearing a helmet!

    • I never would have guessed otherwise, Sharla. And thank you :)

      It’s so funny now, thinking back to when I was anti-helmet. (To newer readers, this was before starting my adventure.) It was purely because I had been raised not wearing them. The day before I started my journey, I unabashedly bought one—and put it on backwards until a friend gently corrected me.

  4. mercyfire@gmail.com says:

    As a soon-to-be-mom I can understand how much criticism hurts. I keep trying to hear the love behind the concern (and all the advice!) but sometimes I just want to say, “This is my journey. I’ve put a lot of thought into it. Can you please just respect my choices?”
    I do find it uncomfortable to read your blog on occasion. I don’t journey in the way you do, but I really appreciate that your experience challenges me to examine my own. Thank you for sharing.
    Oh, and I, too, am glad you wear a helmet. :)

    • Mercy, I didn’t know you’re about to be a mom. Congratulations!

      Also:

      “I really appreciate that your experience challenges me to examine my own.”

      This is what allows me to sleep at night. I’m glad I can play that role, no matter what kind of journey someone is on.

  5. I guess if I had to choose between the two, I’m a reader B. But not exactly. I see you as person capable of making your own informed decisions. It’s your body, your life, your choice. It isn’t for me to agree or disagree with it. Honestly, seeing the adventure is nice, but that’s not why I’m here. I’m here because you’re willing to test your own philosophies out in practice. It’s interesting to watch them grow and change as you do.

  6. It’s your life; only you can live it, and only you will have to live with the regrets of things undone if you don’t give that your all. When I left the US to travel, it was in large part because I knew if I didn’t, I’d spend my whole life regretting and wondering “what if?”. So don’t dismiss the worriers, because they love you and love is a good thing, but at the end of the day your life is *yours*.

  7. “The fact that I survey bike routes by satellite before I set out, or that I continuously ask locals about road conditions, is not the stuff of legend—or even of particularly popular blog posts. (If you think otherwise, you just might be Reader B.)”

    I laughed when I read that, “if you think otherwise, you just might be reader B.” I think it odd even that isn’t posted much, because isn’t this blog about inspiring others to set out and adventure too? I mean, wouldn’t the reader B folks be your target market?

    I personally really enjoyed the video you posted, as I could get a taste of your moment and it was elating. Thanks for sharing that. ^_^

    I use to always venture out and push my risks, especially when it came to tree climbing. So I found it a really odd feeling when, after becoming a parent, I didn’t have that feeling so strongly anymore and became a lot more cautious. I still go out alone on excursions, but its not quite the same extent as it once was – I think mostly because I know someone is depending on me to come back.

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