The Great Adventure, The Heroic Life

Launching the Great Adventure

Greetings Rogue fans.

Some of you have been waiting 23 days on the edge of your seat, as the counter to the Big Announcement ticked down.

Others have been waiting much longer, since I first hinted that a big change was brewing.

And some of you have been asking yourselves all along, who is this guy? How can he talk about the heroic life if he’s not out living it? When does he do something big?

Today. It starts today.

Launch Sequence

As these words go live on the blog, an official announcement is being made at the museum where I work, telling my coworkers that I’m resigning.

No, I didn’t find a higher-paying job (it wouldn’t be worth it; my current job is awesome). No, I’m not going back to school. I don’t have a terminal illness, either, that I know of.

I’m going on an adventure. The purpose of this adventure is to meet the gods.

When I first started Rogue Priest, I wrote:

My goal is to travel the world, learn as much about myself as I can, and help people in any way I can… as I travel into third world countries, into areas that may be impoverished or politically unstable, my goal is to do more than just get by. To be more than a visitor or an NGO worker. I want to truly meet people along the way, to work beside them and live with them, to look into their eyes and meet the gods we carry with us.

So now I’m starting.

My thirtieth birthday is August 31, 2011. As my friends rock out at my birthday party, I will quietly bike out of Minneapolis. And begin to live my purpose in life.

That bike ride will be the beginning of a series of short trips, which will prepare me for my Great Adventure in 2012. What is the Great Adventure?

I will walk from Minneapolis, MN to Brazil, crossing two continents under my own power. 

My approximate route.

The Journey of a Lifetime

We studied South America in World History class when I was 12. I can still see the picture at the beginning of the chapter, a giant waterfall in the Amazon. The more I read the more fascinated I became. After that I always knew I would travel across South America someday.

In college I decided I would walk there, because that will let me travel slowly. I want to get to know people and communities—and the land. I want to live immersively, not as a tourist.

After college I put off my dream. I worked hard for good causes—my temple, a variety of nonprofits, and most recently an amazing art museum. I often felt fulfilled by these activities, but I also felt my dream slipping away.

When I started Rogue Priest I finally began to put down my thoughts on travel, adventure, and bravery. Thanks to the discussion from my readers I have the basic outline of the Heroic Life.

But that’s not the same thing as living gloriously, following the example of the great heroes, and traveling freely to change myself and the world. It’s time to do that now.

I believe that walking across the United States, Mexico, Central America and South America will provide me with plenty of opportunities to live that way. It’s my chance to live the Heroic Life, and see if I truly can make a difference in our world.

This adventure is the beta test. Does travel change the mind? Does adventure expand personal limits? Does living for high ideals, following your purpose, and doing amazing things lead to a life of bravery and joy?

I’m going to find out. I’m going to live it, 100%, so that no one can ever say it’s not possible.

And on the way, I plan to meet the gods.

Meet the Gods?

What does that mean? Is it even possible? Do they exist? Where do you find them?

I don’t know.

But I do know this. If there are gods out there, I’m going to meet them. I’ve been their priest for most of my life and I’m setting out to find the truth. As a philosopher, I remain undecided whether the gods are objectively real or if they’re in our minds. But I want to find out.

I’m going to do that by living as mythically as possible. In myth, the gods sometimes show themselves to mortals. I intend to live a life of myth until I get their attention.

I’ll also do that by talking to everyone I meet. I want to see the gods through the eyes of the many different cultures and individuals I’ll come across.

That’s how I will come to understand who and what the gods are. If they exist, I’ll meet them. If they don’t exist, second prize is the greatest adventure I’ve ever been on.

The riverfront in Milwaukee, my first destination.

So Where To?

Remember, I’m not hitting the trail for the long walk just yet. When I leave on August 31, I will take a series of one- to three-month trips to prepare myself. Each of these trips serves a specific purpose. They include:

Three Months is Milwaukee. I’ll return to my hometown of Milwakee, WI where I hope to train intensively at Futen Dojo and really develop my self-defense skills. In addition, this will be an important test run in making my living through the internet or freelance work. I will need these business skills to have an income on the road.

One month in Detroit. I’d like to cultivate my photography skills. Detroit seems like a good place to go, especially since I love exploring abandoned buildings. (My Detroitian friend tells me it’s pretty cliché, but it still sounds like a good way to learn.)

Two months in Mexico City. I’ll be staying with Cintain, a friend and professional translator, with the aim of learning fluent Spanish. Speaking fluently with the locals is a key part of my strategy to live heroically and meet the gods. Spanish is the first of several languages I’ll need along the way.

Once these trips are done, sometime in spring 2012 I’ll start the Great Adventure itself.

How Does This Work?

To answer a few questions:

  • I have intentionally not calculated the exact number of miles, but from an estimate it will take me at least 2 years to complete the walk, if I travel straight there.
  • I will probably not travel straight there. I intend to go slowly, and I may stay in some communities for weeks or months.
  • I am not strict about walking the whole way. I may bike parts of it. But I do hope to stick to my own strength rather than vehicles.
  • Along the way, I will camp out or rely on the kindness of strangers for room and board.
  • I will be blogging and in communication via internet the whole time.
  • When I reach Brazil, I may end up settling there. Or I may come back to the US. Or, I may just keep on going. I haven’t decided yet, and likely won’t till I get there.

The Adventure Begins

So that’s the deal, rogues. August 31 I bike out of my birthday party and into the biggest risk I’ve ever taken. It’ll be me, a computer and a little bit of savings.  First I head to Milwaukee to learn how to make a living without a job. And then next spring I put on my shoes and walk across the earth to meet the gods.

What are your thoughts, my friends? Will this trip be the death of me, or the adventure of a lifetime? What are the chances for one man on the road to manage to meet the gods? Is this a good way to test the Heroic Life, or is it over the top? Please share your thoughts, positive or critical, because your discussion always proves invaluable to shaping the ideas on Rogue Priest. Let me know what you think!


104 thoughts on “Launching the Great Adventure

  1. Mockingbird says:

    Drew you are crazy!!! But in a definitely good way. This is going to be truly epic, and I wish you the best of luck.

  2. Oh Drew, I wish you all the best in this and will be reading and waiting for posts with anticipation. May the gods smile on you during your journey, keeping you safe, sheltered, and nourished in body, mind and spirit. I hope you find what you’re looking for, though what you seek may be already infront of you.

  3. Wow, that’s quite the adventure! I wish you best of luck on your travels and I’m sure you’ll end up looking into the eyes of the most important person there is: yourself.

    Keep us posted on how you get along, the photos, the stories… up close and personal. Be safe!

    • Oh, that’s beautiful Esther. Thank you! And I will definitely keep everybody posted every step of the way. Part of the beautiful thing about this trip is that I can share it.

  4. Have a great journey and may the god & goddess smile fondly upon you and keep you well. Also they speak Portuguese in Brazil, so you may want to get some of that too. It’s kinda like Spanish and Italian mixed together, so knowing Spanish will help you immensely.

    • Thanks Otter! I love Portugese. To me it’s far more beautiful than Spanish. The plan is to learn it when I get closer to Brazil – Spanish is the priority for now, only because it’s the first I’ll need.

  5. C Luke Mula says:


    Sounds awesome, Drew. If you do end up going through Louisiana, and if I’m still there by that time, we should definitely hang out.

    Good luck!

  6. shoryl says:

    Wow! This is quite the undertaking, though I do have to admit that I had been wondering since you started talking about the heroic life; when I first heard about your dreams to travel; how you were going to do it or where you were going to go. I never once believed that you would travel by “normal” means. Best of luck to you, and be sure to research some good shoes!

  7. Jill says:

    Looking forward to more discussion about this, but a detail I need: Will you bike out of your party on the Green Goose??


    • Jill, if it is acceptable to you, then that is indeed my intention! I would be proud to bike out of our fair Cities aboard the Green Goose, and I think she can handle the voyage.

  8. Hey Drew! I remember meeting you at WDS. What a great adventure you’ve cooked up. Can’t wait to see what happens. I think it’s great that you have some smaller adventures planned first. I’m really inspired and impressed that you will be doing this under your own power.

    • Thanks Matt. The decision to stay under my own power has been a tough one. It’s tempting to make use of hitchhiking or a motorcycle or something to get straight to areas that I really want to see. But in the end I think I will learn a lot more (and meet places and people that are just as great) by moving more organically. Right now the plan is not to use a powered vehicle unless it is an urgent situation.

      By the way, good to hear from you again! I remember you too. The blog is looking great!

  9. Good luck, Drew. It’s slightly different but worth checking out – Mark has been running across the US and is intending to finish in 100 days next week. He’s doing that with support and he’s been doing it to raise funds for charity but still it is an awesome task, if a little shorter than yours.

  10. All I can say is….. congrats!!!! You know how much it means to me that you wrote a book about walking to meet the gods, and now are *actually doing it*.

    That, and any chance of a Portland detour before you set off? Hehe :)

  11. Sherri Gebert Fuller says:

    How am I to meet you for lunch while you’re on your journey? (Food – an important god to me.) Mr. Jacob – you inspire me to be more fearless. sgf

  12. eliseharris says:

    Hi Drew. I embarked on a similar adventure in March this year. The things I learned that may be useful to you are that:
    – Some wisdom can only be gained by going mad, so be prepared to go mad for some time; (I went half mad for a period of time, but am glad that I did)
    – Some gods want you to dedicate yourself to them before they will start speaking to you; (that happened to me)
    – Many gods do not care whether you live or die;
    – Intense/traumatic experiences can give you a lot of wisdom, but they can also remove parts of your humanity. This can be seen as becoming more dead, as becoming less human or as stepping outside of humanity. Traumatic experiences can be part of the process of becoming a shaman, if that explains it better.
    – Some doors only open after you have removed your fear of death.
    Good luck!

  13. The best people are the ones that change. The best friends also change. Man are you going to change.

    This is truly a journey of heroic proportions. I expect much of your life has been training for this quest. Should we call you nuts? After reading your posts I don’t know if I can. However, nuts could be a compliment and just what you need. When you despair, are hungry, cold, hot, tired, out of money, running from the cartel, it just may be nuts that gets your through. Or guts, which this journey surely proves you have.

    Perhaps it’s best said as machismo. However, you’ve taken on martial arts, which shows discipline. Founded and ran a temple, which shows tenacity, persistence, determination and organization. You know you can do it, because you’ve decided you can.

    Talk about a grand adventure, or the start of a road of grand adventures. I wish you the best of luck, the protection of the Lwa, the favor of the gods and that you have a damn good time.

    • Wow Urban, thank you. I knew this announcement would catch some eyes but I didn’t realize there would be such an outpouring of support. I’m really proud that I’ll be able to take others with me, in a sense, by blogging as I go. It means so much more when it isn’t just about me. Thanks everyone.

  14. My first thought was: holy crap!
    Second thoughts were: two plus years? That’s a long time to wander! I wonder if he’ll finish or if the journey will change along the way?

    This is very exciting. I look forward to following along!

    • Hi Niki! I have sometimes wondered if there is anything that can make me not finish the journey. Someone asked me what will happen if I fall in love with somewhere along the way, say Texas. I thought about that and my answer is that I would still keep walking and finish the trip. If I truly love a place I will still love it once my journey is complete… I suppose that goes for falling in love with a woman too. Shades of Paul Coelho.

  15. About time! Have you gotten a couchsurfing account yet? Look me up and I’ll vouch for you as good people once you do. It will be invaluable for finding beds along the way.

    I look forward to reading your updates as the glamour of hoping and planning gets ground away into what long term travel actually means.

    Also… and I say this as someone who responds to riots by grabbing my camera and following them… shooting abandoned buildings in Detroit sounds dubious. Are you going with someone who knows where the floors are safe and what buildings aren’t squats? The U.S. has a nasty triangle of homelessness, drug addiction, and abandoned military vets with PTSD, and diving into that with a (presumably) nice camera around your neck is asking for trouble.

    That said, be sure you’ve got a lens with image stabilization and a body that can shoot high ISO cleanly – when I shot the Beelitz abandonments in Germany my camera was between 800 and 1600 ISO almost the whole time and most of the pictures where quite grainy because of that. We went as a group of couchsurfers to that, which might be a good idea for you – there is both fun and safety in numbers for that sort of outing.

    • As your Detroitan friend, I wholeheartedly agree with this. Careful.

      Bad for you:
      -Territorial gangsters (not the funny kind).
      -Vagrants (not the friendly kind).
      -Crumbling ceilings/floors.

      Good for you:
      -Friendly/knowledgeable locals
      -Detroitan flickr-photogs to go on photo adventures with you.

      • Thanks for the tips Zack and Kira. In the past when I’ve done urban exploration I’ve always looked for a guide first. Sounds like its even more important in Detroit. If not a guide I’ll try to at least take friends – the strength-in-numbers part seems crucial.

    • I will make that couchsurfing account pronto Kira! Thanks for the rec!

      I still find myself feeling an interesting mix of respect, curiosity and amusement when you talk about being disillusioned by travel. I feel that mix because you obviously love it and keep doing it for some reason. It’s not that I think my perceptions of it won’t change, and obviously the little annoyances will add up on the road in a way they can’t in my imagination beforehand. But what is it that keeps you going? If it’s so hard, why make it your lifestyle?

      • Okay, you asked… this is going to take a bit of a long answer. Sorry.

        I do really love traveling and don’t intend to give it up, but that’s not entirely for reasons I can chose. In the US there are no jobs or economic possibilities open to me, and I don’t want to pay for the U.S.’ wars via my tax dollars. Also, I don’t fit in with the culture there anymore, if I ever did – keep in mind I’m a “third country kid” raised partially overseas and that tends to leave a person with no “home culture”. To be blunt, I don’t see the US as very civilized, I’m kind of horrified by the politics and attitudes there, and I certainly wouldn’t want to raise children in that sort of place.

        So it may be self-imposed, but I feel like I’m at this partially because I’m a sort of exile. I can’t live in the country that I issues my passport, and thanks to its ignorant, isolationist policies I have difficulty getting a long term visa to stay anywhere I like, as they generally have reciprocal visa policies towards travelers’ home countries. (Obviously, this rarely affects tourists, so most are unaware of this problem.) In other words, I feel most culturally comfortable in Western Europe, but the E.U.’s policies towards American workers reflect the U.S.’ policies towards EU workers – i.e., it’s a bitch to get work permission. Because they are legally bound to favor Brits for English teaching jobs, even in countries that can’t *keep* British workers, like Sweden (most leave in November citing winter blues) it’s very difficult for schools to hire Americans.

        So I keep ending up in Moscow. You can make good money there. That money makes it hard to go anywhere else, unfortunately, because you look at other place’s wages and they’re minuscule in comparison (though if I could get work in Sweden for 1/4th what I make in Russia I’d leave). The weather is awful and people’s attitudes are worse. They have no concern for human life or the environment or anything but making money and escaping – and this is the locals! Everyone hates each other and themselves. And I’m supposed to go in and teach English language and Western values like “tolerance” and “taking care of stuff” to kids being raised on capitalism informed by Ayn Rand and Mario Puzo (yes, the author of “The Godfather”).

        Land-based reverence and and spirit-work is at the heart of my spirituality. In Moscow, I can hardly open up to that – there’s just too much misery, you have to shield it out. I can barely practice anything with magic there because of that. Gods don’t often make themselves known to me the way spirits do, particularly very local ones, which can be challenging too. In Sweden, well, bad things happened because economic circumstances related to visa issues, and a housing shortage, forced me to stay in the territory of an old water spirit hostile to those with whom I’m aligned. With the health problems that resulted from what she did to get rid of me, I barely crawled away with my life and wasn’t even able to work full time for five months afterwards. Yeah, that’s pretty woo-woo crazy, but it still happened.

        So do I love traveling, meeting people, getting out with my camera, seeing new things and learning about aspects of the world I’d never have imagined? Yes, absolutely. But it costs. Travel too much and you’ll never fit in at “home” again, and you may never be able to make a home of your choice. Economics and necessity will force you into choices you’d never wish to make otherwise, without the buffer of friends and family to catch you if you fall.

        When I was 20, I went to Ireland on a student work visa for 8 months. The first full moon I was there, I walked down into Galway Bay and asked the old gods for an initiation into the ways of their land. I can’t even think about that year without my stomach turning over now, 13 years later. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, but… What I had to do was brew a cup of tea, and I did it protect a woman who’d been raped and stalked… but I left Ireland with blood on my hands and too much self-knowledge and I’m not sure I’ve ever quite recovered from that. Most expats and long term travelers are damaged goods, you know, in one way or another.

        So, just… I hope you can deal with what you learn on the road, and that you can hold to being a hero and not a village witch or outlaw or… whatever you become when all the boundaries fall behind and you are left freefalling with no one to catch or shape you. And it’s very brave to say you’ll shape yourself, but sometimes all the shaping you can do is hold your guts in and drag yourself away.

        And that is why I have mixed feelings. Travel accelerates the learning processes of life by putting you in new situations over and over, much like practicing magic. It’s as bad as it is good; the highs are awesome, the lows… well, you’ll find out. Good luck.

        • Kira, this is one of the most heartfelt and serious replies I’ve ever gotten. Thank you for your words. I’ve been turning them over for a few days. And I’m sure I will be for a long time.

          Any other long-term expats want to weigh in on this? Are there things you can to do minimize these issues? (And would minimizing them also minimize what you learn and gain from travel?)

  16. Not for one second did I think you were (are) crazy.
    Not only is this the trip of a lifetime, but many people do not have the visions, drive, goals, stamina, perseverance, loyalty, and courage that you have to do this.
    You are in a miniscule percentage of people that would even try to complete this. Be proud of yourself.
    I can’t wait to read about your adventures.
    May all of the Gods be with you!

    • Thank you Jeff! It means so much – really. You’ve been part of this growing Rogue Priest community since just about the beginning, and I always love your comments. And now we’re really getting started!

  17. Wow, Drew, it sounds exciting. I wonder if you wouldn’t meet cool people by hitchhiking as well? When I drove truck I loved picking up hitchhikers, although there weren’t many in the rural areas where I worked. But it was fun to have someone to chat with, and hear their story, and help them out along the way. Obvious you wouldn’t want to travel a thousand miles with them, but, maybe gods drive four-wheelers. You never know.

    Other thing is what an interesting inner journey it will be for you. I truly don’t believe you need to travel to live expansively, and one of the comforts of not travelling is shared points of reference with the people you connect with.

    Travelling that way will give you so many experiences that have meaning only to you, and the people who shared them with you. When you come back (if you come back), it will be an adventure that you can never fully put across, what it was like to be there. And I think that will be both lonely and empowering.

    (I would call this a hero’s journey, but I think I may have heard you mention once or twice you don’t like that kind of language :D)

    Fwiw, I’m moving to VA in September. Any chance your route will take you so far east?

    • Hi Shanna! That’s a really good point about hitchhiking… I love the stories and introductions it leads to. I guess it will all depend on the circumstance. I don’t want to close the door to any auspicious opportunities along the way.

      Virginia isn’t on my walking route but I may be doing a trip around different parts of the South to visit a few friends this spring… no promises but if that materializes then I will be happy to add a stop in VA!

  18. Jo says:

    Wow, sounds fascinating. Wish I were turning 30 again…(that was back in the mid 90s). My personal searches and goals are similar to yours (including the Spanish :)…and I really like the ‘meeting people’ aspect. Not sure how I can accomplish something similar as I’m coming from a different place and situation, with hubby and 3 kids (2 teens, 1 who is 21) around. Will have to find my own ‘camino’, hopefully before I’m too old! Best of luck with yours and may peace be with you!!

  19. I’m going to respond the way I first responded when you, long ago in a little studio apartment in Milwaukee, told me about your life’s dream: my heart literally skipps about, I am concerned for your safety, and feel all “mother hen” over you. It’s interesting that I respond with anxiety, like something is being ripped out of me! But then I remember…

    When I turned 30, I took a VERY big risk and needed a change in my life. I could no longer stand living on scraps in a little college town that is still something of a security blanket (home). I followed my heart back to Milwaukee, the place of my birth, and spent a summer homeless, couch-surfed in friends’ homes, literally slept in the street a couple times, and yet somehow managed to survive, much of it dependent upon the kindness of strangers! It was rough. I don’t think I could do it again, but it’s definitely something that changed my life. I met wonderful (and crazy) people, grew as a spiritual being, and even though a few experiences really threatened to tear my heart apart, I came back to my home up north to recooperate and discovered I’m a much stronger human being than I thought I was.

    Even though I did not travel on foot/bike like you are planning, and didn’t go as far as you are going to, relish every experience you can get! Some of us can’t travel like you for financial and health reasons, so keeping in touch with you on your travels will be like communicating with an ambassador from home. Even though I still quake from nerves that ache to protect you from harm, I commend you on your adventure to come! It is truly an achievement to fulfill a life long dream!

    I also have to say that the Gods will be with you. You don’t have to go faraway from home to experience them. However… learning about how other cultures experience God from them in person is a rare treat! I’ve long envisioned you at age 40 coming back to help foster a community that will truly revere and learn from the Gods of All Peoples. I once travelled with my born again Christian mother when she was a missionary and often felt the work she did in far off places was an interuption of the cultures there. I felt it was wrong to convince them to abandon their ancient ways and accept a religion that was out of their reality. I felt at home with those who weren’t so inclined to convert and wish, til this day, I could help preserve the native ancient ways of others. My tribe experienced the cultural genocide brought to them by Jesuit missionaries and there’s still a struggle to keep to the old ways, but the damage has been done. If only the rest of the world could learn to respect the ways of people different than them and really learn from and appreciate the validity of their beliefs, then we could understand and co-habit this Earth in peace.

    My prayers and love go out to you and shield you from harm and injury. May home always go with you, too. Goddess bless you!!!!

  20. I don’t know what to say, beyond the fact that I am very, very glad you’re doing this, because the reasons you’re doing it are important to me, too. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling so.

    I’ll be following your journey closely. Best of luck to you. May you meet the gods along the way.

  21. I notice the route takes the shortest possible distance across Columbia. I wonder what the safest route would be, whether hugging the coast wouldn’t be better? Hmm… (I realize this is just an abstract forecast of the real route, but still)

    Also, I was just talking to a friend who’s been to Peru several times and everything’s heard suggests that it’s really Venezuela more than Columbia that one has to worry about.

    No shortage of adventure!

  22. Hey Drew,
    Travel is like being polished. A million tiny things abrading and beating the loose bits of you off until nothing but the hard and shiny core is left. Good luck! Watch your back, trust your intuition, and don’t trust the water. I’m sure it will be an interesting few years. More than that, I think Kira covered nicely.

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  24. You are going to WALK!? That will be amazing. I walked Palawan island.. 660+ km which seems small in comparison to all of these stories I’m hearing lately of walkers… Like Where Is Nate. I think it’s awesome. I think the time is ripe. And “trusting on the kindness of strangers” is what I went through too and it WORKS. Somehow, it works practically every night. Good luck!

    • Hi Janet, thank you for replying! And welcome :) 660 km is no small jaunt. It sounds incredible. I’m glad to hear that the “kindness of strangers” model works; Nate said the same thing (I had a chance to meet him briefly). I do expect to make a lot of use of that approach. Not only will it be an easy way to have a roof over my head, it will help me truly meet new people everywhere I go.

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  26. Hi Drew,

    I salute you! I’m glad someone else gave you the link to the couchsurfing thing, because I couldn’t remember it.

    Will it be the death of you? Perhaps. At least figuratively, and you will become more you. And it will be the trip of a lifetime. Is it over the top? Yes. And that is perfect.

    Your route may change as people connect you with other people in other places. It may be important to follow those invitations.

    One of my favorite quotes is from Martin Buber: “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”

    I can’t wait to read about and follow along with your adventures. And who knows, perhaps we will meet up along the way.

    Meanwhile, I recommend the book “Soulcraft” by Bill Plotkin.

    Travel well, and LIVE.

  27. Alien Mind Girl says:

    I have been following your blog at work via Google Reader for a while… which means I cannot see pictures, or follow links, or leave comments… thanks to work web policing software… but thought to stop by here in out-of-work hours to tell you how AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL I think this adventure is, and how incredibly excited I am for you – for any human – who would do this – and how ready I am to follow your (hopefully) delicious journey remotely, if even just in parts.

    And thank you. The world still needs people willing and able enough, seeking enough, and (most importantly) brave enough to do things like that. At least *I* need a world with people like you in it. Or else I might just forget that things like that happen in real life, imagining that these incredible people (or average people) doing incredible things were all just fairy tales far away, and that would be tragic.

    • Heather, what a beautiful amazing comment. Thank you so much for taking the time to surf over and tell me that. I too believe the world must have incredible people in it, and I love meeting them. I think that is the purpose of the journey as much as anything: I believe we carry our gods with us, so whether I meet the gods in person or not, I believe I will see them in the eyes of the people I meet.

  28. Alien Mind Girl says:

    I realize I”m a complete stranger and all, but if you get side-tracked and wind up going through Oklahoma (which can be lovely despite common perception; we have more ecoregions than any other state aside from California and one of the oldest archaeological sites in North America – almost no one knows these things), I would be honored to meet you wherever you like and take you out for dinner/coffee/site seeing/whatever. Just shoot me an email. If it happens. If you have an interest to do so.

  29. Don’t pee in the water while you are down there. Then you’ll definitely be praying to what ever God that may aid you. ^_^

    I know of a story about two guys who canoed almost the same route you plan to do. When they ran out of money, they made hats out of palm tree leaves to sell. Which somehow worked, and according to them, they didn’t know whether they did a good job of it or if it was out of pity, but it worked. So perhaps knowing how to make a few nifty crafts out of locally available material may aid you as well.

    • Hmm, hats huh? That is hilarious. I bet I could do that. Maybe I can make a palm tree fedora for a little extra style… or the “palm tree hat with live snake inside” for a little gag gift. You know, for birthday parties and/or killing your spouse.

      Actually if I do need to fall back on selling things to get by, I am quite an experienced magician and geomancer. I’m sure I could sell charms, spells and readings if I needed to. I imagine there is a good market for it in that area of the world and all the more so for gringos on vacation.

      The thought also crossed my mind of offering sword lessons in parks for tips… but I’d be basically living as a performer at that point, which is pretty hand to mouth. I’d much rather run a successful online business or keep doing freelance grantwriting so I have a strong income. First-world income minus developing-world cost of living = lots of savings in case of an emergency.

      By the way Rua, do you have a link at all to the story of these canoe guys? I would love to read it. Thanks for your comment as always… love seeing you here!

      • “Maybe I can make a palm tree fedora for a little extra style… or the “palm tree hat with live snake inside” for a little gag gift. You know, for birthday parties and/or killing your spouse.” *snicker*

        I’ve heard that card readings are very popular in some of those areas, but you may want to learn more on that as some areas might want to string you up for witchcraft in other areas. Magic tricks seem a safe bet. You may be robbed of your personal computer if anybody gets a whiff of it though, so I’d keep it on the down low if I were you.

        I’m slowly going through my e-mail from the bottom up so it may take me a while to get up to date with all your crazy doings that I anticipate reading.

        Best of luck in this adventure of a lifetime!

        P.S. learning local remedies from plants for animal bites and such may also aid a great deal. I hear of some great natural repellents out there that you could use if you know how to ID it.

    • Ah, I found the story!

      “Chasing Guinness: Two accidental adventurers paddle a canoe from Canada to the mouth of the Amazon River”

      by Niel Armstrong and Chris Maguire As told to Allan Kimball.

      This story was found in a book of a collection of adventure stories called Mugged By a Moose, edited by Matt Jackson.

      One partner had a bit of his toe removed and finger because of frost bite. They were robbed and their lives threatened on more than one occasion via knives and personal and guns at a distance. They were very lucky to have survived.

      It took them three years when they originally planned for three months.

      They had visited the consuls of all the countries they planned to pass through, as well as their own consul, which was British, to get letters of safe passage. They claim it was the smartest thing they ever did for the trip as they used those letters all the time which got them out of many serious jams, one time it saved their lives.

      Hope this helps!

  30. You’re learning Portuguese too right? Because that is what is spoken in Brazil and would be handy for when you’re there, or do you plan to learn as you go?

    • Eventually I will. As much as I admire polyglots, I have to learn my languages one at a time, through immersion, with plenty of buffer time before learning a new one. I’ve found that out through experience. I’ll need Spanish first so that’s the priority till I get a lot closer to Brazil.

      It’s been recommended I learn some Native languages along the way, such as Mayan or Zapotec, and I think that’s a good idea too.

  31. Learning languages one at a time is wise, especially if they’re closely related. Portuguese sounds like Spanish spoken by a New Yorker anyway so if you’re good at Spanish you should be fine. I can follow most Spanish and Italian just based on knowing French, and I’m pretty sure Spanish and Portuguese are more closely related.

    That said, I recommend diverse studying from diverse sources when you’re learning a language. It takes using recognizing and using a new word 3 to 5 times before it’s “yours”. I speak French and Russian conversationally, and have tourist level basics of Swedish, German, Turkish, Italian, and Spanish – I try to study a bit whenever I’m going somewhere for a while – and I think of a new language as having rings of knowledge. The one firmly in my head is the vocabulary and grammar I firmly know, and can speak at will. The second is things I recognize on hearing or reading; the third is things I just don’t know. The trick to learning a language is to pull words and grammar and expressions continually inwards.

    So I use a good memory intensive program like Pimsleur audio courses or computer courses to build a solid core of things I can say and remember (these are slower systems), and then youtube (search “learn ___language___”), written courses, facing page translations, phrasebooks, software like 101 Languages of the World, and music to build that second circle. Immersion will pull things inwards from the unknown, to the recognizable, to the usable.

  32. excindoignaviam says:

    Hey I wanted to get your view on something. What do you think “the hero’s journey” looks like when they simply do not have the freedom to “go out there” and take on the world? To live their dreams of challenge, heroism, and courage?

    A person told me recently, “You are craving more and more to get out of that box, and yet the box keeps getting smaller and smaller.” This is very true, and I am having a difficult time trying to deal with it.

    I am saddled with the care of my mother, who is chronically ill and disabled. She is in the process of being moved to my city since my sister wants to move on with her life and my mother cannot make it on her own. I will not be living with her, but the fact is, I cannot accomplish anything beyond the boundaries of my own city.

    I want to move to Uganda for a year to care for orphan victims of the LRA. But I cannot do this until she, regretfully, passes. This could be ten years. Twenty, even. My life is slipping through my fingers, and all that is left is my house, my stressless job, and all the burdens of caring for a beloved but difficult and sickly woman.

    In the end it is my choice to say, “Okay, Mom. I will care for you so you don’t have to go into a nursing home yet.” This is my choice. And yet it is a choice I wish I did not have to make. It is a choice that, in the end, indefinitely postpones my ability to follow the path I ache for.

    I get frustrated because I read all these stories of people living “heroic lives.” But they have the freedom to. They don’t have ill parents that they have to care for. I am jealous.


    • excindoignaviam says:

      Also: I can’t really do anything big, do anything that will change the world if my evenings and weekends are tied up with bathing, shopping for, cleaning up after, taking to the doctors someone who is dependent on you.

      And I certainly can’t ditch her and say, “Later! You’re on your own while I do awesome things for humanity!”

      The very sentiment is ironic.

    • Well, you’ve just articulated exactly the reasons one shouldn’t put off traveling, so anyone who’s *not* in a situation like this pay attention!

      I’m on the road myself, teaching English in Russia, but my mother is in a very similar position to you and I know it’s one I could end up in.

      First, not being able to do long term travel doesn’t mean you can’t ever do short term travel. My mom takes trips when my grandmother visits her other kids, or if that can’t be arranged sometimes they get a nurse or neighbor to stop in and help out. There are lots of short term “volunteer vacations” out there if you really need to do that.

      Second, a big part of traveling is getting out of your cultural, economic, and language circles. You don’t actually always have to leave your home city for that – do some volunteer English teaching or a language exchange or follow up on some cause you’re passionate about that has links in your home city.

      Third, if you can’t get out there and travel, let travelers come to you. I got kind of stuck (contractually I mean) in a small town in Turkey once and chose to host couchsurfers ( to have a social life with people who had international attitude and drank alcohol. This came after yet another evening women-and-kids only gathering with all my observant Muslim co-workers at which I almost blurted out, “Yes, this is nice, but could you please bring out something for the adults to drink?” I realized I needed contact with people from a culture more similar to mine, and I met a bunch of exchange students and people doing 6+ month journeys biking, hitching, and hiking from Europe to Asia or Australia because of it. And I’m still in touch with most of the people I hosted, on facebook, and could stay with almost any of them if I was traveling in their area.

      So if you can’t travel right now, do what you can – learn languages, skills, and make connections for when you can. Work with immigrants. Host travelers. Consider how to see where you are with fresh eyes again – so much of what makes a place stale is when we see, not the world as it is, but our expectations and disappointments with it.

      • monomythproject says:

        Thank you SO much (and I just changed my blog name a second time, and I know I have multiple personality over all these blogs. It is now

        This has been what I’ve been trying to wrap my head around here. I need to approach my mother about her needing to be financially wise to allow for money allocated to her care for when I can’t be there. I plan on telling her that I am going to be volunteering abroad for a month next summer. There are a lot of tense-filled, awkward, and potentially stressful conversations that we need to have. I am trying to muster up the nerve and the tact to address these things.

        And I agree. I have a lot of work to do on myself before I fly. I don’t have to “start small.” Just start locally.

        I don’t know what my calling is just yet. You know, that goal, that idea that just makes your heart sing. I don’t have that yet, and so I don’t even know which path onto which I should step.

        • Excindo, I think Kira answered that question better than I could and I’m glad it’s given you some ideas. I like your plan for how to proceed and I look forward to hearing how it develops!

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  36. strongdem says:

    I am finally reading this post. I have two … ok, three thoughts:

    1) You might want to read about the guy who went in his wheelchair across a zillion miles of various countries: I just heard about him on As It Happens the other night. A kindred spirit, perhaps?

    2) Which raises the issue of: please oh please do some physical training and some serious health research before you go. Even though you’re “just” walking, going slow, etc, this is a huge change in what your body is used to, and you could easily injure yourself. You’re going to need to decide when to rest for awhile to heal, even if you’d rather keep moving. Get yourself some edumacation about that topic pre-trip, por favor. You don’t want to be stuck in the Mexican countryside with no wireless signal wishing you had access to Web MD. Figure out what kind of walking shoe you should have (go somewhere that they can analyze your gait and feet – trust me on this, half my back pain disappeared when I found out how bloody high my arches are!) and how you are going to manage to replace them when you’re in Bolivia and everyone is a foot shorter than you. I know it seems like this is a “back to nature” kind of thing where your body will just magically take care of you, but the reality is that we humans have been divorced from evolution for a looooooong time, so our bodies are not perfectly designed for our environments. Add to that a lifetime of normal American (read: sedentary) life, and you just need a lot of good training and knowledge to keep your body happy.

    3) I have never taken a trip nearly this ambitious, but I did do three weeks in Ireland and Germany last year. It was totally a pilgrimage for me, in quite a few ways…I’d always wanted to go to Ireland (and been afraid I wouldn’t have the guts), I wanted to do genealogy work, and I was still processing my infertility diagnosis. Before I went, I recall chatting with my therapist because my anxiety was going kinda nuts, and one of the reasons was that I had all these very particular expectations about what I wanted to find and how I thought I would feel, but some small part of me was aware that things might not play out that way. That part of me was terrified that I would feel existentially disappointed, which would have really sucked. Alison, my unbelievably amazing therapist who can read me like a book even when I haven’t come in for 6 months, basically said, “Look, Beth. The earth-shattering thing on a trip is almost NEVER what you think it will be. That’s just not how it works.”

    This isn’t to say anything against the goals/hopes/expectations that you have…just keep in mind that you will likely have disappointments as well as unexpected joys along the way, and try to roll with it. Frankly, when I go looking for God, God generally laughs at me and perhaps peaks out from behind the curtain to tease me, but usually doesn’t actually show up until I’m making my tea three days (or weeks, or perhaps months) later. And I absolutely guarantee that this will cease to be a magical, romantic thing at some point, and will just seem ordinary and boring. I almost kicked a golden ray while snorkeling in the Galapagos once, and thought, “Ooops, I almost kicked that ray, poor thing!” and didn’t shake myself and think, “I almost did WHAT?!!” until a good 30 seconds later. Anything can become normal…the question will become what you are going to do with that. Do you search for ways to remind yourself how epic this is when it seems monotonous? How are you going to deal when you get lonely, which you’re bound to at some point? You can’t really prepare for this stuff, except perhaps by knowing on some level that it’s bound to happen, and trying to remain centered and feel your way through it when it does.

    4) OK, one more bonus thought: CONGRATS!!! It doesn’t matter whether the thing you’ve always wanted to do is as massive as this or as simple as my trip was; everyone deserves huge kudos when they make room in their lives and their souls for this kind of experience. Enjoy!


  37. Oy ve! Sounds like my grand adventure. I dropped everything I had in Los Angeles and moved to Hopkins Village, Belize, Central America. My quest is to connect with the Spirits of my homeland in a more deeper level. I see a lot of similarities between your Grand Adventure and mine… after Belize, my plan is to make my way to India… since you’ll be heading this way next year, maybe if I’m still in Hopkins we can connect and I can travel with you down to Brazil! :)

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