The Heroic Life, Travel

The Eternal Refuge of the Traveler

Recently I wrote about the tragic joy of the Heroic Life:

You must accept that today may be your last experience. And you must love that truth. You must love that there may be nothing more: the moment is enough. It is sacred in itself.

My friend and host in Mexico, Mauricio Quintana, asked a vital question:

Do you ever get a rest or refuge from that? Is there a joyful joy of the Heroic Life?

Joyful Joy

I don’t think most people will live the Heroic Life for their entire lifetime.

Traveling freely, seeking challenges, and risking yourself to help others: this vision has selective appeal. Many people may want to live it for a few years, especially when they are young. Most of them will switch to a settled lifestyle. They might fall in love, start a family, or feel at home in one of the places they visit.

Their years traveling and adventuring will become a sun-bleached memory. The glory days when they were young.

This is right and as it should be. The point of the Heroic Life is to help you find your purpose in life. Once you find that, it may take you in a very different direction.

But some people will fall in love with the Heroic Life itself. Their purpose is aligned with that adventuresome road. These people will become the mentors and guides of younger folk picking up the mantle.

I suspect I am one of those people.

There are times when the life I’ve chosen is intimidating. It is, after all, a life of willfully seeking challenge. And I find refuge in two different sources.

Days of Peace

There are hard days and hard months. 33 hours of flights and airports while sick with food poisoning? That was a hard day. A full month of living along on a noisy, crowded street—that was a hard month.

But there are also times of immense peace. Mauricio’s flat is in a quiet, upper middle class district of Mexico City. I took a nap last week. With the warm sun on my face, I fell gently asleep.

I floated like a castle in the sky.

It is precious moments like this—moments of security, relaxation and peace, surrounded by friends—that take on extra meaning when traveling the road. These moments are not overwrought like vacations. They’re more like a sunny Sunday. They arise freely as you meet friends and share your purpose.

Everyone has days like this. When I worked in an office and had a busy itinerary, it was easy to overlook them. To the wandering adventurer they take on added sweetness. Like giving up a life of daily doughnuts and then enjoying a fresh pear.

The Eternal Refuge

I never relished my friends the way I do now. Specifically, a small number of people seem to be kindred spirits—they understand what I’m doing, and why. My lifestyle has meant saying goodbye to old friends who are fun to be around but don’t understand my calling. It also means meeting people who truly connect with what I do. That forms a stronger, more powerful bond than just being coworkers or going to school together.

Fellowship is the eternal refuge of the traveler.

I will part ways with friends many times on the great adventure, but fellowship on the road is an enduring source of joy. Like-minded and bold-hearted fellows are most soothing to the traveler’s soul.


37 thoughts on “The Eternal Refuge of the Traveler

  1. Nice one Drew. I was just talking to my wife last night that after last year, there’s no turning back on adventure. It’s “how can I live this day and serve others to my fullest capacity” for the rest of our life. And then, how I can push that capacity to greater limits.

    Thanks pal.

  2. I really like this heartfelt post. I definitely “get” what you are doing and why. I’ve always admired adventuress souls, even if I don’t want to follow in their footsteps. If I ever do take up the traveller’s path, I image it would only be for a short period of my life (or more likely, be sporadic throughout my lifetime). I am pulled by two forces! I’m very interested in permaculture, too, which is by it’s nature, rooted to a place . . . I just found out that there is a 2 week course taking place in May just 20 minutes from me! So I might have to save for that before France–I don’t know yet. But your blog makes me want to pick up my bags and head out the door to experience life differently.

    • Grace, what a beautiful reply, and thank you for it.

      Permaculture can indeed be very rooted although I wonder if there is a way you can travel and teacher others to do it? Or maybe choose a different country each year and spend one year there helping start a permaculture garden?

      My own interest in permaculture gave way when I spend a summer with hunter gatherers. They shared their views on agriculture of all kinds, including permaculture, and I was sold. But that is my way. I think it’s wonderful you’re pursuing your dream.

      • I definitely think I could travel and learn permaculture, so that is an option (one that I forgot about!). i know agriculture isn’t perfect, even with such systems as permaculture, but I do think it is a decent compromise . . . I may like the idea of a hunter gather way of life, but not many would–and to be fair, my image of it is probably highly romanticized. I read all your posts about your experience living with hunter gathers and it had me intrigued–something I would consider doing some day. I’ve been in contact with a local Shaman lady who has done a lot of wildress survival/nature awareness training so I hope she’ll have something to offer sometime.

        • “I may like the idea of a hunter gather way of life, but not many would–and to be fair, my image of it is probably highly romanticized.”

          You’re absolutely right – most people are terrified of that kind of life. We are “addicted” to a lot of things in our civilized life (deep fried food? privacy? air conditioning? chocolate?) that isn’t regularly available out there. There are specific thresholds people go through after a day, a week, and at other points in the process of “rewilding.” The mind rebels and will do almost anything to get you to go running back to civilization.

          Which is weird, because you actually live in extreme comfort and ease in a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. To be honest, having lived with them, it would be hard to over-romanticize it. You work a 2 hour work day, with very loose if any authority, can do whatever you want, and always have plenty to eat. Lodging is comfortable, if very different from civilized standards; hygiene and sanitation is manageable; and with nearly unlimited space it’s easy to get alone time and manage conflict. It’s pretty ideal.

          • There is an excellent book called “The Moneyless Man”, that although not about hunter-gathering per se, is nonetheless a very interesting book about one man’s personal experiment to live without money that showcases our dependence on civilized life.

        • I’ve been travelling for the last six years but also have permaculture land ambitions. I’m finally in an economic situation where I can save money and hope to buy 5 (or more if I can afford it) acres in Estonia this summer.

          I don’t actually plan to move there for a couple years though; it’ll be a summer place and I’ve been trying to figure out how to get a food forest and permaculture system set up when I can’t currently actually be there most of the year, as I make my money teaching English in Moscow. Right now my thoughts are mainly to get in the trees that take a long time to produce – nut and timber trees – and some starter fruit crops like blueberries and a few apple trees. When the starter perennials are in place I can propagate off those later. Other than that, I think protecting the trunks from rodent damage and building nest boxes and perches for predator birds to keep pests in check will help. I think the main thing, though, is to find some local partners for the project, maybe even a caretaker. Actually what I’d really like is to make co-op space, sort of a cabin ecovillage, but need to find reliable partners for that.

          Anyway, maybe some of these ideas could help!

          • Too bad you’re not nearby, I’d be totally up for being that reliable partner. I know that where I am there is an online community of locals into working together for resilience, including permaculture and farmer’s markets. There may be one like that near your community or in your state. If not you can always start a network.

            • That’s how I found out about my local course, from a permaculture group (for my province) on Facebook. I think if I end up following that path, my biggest obstacles would also be finding partners. I have a beautiful property (6 arces, half forested) with 19 well-established high blueberries, 3 apple trees (had a pear tree until the female tree fell in a storm). Shoot, had more to say, but gotta run . . .

              • I have a beautiful property (6 arces, half forested) with 19 well-established high blueberries, 3 apple trees

                *Is jealous*

                had a pear tree until the female tree fell in a storm

                Oh No’s! That totally blows! *I can’t believe I made that pun, and unintentional rhyming to boot* :p But seriously, that makes me sad :( I only pun to make me feel better :)

            • Are you familiar with WWOOF? Willing Workers On Organic Farms is kind of like couchsurfing for people learning farming. You exchange about 6 hours of labor for bed and food on a farm, in places all over the world. When I’ve got a place I plan to open it up to WWOOFers, and then in the summer travelers can come to me… might be an option for both of you to check out, either for traveling or for getting travelers to visit you, which can be almost as interesting!

              • First, let me apologize to Drew for usurping his post and heading off in a different direction, but I’m sure you don’t mind!

                Yes, I have heard of WWOOFers. My partner and I have talked about using that if it ever got to that point (way in the future) and we also talk about building small, year-round cabins as we have plenty of room for that too (I guess that would be heading into a small eco-village type of idea). But obviously I would start small because I would be doing all of that work to start (he’s not interesting in getting dirty–he’s a strange man).

                I’ve looked at some farms through WWOOFers in France, but I don’t think I would do that there just because I would be going for no more than 3 months and I have friends to stay with and already have planned what I want to do, but definitely would consider it for other longer-term travel plans.

                Keep us informed if your permaculture dreams in Estonia come true–maybe I’ll be your first WWOOFer!

              • Hmm…WWOOFers does sound like it could work. Will be needing to get the land first. Thanks!

                I do find it a bit funny that we’re talking about permaculture on a blog that doesn’t think its the best way to go. Sorry Drew!

  3. Arden says:

    I always thought that one of the great appeals of adventure stories is the camaraderie. And in the stories, a parting does happen in the end–almost inevitably.

    But I think friendship tends to be one of their most potent themes.

    Hope you’re enjoying yourself in Mexico City. I was born there so I’ve been a number of times; I’m always surprised at how enormous it is, how crazy everything can get. Que te vaya bien. (Need to work on my Spanish too!)

  4. Pingback: A Rogue in my Midst | 昆游龍 – The Wandering Dragon

  5. I’ve had moments traveling where it felt like my spirit was just leaping up in a blaze of light for the sheer joy of having the experiences I was having – racing across Dougga Ancien as the rain faded to storm light and rainbows, washing the ruins in gold; my first footsteps on the shore of the Black Sea, on a remote Romanian beach of unbroken seashells and a herd of half-wild horses running through the surf nearby… the awe of looking up into the corbelled roof of Newgrange or the occulus of the Pantheon.

    It’s not a simple joy, of comfort or home or friendship. It is the fierce perfection of being exactly in the right place and part of a wider, stranger, wilder world and *able to dance with it*. They aren’t common moments, by any means, but… they make the rest of it worth it.

  6. Can’t wait to read your biography one day! Or Watch It! Imagine, your story becoming a full feature film! Hmmm….I may need to hire a paparazzi to document your journey now :D lol

    Your descriptions of those peaceful moments really put me in mind of my youth working on the farm. The moments you had for a break were really rewarding, not just the resting part, but seeing your accomplishments in a good day’s work. It is a lot more satisfying in my mind than a lot of office or service jobs (like fast food) were there is no end and you see no results to take pride in.

    Your post also reminded me of that shared dream I told you about and how I was faced with a decision and chose the less challenging path, because I wanted to live a full life and settle. Having had such a vivid dream of the alternative, I realize how much bravery really plays a part of your chosen path. And its quite humbling to meet someone who knowingly makes that choice, a choice I felt not up to the task for. While writing this the back of my head is nudging the thought, “at least you know you’ll live longer.” And that is something I can’t shake. I don’t want to live in the fast lane, I want to grow old on land that I’ve worked and loved, where one day my bones can rest and be part of it. I am very intent on being engaged with the land, likely more so than with people. Might as well call it a love affair really. With that and sleep (you don’t want to mess with that affair!) I have to admit that I don’t envy you. It is long and hard and you don’t know what the next day will bring – whether you live or die. And that is true for everybody, but its more on the knifes edge for this. And those times of solace are all the more sweet for it. I honestly hope that you succeed, but in a way that you find a purpose that keeps you around for a long time, and healthy for that time! Call it being selfish if you like, I don’t mind being selfish for somethings. You got to have somethings you treasure for yourself, especially when you may only have so much time to experience all that life has to offer.

    Gee, ranting much aren’t I? Well, since I’ve run out of things my head is rattling on about. I’ll leave you to do your thing, and doing it well no less!

    • Thank you Rua.

      You know, I don’t think bravery necessarily means a shorter life. Sure, when you choose to live bravely, you do face more risk more often. But at the same time, like any other skill you get better at reacting to risky situations. You get more practice surviving than most people do. At least, I’d like to think so.

      That said, I expect to die at age 46, so in this case you’re quite right.

      So… who do you think is going to play me in this movie? ;)

  7. This was inspiring to read, especially as someone who has often been criticized by family for being too restless (which they align with irresponsible). I will admit I have a wandering foot and seldom stay in any one place very long but when the spirit calls to go it is time to go.
    Some people do outgrow the need for adventure, others never do. I can’t say I see myself settling anytime in the near future ;)
    As for now Florida beckons!

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