How might travelers give back to communities?

Photo by Garry Knight

“I’m not telling anyone to go out there and take a bullet,” Mike said. “I don’t want people to get hurt.”

Mike Dilbeck is the creator of the Hero Pledge (a pledge you can make yourself) and was our keynote speaker at the Hero Round Table. Like most real-life heroism advocates, he suggests starting with small steps.

He laughed and added: “Plus, I don’t want someone to sue me.”

I laughed too. “Well, I do tell people to do something dangerous,” I said. There’s no doubt that adventure carries risk. “Luckily, no one listens to me.”

That brought a chorus of guffaws from around the table.

“People listen to you,” Mike assured me.

I grinned. I knew what he meant—people do listen—but there’s a catch.

“Most people just want to here my stories,” I said. “Not very many people want to adventure themselves.”

That’s really the problem with adventure as a practice: it’s good for you, but it’s hard. People always have a reason not to do hard things.

But at the Round Table I was thrilled to meet small handfuls of people who do want to take the risk. A dozen of them responded to my call and walked outside into the cold to collaborate. Some already had adventures, some are planning them right now, and others don’t know where to begin. We talked honestly about how.

How do you make journey accessible? How do you give people the confidence to start? How do you fund a group? Can poor people travel too?

What I’d really like is for groups of travelers to head out together, traveling by foot or bike as simply and self-sufficiently as possible. I’d like the more experienced ones to help the newer ones, but with a high degree of freedom. I’d like people to experience their individual quests on a shared journey.

For the first time, I thought of stories as a potential asset. If so few people want to adventure, but everyone wants to hear the stories, then don’t the adventurers have something that’s in short supply and high demand?

What if these small groups of adventurers offered storytelling performances in the communities they visit? The stories would stand out because they’re not just exciting but true. And the tellers would stand out because they’re not actors. They’re exactly what everybody wishes for: real life heroes on the road.

If these events were offered in every town, would they raise enough funds to keep the travelers going?

Could the art of travel be sustainable?


13 thoughts on “How might travelers give back to communities?

  1. Brooke Carroll says:

    I was at the Hero Round Table conference this weekend and I was able to talk to you briefly towards the end of the day. There was something that i wasn’t able to say to you… thank you for sharing your story. I am only a senior in high school and of course, as every teenager says at one point in their existence, I want to be able to have my own adventures. Listening to you speak this weekend has fueled the desire to become and adventurer even more so than before, I just wanted to thank you for that. Thank you for making me believe my dreams can be achieved, and for giving me hope.

    • Hi Brooke! This means more to me than I think you can ever know. The world needs more adventurers. It is so hard sometimes and yet everything becomes more beautiful when you have chosen your own fate, your own way in life.

      Let me know if there’s any way I can assist you as you plan and start your own adventure.

  2. Yes Drew. We adventure vicariously through you. And through other adventurers like you. Until we can do the same. And yes. There is value in the stories. Imagine an audience gathering for your performance and them getting the chance to dialog with you afterwards during a Q & A session or panel discussion. Sign me up!

    • I think you’ve had some adventures of your own, Sarah :)

      Thank you for the warm words. Honestly, I don’t want to imagine myself performing in front of an eager audience and then getting all the attention afterwards. I want to imagine a group 10 or 20 travelers, each from different walks of life, planning their performance together and then getting that opportunity. I want to see how surprised they are as people take so much interest in them and really value what they’re doing. I want to watch as they grow more confident that they really can live on their own and go anywhere and make their dreams happen. I can be backstage if need be. I just want to see others know that they can take the first step and that it really is possible.

  3. Jim Peterson says:

    Some have funded their adventures (in full or in part) through sources like — I remember one gal who was preparing to traverse her 3rd continent (IIRC) on a “fixie” (a bicycle with one fixed gear — and some have no brakes! If you pedal backwards, you GO backwards). They are reknown for their drop-dead reliability and simplicity but you HAVE to pedal even while going downhill to keep the beast from going too fast. If those pedals get to spinning without your feet ON them, the bike can get going too fast and you lose control . . . doesn’t usually end well.
    Another guy followed the coastline the complete circumference of Australia (among other adventures). He had to design and manufacture most of his own equipment because at that time there were no single-track trailers which could transport 50+ pounds reliably and be repairable in the field. He once had to go 50 some days without a shower! Many of the water sources he had located with GPS in advance turned out to be seasonal and were DRY when he rolled through. One family was so remote and their son was extremely ill with no life-flight options they could afford. Their child died while he was staying at their home. He would occasionally give talks and show and tell with his mountain bike and all his gear . . . I’m sure some folks gave a little to help keep him rolling. I think many of us would be willing to “sponsor” an adventurer for say $5 or $10 a month in exchange for copies of their journals, pictures — permitting us to live vicariously through them until we’re able to take the plunge ourselves.
    Another guy celebrated turning 65 with a 6,500 mile bicycle tour = West coast to East coast and back! I just turned 60 . . . I could really sink my teeth into something like that! But I’m stuck with the j-o-b until October 2015 when I turn 62.

    • These are really good examples Jim, thank you. But I have some reservations about Kickstarter or donations. Not that there’s anything wrong with them, but rather that my focus would be to make the lifestyle self-sufficient and sustainable. In other words the travelers would need to be able to earn an income long-term, rather than surviving on the generosity of others.

      (I completely support travelers who do a donation drive to help make their dreams come true, and I held a gear drive of my own during the planning stages, but my goal for creating a group of travelers would be to make it self-sufficient.)

      Kickstarter arguably gives people something of value for their money (the perks) but it’s a one-time cash infusion and then you’re back to no revenue. Donations along the way are sustainable, but not reliable or self-sufficient.

      Ideally, I’d like to help people travel by foot or bicycle and make it possible through a combination of simple living and performing some service that’s of value and can earn money as they go.

      I’m definitely open to more suggestions. Storytelling is just one idea, of course.

  4. digitalnomadpath says:

    Hey Drew, Normally, I’d leave a comment, but I wanted to touch base directly. I love the idea of sustaining travel by story telling. One of the things I tell people is that we are all story tellers, but we’ve forgotten – or lost sight of – going out and making the stories.

    Back before TV and radio and civilization, there were storytellers. They would roam from village to village, gathering folks around the fire and telling stories. The village would give the teller food or shelter or gear for his “gift”. Money is now the commodity of choice, but your idea isn’t far off our ancestral history… and that’s brilliant!

    On a side note, one of my “big” goals is to take a year and travel the US giving yoga-based workshops along the way. My daughter and I have traveled the US and caribbean gathering stories of our own. Normally by car, but I beleive that has given her a bounty of ways to connect with others on her own life’s journey… with the lessons she’s learned and the stories she can now tell others.

    I’m incredibly interested in your idea and will be looking forward to more as it manifests. If you’re interested in chatting directly about it, feel free to reach out. If I can help, I’d love to.


    > On November 10, 2013 at 5:20 PM ” Rogue Priest” > wrote: > Drew Jacob posted: ” “I’m not telling anyone to go out there and take a > bullet,” Mike Dilbeck said. “I don’t want people to get hurt.” Mike is the > creator of the Hero Pledge (a pledge you can make yourself) and was our > keynote speaker at the Hero Round Table.” >

    • Thanks Stu. You’re right, there is a long history behind it. I’ve started to liken it to the old traveling theater troupes that used to cross Europe.

      In some ways it’s also similar to traveling Revival shows in the American South, but with a message focused around our ability to change our own lives and overcome difficulty rather than focused around God.

      I don’t know if this idea will come to fruition. It’s just one thought on a way that a group of serious travelers could make income. I’m already self-sufficient because of the freelance work I do, so I would likely pursue this idea only if I had a group of co-travelers wanting to come along.

      • lol. nope. Will be house shopping in the new year – hopefully can build, but we’ll see. I’m pretty invested in the community here and starting work with permaculture designing already, and will be going full swing with it in the spring. Lots to do and am really anticipating seeing the fruits of this labor.

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