Recently I wrote that a total of 18 people have expressed interest in the Fellowship of the Wheel, of which about nine are serious. So what happened to the other nine?
A trip like this is a big commitment. I’ve always assumed that not everyone who threw their hat in the ring would actually show up. Taking a cue from my college activism days, I expected the “law of halves” to take effect: half of all interested would be serious, and half of those will follow through. In other words, if just five adventurers show up in the flesh I’ll be quite happy.
So I wasn’t surprised that a handful of people have bowed out so far, although I am surprised at the reasons why. I assumed that security would be the biggest source of attrition. Potential adventurers would start out enthusiastic, I imagined, but then balk as friends and family scared them with stories of mass graves in Mexico. (Speaking only for my own friends and family, who have overall been amazingly supportive, telling me these horror stories is an eerily popular activity.)
At least two group members have indeed reported warnings from friends when they announced their intention. But out of 18 people interested, only one has cancelled over safety concerns. And even in that individual’s case, the worries were more his wife’s than his own and it sounds like a busy work schedule was a bigger factor.
Another individual who dropped out had very different reasons:
- He doesn’t approve of a fundraiser to help defray group costs;
- He couldn’t understand why we’re taking “so long” (80 days) to bike across Mexico.
Both of these objections come down to personal preference. The Fellowship has a clear mission to make adventure accessible and to use that adventure as a chance to learn about ourselves and the world. Both the fundraiser and the slow pace are intentional choices to support that mission.
The fundraiser in particular helps reduce barriers to people who wish to come. The trip is already expensive: you need a plane or bus ticket, a decent amount of cycling equipment, and money for food and lodging on the road. The individual in question, an older adult with a lot of cycling experience, wrote that “I… would rather just pay my share,” instead of relying on contributions. And that’s a very reasonable preference. But not everyone is an experienced cyclist, and it’s easy to forget how costly it can be to a beginner. If I asked everyone to pay a $300 entrance fee I suspect we’d lose several of the younger and less experienced members of the group, and some people may never have expressed interest at all. That would go against the core mission of making adventure accessible.
Likewise with the length of the journey. Our 80 day trip includes three day rest stops every week or so, plus a week long break in Catemaco for Christmas and New Year’s. “The three day rest stops could be eliminated or reduced to one day,” our erstwhile companion wrote. “The 80 day trip could be reduced to 40.”
Again, this is a very reasonable preference. Some cyclists hit the road in order to challenge themselves athletically, to see how many miles they can log per day or how fast they can go. This competitive spirit is a huge motive in the cycling community and can be a lot of fun.
But it’s not our main goal. The breaks give us much more than physical rest—they give us a chance to learn from the towns we visit. Three days is time to see pyramids, to talk to locals, to try a regional dish, to tour a museum, or simply to explore the streets of a new place. These are the activities that make you think about yourself and your place in the world. They’re opportunities to make new friends, to learn about a people and to see things you would never notice rushing by. This is where a sense of adventure and exploration comes from.
I wasn’t the smallest bit offended by this adventurer’s reasons for dropping out. I was grateful he explained them. It made it clear that we want something different from our travels. And it was a good reminder that I should clarify expectation on pacing to each and every member of the group before we hit the road together. We’ll have both long, disciplined days on the road and slow, easy days of freeform exploring. The people who enjoy both are the ones who will be happiest with our Fellowship.
Please help us travel safely (and earn amazing rewards!) by contributing to the Fellowship of the Wheel today.