Andre Sólo, Fellowship of the Wheel

Goodies from the Great Adventure

I’m writing this from the city of Xalapa which means I’m more than halfway across Mexico and about to make the big switch from desert highland to Gulf coast. This trip has been full of wonders and has affirmed my faith in the power of adventure.

It’s also had its share of challenges. That includes the increased cost: I had planned the trip with the understanding that Pixi would be along for all 80 days. We intended to split hotels and other costs, making the trip very economical. When she decided to go home my budget was definitely not my first concern—but there’s no denying it was affected.

Recently, a reader wrote to me and suggested that I continue accepting contributions to support the journey. She pointed out that lots of people might want the perks that were offered during our crowdfunding campaign. Specifically, there are already 24 video logs from the first half of the trip. Here’s an example:

I’d love to share all of these videos with you. Some are shot POV while the bike is moving, some are in historic colonial towns, and one even gives a 360-degree view from the top of a pyramid. For those of you who have been enjoying the road logs, I think the videos will really add a new dimension.

You can support at either of two levels:

$25 – Video Stalker

You immediately get full access to the archive of all video logs to date. Plus, I’ll email you from each rest stop with the newest videos. Warning: pretty much any facts I give about Mexican history are wrong. Grab yours here.

$50 – Your Own Pen Pal

You get access to the video archive and all the new videos as they come out, plus I will write you a postcard and send it from Valladolid, Mexico! What’s better than a postcard from a wanderer in a faraway land? Grab yours here.

Many thanks to all who help out. Tomorrow it’s back to road logs. And happy holidays, everyone!

Andre Sólo, Spanish, Writing

The Goldfish and the Purple Cat

Photo by Gracias

This week my Spanish tutor asked us to write a composition using some of the irregular verbs we’d learned. He wanted just one page in a notebook, with something simple like what we’d done that day before school. But since everyone made such a big deal about the fact that I’m a writer, I decided I had to spend some time on it. I submitted a short story about a goldfish and a purple cat. My hope was to capture some of the morbid outlook of Mexican culture.

I’m just going to put this here, untranslated, for those of you who speak (or read) Spanish. I do welcome feedback and corrections, as I have no illusions that it’s perfect, but it’s really just here for your entertainment.

El Gato Morado y el Pez Dorado

Érase una vez, en una casa invertida, en medio del mar, vivieron juntos un gato morado y un pez dorado. La casa flotaba al reves sobre el oceano. El pez dorado vivía en una charca delgado y larga que se había filtrado en la cima del techo. El gato, en cambio, prefiría las ventanas y los cabrios. El pez no podía saltar al mar y el gato no podía nadar a la tierra. Así que tuvieron una vaga amistad y, por la noche, jugarían al ajedras.

Sin embargo, el pez intuyó que al gato tenía hambre. Al principio había comido su comida enlatada y, cuando acabó, había comido las termitas, porque termitas no pueden jugar al ajedras. Eventualmente era sólo el morado y el dorado.

El pez concluyó que su destino era ser una botána por un gato. Y, pues no creyó que una persona o un pez puede muy bien influir su destino, decidió abrazarlo. Pero, prefirió a encuentrarlo luchando.

Cuando vino el gato por él, el pez estaba grueso, gordo, lleno, y envuelto en una pieza de perejil. El morado sonrió. En un solo movimiento el gato clavó sus colmillos en su amigo. Tragandolo, notó un sabor raro: el distinto sabor de pesticida para termitas.

La casa flotó sobre las olas en perfecto quietud.

Adventure, Adventure Prep, Andre Sólo, Fellowship of the Wheel

It Felt Like Chickening Out

Photo by Mish Sukharev

When I was in Guanajuato I almost gave up on my Adventure. I didn’t know if I wanted to go on and bike across Mexico, because I felt lonely and overwhelmed making such a big journey on my own. But I didn’t want to give up, either. I felt lost and confused.

I wrote to a friend for help. This is what I wrote:

I still want to bicycle across Mexico and Latin America, the more I read about other people doing it the more amazing it sounds. But they always go with a partner, a spouse, a buddy or a group… it would be nice to share the experience with other people.

I’m considering putting the adventure on hold to try to form a group. It would be so much more fun. It would also be safer. Not that we can ever say it is 100% safe but it makes such a difference when you have people looking out for each other.

But this makes me feel really conflicted. It feels like ANOTHER delay in the Adventure and also kind of like chickening out. Like I’ve already delayed the Mexico leg for a year, am I going to do it or not? I don’t want to sit around making excuses not to go and regretting it later.

My friend wrote back to me:

It’s your adventure, so you must choose your own path. I would suggest not thinking about it too much. Make a decision, stick to it. That’s the best anyone can hope for.

I have traveled alone and I know well the anguish of doing so. It also feels very pointless with no witness. But I’ve come out the other end, with very little memory of it, and so I know little of what was gained. I know that I have lost much on those trips.  But I wouldn’t change it. Either way.

It’s a tough decision, Andre, but one that you are more than capable of making. Delay means nothing. You are still young and have the luxury of time. It takes nothing away from the journey to change tactics. Any veteran understands the necessity of wisdom. Patience is key, and it matters not at all how long the journey takes you.

You are beholden only to your own impatience. No one else’s judgment matters in the least. Take your time, gather your resources, and enjoy the journey as best you can. You have already seen what traveling alone in Mexico is like.  If you don’t like it, don’t fucking do it, man! Screw that!

I would lean toward finding a human to share the trip with. Because it seems that is what you are doing anyway. And there is no shame in that anyway.

Those words cured me instantly. Right away I knew he was right. I asked another friend for help planning it, and today we have a group of at least 10 people planning to ride across Mexico together. I’ve never been more excited about the Adventure.

The moral of the story isn’t exactly “it’s okay to chicken out.” It might be make sure your actions align with your dream. 

What is your dream? Do your actions align with it? And, if not, what’s holding you back?

You can help us launch the trip across Mexico with a contribution. In exchange, you’ll be with us every step of the way with video logs, stories from the road, postcards and letters. Please consider contributing and help us spread the word: The Fellowship of the Wheel campaign. Thank you!

Andre Sólo, Spotlight

Rogue Priest on the Radio

André on Radio Enso

Last week I announced an hour-long radio interview with Radio Enso, which sounded like a lot of fun but turned out to be a little bit of a mess. Five minutes into the broadcast our audio cut out, and host Greg Berg had to cancel the show. Greg later told me that in over 100 episodes, he’s only ever had to reschedule a guest twice; II was one of the unlucky two.

We didn’t let this get us down, however. The day after the failed broadcast we tried again, and recorded the whole interview. This new, improved and totally successful interview first aired yesterday, September 22. It’s now available for you to play on demand here.

For those of you who tuned in to listen to the original broadcast, I apologize. I was really looking forward to taking questions on-air. But I do hope you’ll tune into the new version, which was not only technical-error-free but also covers some great questions about travel, adventure, the Fellowship of the Wheel, and the quest to meet the gods.

André Solo on Radio Enso

As always, I felt awkward trying to condense my views on spirituality into a short summary, but all in all I feel good about the interview. If you have a question on anything I said, leave it in a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer. Thank you!

Also: do you know about the funding campaign for the Fellowship of the Wheel? Please click here to learn about what we’re offering to those who support us!

Andre Sólo, Spotlight

Live on the Radio It’s the Rogue Priest

Photo by Guigui Lille

What are you doing after work? I’ll be giving an interview for Radio Enso, an internet radio show, and I’d love for you to tune in.

Greg Berg, the host of Radio Enso, has dedicated himself to meeting and interviewing people who have unique and creative ideas. He’s sat down with a number of innovators and inspirers over the years, and I was on the show once before around the time I started my journey across the Americas.

Greg is particularly interested in two topics: the Fellowship of the Wheel’s upcoming ride across Mexico, and my recent report on the quest to meet the gods.

However, I warned Greg that this time I plan to turn the tables. I have a question I want to ask him and I’m going to do it on air.

You can tune in at Radio Enso at 6 p.m. Pacific/9 p.m. Eastern. If you’re listening live, you can also ask questions via the same site; otherwise, you’ll find the full show archived there tomorrow if you’d rather listen to it later.

Andre Sólo, New Orleans

Birthday in New Orleans

Photo by André

Photo by André

A few days ago I celebrated my birthday here in New Orleans. (For anyone who doesn’t know, I’m back here for downtime until the Fellowship of the Wheel takes off to bicycle Mexico.)

In New Orleans, the tradition on your birthday is for a friend to pin a $1 bill onto your lapel. Over the course of the day, other people will spot it and pin more $1 bills on you. Eventually this becomes a sort of cash corsage, which you can use to buy your birthday drinks.

I’ve had at least one friend—a transplant to New Orleans, like me—express dislike of this tradition. To them it feels a little like begging. I wasn’t sure what to think, but this year I had no choice: we had my birthday brunch at a local café, and when my friends sang Happy Birthday a woman from another table came over.

“Is it  okay if I do this?” she asked, flashing a $1 bill and a blue safety pin.

Honestly, I was ecstatic. It was the first time anybody’s ever done the corsage for me. And Yankee conservatism be damned: this is a local tradition. One of the unsung tragedies of Katrina is that tens of thousands of native New Orleanians left and never came back, and the city has not recovered from the loss of culture (even as newcomers come and take their place). I can’t change the fact that I’m not from here, but I can at least learn the traditions and pass them on.

But this was more than just a lesson in local culture. Wearing the corsage definitely does not feel like begging—in fact, it feels like magic. It marked me out as a birthday person, and total strangers came up to give me their well wishes. People broke into giant smiles. They came over, introduced themselves, and chatted under the guise of pinning a dollar on my shirt. A tourist even saw me and asked what it was all about, and I got to explain this tradition I’ve inherited.

Edit: A friend who is a lifelong New Orleanian just gave me some interesting history on this tradition. Originally the corsage was a black tradition and wasn’t really practiced by white New Orleanians. Now, my friend says, “it has been adopted by some New Dats like you!” New Dats are (mostly white) transplants to New Orleans. 

There is something really special about this tradition. As kids, one of the best parts of a birthday is that it’s that rare time when you’re at the center of attention. As adults we don’t really get that—we have a little gathering with friends and some cake (my friends actually went well above and beyond that, but you know what I mean). But the corsage became an emblem that invited even strangers to come wish me well. It was like being in a Disney movie, where the whole world is singing for you.

Anyway, it was a good birthday, and one more gift from my beautiful New Orleans. Thank you to everyone who was there, and everyone who reads these words week after week. It’s an honor to be your rogue priest.

What are your favorite birthday traditions? Are there any you don’t like?

Want to give me the best birthday present ever? Spread the word about the Fellowship of the Wheel as far and wide as you can!

Andre Sólo, Uncategorized, Writing

Help Me Choose Which Essay to Write

Writing. Photo by Daniel Horacio Agostini.

What with planning the group trip to Mexico, lately I’ve found it difficult to make time to write. But that doesn’t stop me from coming up with ideas, so I have a sort of backlog of potential essays, listed below.

I’ve decided to put social time on hold this week and write at least one of these. The trouble is, I don’t know which one. All of these topics seem important to me, and all of them will be fun to work on, but I just don’t have time to do them all. So I thought I’d reach out to you readers and see which one (or ones) you’d most like to see brought to life.

Note that this isn’t everything I have on my to-do list, just some of the more interesting essay ideas:

#1 What It’s Like to Be a White Person Practicing Vodou

This first came up during a really interesting discussion with my friend the Fly Brother. Most of the time, when I discuss Vodou it’s just explaining the basics like “we don’t stick pins in things” and “no, we really don’t stick pins in things.” But when you get past the perceived weirdness of Vodou in general, it’s even weirder that I’m a white person called to serve African gods. Or is it? I rarely feel out of place as a white person in Vodou, but that itself speaks to a sense of entitlement. What are the ethics of an outsider practicing a cultural tradition?

#2 Update on the Journey to Meet the Gods

I originally framed my journey across the Americas as a quest to meet the gods. Since then, I’ve said very little on the topic. That’s partly because the journey isn’t over yet (“Nope, still haven’t met ’em”) but it also speaks to my changing beliefs. If anything, my spiritual journey and interaction with other faiths has only made me more skeptical of religious concepts. But I still consider myself a priest, and am still committed to this quest. So where exactly do I think the gods can be found?

#3 Joseph Campbell Revisited

One of my most popular posts ever was, to my surprise, Why I Don’t Like Joseph Campbell. I originally wrote it simply as a reference post I could point to when people asked me if I’ve read his work. But it struck a nerve with people, and I continue to get comments on it regularly. From the discussion on that post, I learned two things: (1) Campbell supporters are willing to get really, really nasty if you criticize their boy, and (2) I need to go into much more detail than what I originally offered. That post was written to be somewhat flip, and only gives the broad strokes of what’s wrong with Campbell’s “hero’s journey.” I want to do an expanded version that makes stronger points and offers more supporting evidence… but will that really matter to Campbell’s fans?

#4 Defining Polytheism

While I practice several religions, I consider myself firmly a polytheist: I believe the divine has many faces and that this multiplicity is one of its greatest strengths. Just as there is no one god that everyone can relate to, there is no single doctrine that has everything right. This open-mindedness is built right into the core concept of polytheism, yet many polytheists seem to miss it altogether. They insist that to be a polytheist you must believe the gods are real (why?) and that they are totally separate individuals, not faces of one single power (how do we know this?). To me, polytheism is not only about multiple gods, it’s about accepting—and encouraging—multiple doctrines and allowing people to choose the one that speaks to them.

Which of these would you like to see me write? I like them all and would write them all if I could—and hopefully will, eventually—but for now there’s only time for one. Which would you most like to read?