Adventure, The Heroic Life

Why are you scared for me?

Photo by the talented Beth Varro

What is the difference between reading a story and reading this blog?

One major difference is that my own adventures—the ones I share here at Rogue Priest—involve true risks. Unlike a novel, there’s a chance your protagonist will lose or die. On any given leg of my Adventure, even the tamest, it’s possible I’ll meet my end.

That divides my readers into two groups.

Reader A, as we’ll call them, seems unable to distinguish a blog from other forms of entertainment. They read, essentially, because the story of a young man traveling far from home is exciting, just like in a novel or a movie. When I find myself in danger the reality suddenly hits: a human being is risking real injury. In these moments their discomfort becomes tremendous, and they chastise me for being so reckless.

Of course, the recklessness is why they tuned in.

The other kind of reader—Reader B—views me not just as a source of exciting stories, but as a figure on a quest. This type of reader believes in what I’m doing. They relate, on some level, to the main conceit of my philosophy: that challenge is a good thing, and that adventure and travel change lives.

To this kind of reader, the occasional severe risks I face are not horrible lapses of judgment, but a necessary part of living up to my beliefs. And, since these beliefs are to some degree also their own beliefs, they rarely chastise me for the risks I take.

If you find yourself fitting Reader A more than Reader B then the rest of this post probably isn’t for you.

“Damnit Drew!”
—a reader

Risk evaluation is an adventurer’s best skill. All my adventures require a huge amount of planning and preparation, most of which I won’t ever write about. I won’t write about them for the same reason that my favorite adventurer book can’t be a bestseller: because the reality of adventure is boring.

People want the stories. They want the strange characters I meet on the road, the intense love affairs and the coiled rattlesnakes. The fact that I survey bike routes by satellite before I set out, or that I continuously ask locals about road conditions, is not the stuff of legend—or even of particularly popular blog posts. (If you think otherwise, you just might be Reader B.)

The result is that my best dispatches terrify readers, especially the people who love me most. My final ride into Corpus, for example, involved a physically challenging (but relatively safe) trip along a narrow walkway on a bridge. In my video my excitement and enjoyment are palpable. Yet after seeing the footage, my girlfriend very nearly broke up with me.

Of course, it’s difficult to see your loved ones face danger, perhaps even difficult to see a stranger face it. But on the hard and lonely days that leave me shaking with worry, I cannot possibly explain the difference it makes when friends say warm and encouraging things—or the heavy blow I feel when, instead, they add their worry to mine. Their concern, in such moments, seems selfish.

On this earth there’s no one who wants me to come home safely more than I myself do. I give myself to reactive decision-making, a nonstop job that no one ever knows about unless they’re there with me. But no amount of smart risk management can eliminate all risk, and there are days when I have to choose between several terrible options. This is more traumatic for me than it is for anyone else.

In adventure, blood is compulsory.

“I want to stand on windswept bluffs and see the birds below me. I want to sit in ruined temples and imagine the voices of spirits…”

My journey is a reflection of who I am. I believe we each of us can live in a way that expresses our inner being. And I believe such a life is far better than one that’s only happy, or comfortable, or safe.

That’s why I run toward my fears.

When something confuses me I ask about it. When it scares me, I pursue it. I realize that the majority of my loved ones—and my readers—will never share this strange instinct. But it is the instinct that leads me to exploration, and the stories of my exploits cannot be separated from the instinct itself.

It is impossible to believe in me or love me and not believe in, and love, my message. My message is me, it is who I am—I have aligned my life, I struggle to align my life, to reflect my heart.

To me, risk matters little as long as life is lived with purpose.

Is that such a strange conviction?

My novella is inspired partly by my own actual adventure, and mostly by magic. Get Lúnasa Days now in paperback or Kindle.

The Heroic Life

Happy 2014

To dream
is not so good as to act;

To hope,
not so good as to create.

Imperfection is the constant companion
of heroes.

Happy New Year, everyone. May you strike out to make 2014 a great year. May you accept risk, discomfort and difficulty. May you sometimes do things wrong, in on order to do anything at all.

To struggle is a sacred act, and it is the only act that changes the world.

Happy 2014.

Adventure, The Heroic Life

To adventure is more than a quest for love

Picture by Javier Eduardo Piragauta Mora

This is the story of why love isn’t always enough.

It’s no secret that I’ve found a happy relationship. She’s a fellow traveler and very independent. She revealed her adventuresome nature on an 80 mile bike expedition and since then we’ve run away like bandits.

For me, this is very special: a woman who roams like I do. When we’re knee-deep in mud, or packed with 18 people in a 12-person van, I look over at her, waiting for the flare—the anger, the what-are-we-doing? Instead, there’s my fellow adventurer, chin set, hair up and no sign of anything but determination to beat this challenge.

I’m honored that she’s with me. My time with Jessica gives me a new faith in love.

Yet the reaction I get from others expects more than that: that love itself is the journey. That falling in love is, somehow, everything I set out to search for.

I don’t believe that.

I believe in a life of seeking challenge and attempting impossible tasks. Adventure is not just a pastime until I find love. Adventure is an end in itself, a vehicle to reshape a life.

I guess I can understand why people view love as the greatest adventure. It’s frightening and thrilling, and if you don’t go out trekking through unknown lands then love is much easier to relate to. But for someone who does both, love and adventure look very different.

And different types of adventure are not interchangeable. You can find true love and still fail to overcome your drinking problem; you can lose a marathon and still help change children’s lives. The purpose of one quest is not the purpose of them all.

My purpose is most certainly to explore. To explore myth, to explore the globe, and to dig deep wherever I go. It is to pursue the heroic life.

The heroic life is the choice to use travel as a practice to change lives, starting with your own.

For some, love will be the ultimate treasure found in that journey. But to many others, love will be the temptation holding them back.

That’s because adventure, in the sense of physical, out-in-the-world adventure, is the most transformative practice I know—but it is not the most alluring. It’s much easier to sell comfort and safety, or even mere thrill-seeking, than it is to sell real adventure.

Love, on the other hand, sells itself. We are built to seek love, and told it is pure—but love is just one treasure, one of many wondrous treasures.

So the adventurer has to choose sometimes: do you want to adventure, or do you want love? And if you choose love, what will you give up?

I believe one can have both, but that’s because I believe in true love—love that abides. If you have a quest, true love will not require you to give it up, not to delay it, not to reduce your dream in size or in scope. Your true love will bless you, and send you to finish your great quest. You will both understand that you will be together again.

It is right to take risks for love. But it is also right to risk love itself. True love will not give you up.

One day there will be bands of people pursuing the heroic life together: private journeys on a shared quest. Each of them is on a journey to find (to choose) their purpose in life. And some will find, and choose, Love.

Their fellows will sit down and celebrate with them, will let them go, will let them settle down without objection. And their fellows will go away, still wandering, still in search.

Because there is more to find than love.

Lift yourself up, oh adventurer, and look to the sky: is there not something higher than the heart beside you?

To many, the answer is no: even just finding one heart, one kindred heart, is so much more than many people ever achieve.

But the heroic life dreams bigger, dreams too big, dangerously big. To live the heroic life is to attempt inconceivable things. The moment the journeyman contemplates a normal goal, an admirable goal, his hopes are set too low.

Adventure, Heroism, The Heroic Life

Abstract of a Heroic Life

Photo by James Jordan

This November I’ll speak at a first-of-its-kind conference, the Hero Roundtable. I’m probably the least qualified speaker there, but the founder urged me to accept. So I did.

I was asked to provide an abstract for my talk. Here it is:

I have never done anything heroic. I’ve chosen to follow the path the heroes took.

Every one of us was raised on stories of great heroes—active, cunning individuals who won against all odds. Those of us at this conference have never set aside those stories. We have dedicated ourselves to understanding what heroism is, and to enacting heroism today.

Yet the scholarship of the twentieth century has trained us to handle these tales with rubber gloves. Hero scholars almost universally take their cue from Campbell and treat mythical heroes as literary characters. These heroes are purely fictional, their lessons psychological.

I reject this approach. It’s ineffective at understanding or creating heroism in real human lives.

I believe we can live the great myths. I believe these stories were created not just to inspire but to instruct. The common themes of the ancient myths are a blueprint for determined individuals to become truly heroic.

The heart of this blueprint is an actual, physical journey. Not a literary or figurative journey, not viewing volunteerism or education as a journey. The road to heroship is to travel.

But it is much more than that. It is to go freely into places unfamiliar and unknown. It is to seek challenge, and live by your own ideals. It is to willingly place yourself in circumstances you are not yet capable of handling.

In short, it is to adventure.

The conceit of the hero myths is this: we are at our best when we’re tested past our limit. To adventure hones you as a person. It changes you morally: what began as a journey for yourself ends up demanding your social grace, your communal spirit, your empathy for those unlike yourself. It also changes your capabilities. You develop new and greater talents. The result is an individual who is both highly effective and yet highly idealistic, a person who makes the unbelievable possible.

In this talk I will share my own experiences attempting this journey, and discuss how others can attempt it.

The conference is surprisingly affordable, thanks to creator Matt Langdon. Seating is limited and I hope you will take a look for yourself and consider getting a ticket.

What do you think of the abstract? Is this a talk you’d want to hear? What parts seem weakest?


Adventure, Dominican Republic, The Great Adventure, The Heroic Life, Travel

The Change In Plans

Jessica and Drew

So much has changed in only a week.

The crossing of the Mississippi was successful. After many well-intentioned warnings, it was almost comically easy: I can’t imagine a more pleasant kayak trip. I can say that Jessica was as tough and capable a partner as one could hope for. She has my heart.

And that’s the thing.

As any reader should know, I finished my time in New Orleans and tuned my bike for 700 more miles. Those 700 will take me to Corpus Christi, Texas where I’ll train on sea kayaks until I can paddle the Gulf of Mexico.

Saturday morning the Giant was all loaded up. At the morning send-off party I popped the champagne, put my arm around Jessica, and made the announcement:

“There’s been a change in plans.”

Jessica and I are running away to the Caribbean.

Taking Risks for Love

I will still bike to Texas, paddle Mexico, walk to South America. But Jessica and I haven’t had enough of each other. So we’re both taking a risk.

For me it means delaying the next stage of my Adventure; for her it means cancelling a summer in New York. We’ll spend the next two months together in the Dominican Republic, in a small village on the beach.

Is this crazy? That’s certainly the word we both use. We’re nervous. I don’t really know if this is the beginning or the end. But together we’ll explore deserted beaches, scramble up waterfalls, motorbike through mountain towns. I’ll learn to cut coconuts with a machete, and maybe we will be happy.

It is right to take risks for love.

This is temporary. In August we’ll fly back to New Orleans—hopefully with a clearer picture of what we want for our future—and I’ll resume my trip from exactly where I left off. The Adventure will go on.


At many points, when the going was hard or temptation reared her head, my friends have said it’s okay if I don’t complete the Adventure. I’m sure that many of you share that sentiment, too—it’s meant in the kindest way, and I appreciate that.

But I care.

I care whether I complete the Adventure. It’s not optional to me. It’s woven in my nature, it’s assigned by my highest self.

There will be a day when I limp, drift, raft, stumble, bike, run, or race the last 18 steps and my heart will be complete. I will know I lived a story and I will know who I am and what I must do. Until that day, I take a step forward, a cautious step forward.

And here’s what so few people know: I care about completing the Adventure, but I don’t care how long it takes.

Running away for love is not, to me, a delay in the Adventure. It is the Adventure.

We had joked about this idea for weeks, always a joke. But then reading, researching, looking at what it would take. I told Jessica we had to make a decision. She said no, I can’t do it, I can’t just run away for love. So I packed my bike.

The next day she held me and breathed: let’s do it. “We have to do it.”

And so we do. Set my bow at the storm, let us sail this ocean again. Let us sail the ocean of fear and trembling, because what else is there? Only islands, islands in the storm.

Adventure, Bicycling, New Orleans, The Great Adventure, The Heroic Life, Travel

Journey to the End, Day 3: Who Beside You?

And after the End, what is it like? How do you get back?

One of the magic places on the way back.

One of the magic places on the way back.

The Levee

The last leg of the Mississippi River was behind us. We had biked all the way to the end, made offerings in a lonely place, ignored a sage perhaps; we were done. And it was dark, or damn near.

We planned to camp on the levee. I have written before about the problems with illegal camping, but down here was different—we were far from any farm, any house, no one was bothered, no one could find us.

We could lie where we pleased.

What pleased was the nearest, flattest, driest, quietest place we could find, with “nearest” leading the compromise. It becomes a scramble when the sun is low—I remember these days well; Jessica was about to be initiated.

Venice is built outside the levee. We crossed back over to the protected faux-basin of lower Louisiana. We took a side road that followed the levee, a high rampart above us. I spotted what looked like a service road and we went to investigate.

Below the levee’s crown was a flat spot. It was protected from view, it was grassy, and it was high up—zero danger of flooding and little of gators. The breeze helps reduce mosquitoes, though that’s a joke: you’re in a swamp, son.

We hauled our gear up by hand, to lighten the bikes. Then we hauled the bikes.

As with an air pump earlier, we had never before used the tent we’d brought. It’s actually an ingeniously designed piece of gear, but in sweaty dusk by lamplight and ear-buzz I would have welcomed something a little less ingenious, a little more familiar.

The tent went up.


Inside was a nylon oven. Sweat threw itself from every pore. Itchy legs, dirty clothes, fever skin, exhausted limbs. Rationed water.

I got ready for bed.

I looked over at Jess. “How are you doing, Broome?”

She looked straight ahead. “Give me thirty minutes.”

It was the voice that brings men ulcers: the am-not-happy voice of a woman. But she was self contained. She neither complained, nor blamed, not pretended to be well: she asked for thirty minutes.

I nodded, said nothing, and gave her the time.

This is miserable, I knew. Not the trip as a whole—the trip I adore. But there is a certain malarial fatigue that happens when you race the sun to camp. You arrive exhausted, stressed and worried; you must then do physical work by little light in unsavory conditions. When at last you get into your cocoon you’re wired but deflated. You tremble, you toss around wishing you could sleep.

In 1,900 miles I had many nights like this. I never grew to like them, but I grew to manage them.

The person beside me was experiencing her very first one.

Thirty Minutes

I’ve been reading a book by Ed Stafford, the first (known) person to walk the entire length of the Amazon (thanks Sharla!). The biggest barrier to Ed’s trip, every day, was tension with traveling partners: guides, friends, locals. Learning to handle the psychological and social aspect of the adventure was far more critical to his survival than knowing how to deal with snakes, spiders or caimans.

Likewise, as I prepare to kayak the Gulf of Mexico, I’ve spoken with a wonderful doctor who’s done the same. His words about travel partners echo Ed’s perfectly.

And that was my only concern with bringing Jess (or anyone) along: we get along great, but how about under pressure?

The answer, it turns out, was not bad.

Jess calmly listed her thoughts in no particular order. Thoughts like:

  • She did not want to give up if camping out was important to me.
  • She was hot and miserable.
  • She wanted to be able to say she had camped on the levee.
  • She knew she could force herself to remain in the tent all night, uncomfortable as it was.
  • She was worried that if she slept poorly our final day of biking would suffer.

I listened to all points and suggested we go to a motel.

On the way we got lost in the fog.

Checking the phone (map) I turned us around. Jess asked me several questions: how we missed our road, why we needed to turn, how sure I was, etc. These are reasonable questions. Finally I had to answer:

“Right now my body’s tired. When my body’s tired my mind gets tired. I really need to not answer questions right now.”

She understood and we continued in silence, successfully reaching the motel.

After coffee and showers, I said: “Jess, I feel like we both did something mature tonight.”

She nodded: “I’m really proud of us.”

Ferries! (I did not make us late.)

Ferries! (Me not making us late.)

Tail Wind

All of that was the night of Day 2. Day 3 deserves little mention, because it was so simple.

We had a tail wind. We had different priorities for pace and schedule: fellow adventurers warn that this is the biggest source of contention. To her, we had reached my goal and the mission was over; get home quick. To me, we’d found one magic place at the end of the river and there were many more to discover.

We worked this out, doing mature things.

We pedaled 80 miles in a grand day, sailing on an 8 mph tail wind and strong legs. We crossed three ferries so we could follow the prettiest roads; in Algiers we faced our toughest traffic, conditions that left me with a pounding heart and an iron grip on my bike. Jessica handled it with a cool head.

We also crossed this bridge:

Highway 407 Bridge

“Report a Problem.” Problem: THIS BRIDGE!

After a rain shower and a gated dead end we reached the Dry Dock bar and restaurant (site of our first date) beside the Algiers Ferry. (For non-New Orleanians, that means one ferry ride from home.) There, no one cared about the miles we had gone or the dangers we had faced. We were just two more people with too many requests for our overworked waitress. Her adventure occluded our own.

Beer, salads, and too much food; an oddly comfortable ferry ride; a jaunt through the Quarter; coming full circle at Rogue Chateau; and 3 more miles back to Jess’ place for champagne and cookies.

This is the first leg of the Great Adventure. The first leg of a dream, a prophetic dream come true; the first leg of wresting Fate, of choosing Fate, of lightly holding Fate.

This is what it is to seek the heroic life.

This is the last part of a series. You can also read Day 1, Day 2 and reflection 2.5. Better yet, you can even read Jessica’s version.

Adventure, Andre Sólo, New Orleans, Spotlight, The Great Adventure, The Heroic Life

The Crawfish Chronicles

This is an excerpt from the Wandering Dragon.

Picture by Wandering Dragon.

After having been in association with this guy for over four years, I can honestly say that he is the most cunning, determined, and foolhardy person I know… I have come to New Orleans to see him and symbolically “send him on his way” across a vast unknown that most of us would fear to tread.

He questions religion, belief, even experience, and yet sees the need and the usefulness for things like magic, ritual, and community, and does his best to ensure they reach those who need them. It’s like he wants you to believe in what you believe because you really believe it, and not for any other reason or self-serving excuse.

In his article Of Crawfish Boils, Magic Spells and Revelations, my friend and brother the Wandering Dragon (Mauricio) goes on to paint a picture of me as traveling philosopher that is at once embarrassingly accurate, and touchingly astute. This article was published weeks ago, and I hesitated to share it: would it be too self-serving? But he knows me (and my ideals) better than just about any human alive, and what he wrote keeps strumming chords in me.

If you want to get a look at what I do, and why I live, from the inside out—I don’t believe anyone has ever captured it this well.

Wandering Dragon is a blog of many topics, and you never quite know what you’ll find next. But I hope you’ll take a look at Of Crawfish Boils, Magic Spells and Revelations and leave Mau a comment or a question—tell him what you think, and dig for a little more.

Thanks brother. And thanks to all who follow me on this crazy adventure.