Questions & Answers

What is this journey you’re on?

It’s my lifelong dream. I’m going from the US to the end of the Amazon River in Brazil. My goal is to cover the entire distance powered only by my own body—no cars, planes, motors or even sails. This involves crossing almost all of Latin America, for a total of about 8,000 miles. So far I’ve bicycled 3,000 of them.

How long will that take?

Years! I travel slowly, because I like to learn from the places I go, and the people I meet, and their traditions and beliefs. I often spend a week or more in a single town, and have stayed up to 9 months in one place. I’m not in a hurry.

Why are you doing this?

I believe travel is a practice that changes you as a person. I believe “adventure” or seeking out challenge helps you find your purpose in life. I want to experience a great journey, with all its joys and challenges, like the heroes that inspired me growing up.

So are you rich as fuck?

No.

Then how do you support yourself on the road?

I’m a writer, and make most of my income doing freelance writing for a variety of companies. I also write articles, columns and books. I can do this work anywhere that I have an internet connection, so it allows me a fair amount of freedom in my travels.

For most of my life I worked a “normal” job and was not able to do this. It took years of planning and learning new skills to start my new traveling lifestyle.

Do you travel alone?

So far I have mostly traveled alone, although I had a companion on the last leg of the Mississippi River, in Texas and in northern Mexico. I love having traveling companions. It makes everything about the road more fun. (So if you’re interested…)

Do you know that Mexico is dangerous? Colombia?

I do. Adventuring experience has taught me that there are good people who will help you even in the most dangerous places. I prepare as best I can for each leg of the journey, and I accept that I’m taking a risk, but I will not give up.

Can I send you an article about an American who disappeared or was killed in Mexico?

Please don’t.

What do your parents think of all this?

They worry. Overall, they’ve both been very supportive. My sister and I were raised being told we can do anything we put our minds to, although I don’t think our long-suffering parents expected us to take them quite so seriously.

So do you NEVER use any vehicles?

Not to advance my journey, no. I’ve literally gone hundreds of miles out of my way to avoid taking a ferry, because it wouldn’t be powered by my own body.

However, I gladly use vehicles for other purposes: to jaunt back to New Orleans to see friends, to go off on side quests without advancing my journey, or to get around cities I’m staying in. The rule is that I always have to pick up where I left off vehicle-free. I have never broken this rule.

You say you’re a writer. Are you published?

I am! You can find my novella here.

But for many writers, this is our least favorite question. Writers today have a wide variety of ways to make a living, and get their work out, without going through a large publishing house (I didn’t). If you really want to get to know a writer, ask, “What are you working on right now?”

Can you teach me how to write/edit/market/publish my own book? 

Honestly, I’m terrible at the business end of writing. I’m not the one to teach you. For the writing itself, I believe that anyone who can tell a story can write one. Just try writing down your best stories and don’t worry about grammar or spelling or any of that high school stuff. That’ll all get cleaned up in editing.

Like other arts, writing is a skill learned through practice. No one is “born” a writer. Write lots of bad stories and you’ll start to write good ones.

Are you really a priest?

Yes! I’m a polytheist priest. That means that I believe the divine appears in many faces and that it’s best to recognize all of them.

During my travels I try to learn from many different religious traditions. I try to go deeper than just a casual glance, and truly learn from each one. In New Orleans I initiated into Vodou, a beautiful tradition that has nothing to do with pins and dolls.

So what do you believe?

Well… I don’t know.

I don’t really have a lot of faith. I know I’ve had powerful spiritual experiences, but I have no idea whether that means gods and spirits are real or if this stuff is all in our heads. What I do know is that it’s meaningful to me and worth pursuing.

If the gods exist, I sure hope to find them on my travels. In fact, that’s kind of my goal: to meet the gods. Here’s the latest report on how that’s going, one of most popular articles ever.

Why Brazil? Don’t you think you could meet the gods somewhere else?

Absolutely. But to me, the journey is important. Travel changes you, opens you to new ways of thinking, and teaches you about humanity. And I’ve always been drawn to South America, so that’s where my adventure is headed.

If I was born in Brazil I’d almost certainly seek the gods somewhere else.

Oh, a priest, huh? Can I tell you why I think religion is bad?

You won’t be the first.

But really, it’s not necessary. Whatever your gripe is, it’s almost certainly a gripe against Christianity or monotheism or conversion-oriented religions. Polytheism does not try to convert people. There has never been a polytheist Crusade or jihad. We believe people should be free to believe whatever they want, even if it’s different from what we believe.

We also believe in science, and that religious belief should change and adapt as we discover new facts about our world.

Where are you right now? Where are you going next?

As of February 2015 I finished the bike ride across Mexico, meaning I’ve gone 4,000 miles so far. I’m currently in Valladolid, Yucatán, a quiet colonial town surrounded by jungles, pyramids and entrances to cenotes (underground lakes). I’m staying here for a few months catching up on my writing before I move on.

The next leg will be to bicycle Central America, but I don’t know yet when that section will start.

Can I join up with you? 

I would love that! It can be for a day, a week or a set segment of the journey. So far I’ve mostly bicycled, although walking is very likely in the future. I am flexible and if you want to join me for a segment I will work with you to schedule it and make a firm plan. Please contact me at andre@roguepriest.net.

You may also want to check out my book.

17 thoughts on “Questions & Answers

  1. I still want to know why a Celtic priest is going off to “meet the gods” in Mexico. Daghda’s Cauldron ran out of booze and they had to hit Cancun? Of course being occupied by redheaded Irish gods could explain why the country’s turned into a war zone… sunshine and skin that fries in 5 minutes can lead to some loss of (ill-controlled anyway) temper. Facetiousness aside, why follow the path you do and pursue it in the Americas?

  2. Cheers, Andre. I’m glad you made it to wherever you are now and that you continue to share your journey with us.

    Are there other travellers you recommend following or who have books or websites, etc.? (I know I found Nate Damm through you.) I am especially interested in reading the experiences of women and men of color, if you know of any. Thanks.

  3. I like the FAQ: “Can I send you an article about an American who disappeared or was killed in Mexico?” “Please don’t.” Usually most FAQs are dull and answer questions most intelligent people already know the answer too. Its nice to see someone inject some humor and playfulness in their FAQs. Of course, now I will HAVE to send you every article I find on Americans being killed in Mexico, Central America AND South America:)

  4. I really enjoyed the summary here and it is very well expressed. I certainly had a few laughs – one of which being how your parents may have not expected you to take their advice so seriously :)

    I was honestly surprised at a few of the questions; mostly just the sending alarming articles on the more dangerous areas you’d be going through and the spouting off on personal views of why religion is bad. Your perspective, that happens to include a religious outlook, the more challenging and self propelled approach of journeying, and journeying through these more dangerous areas is what intrigues me. I want to know how your views morph and adapt to new experiences and want to know what it is really like in those areas, since so few outsiders go through them and share their experiences in a more neutral light. I’ve learned a fair bit from following your journey and am sure to learn more because of how you’re going about it. Keep it up!

  5. Jeff Meneely says:

    What a fantastic journey you are on! I am wondering if there was a specific event that triggered the decision to start down the path you are on. Many of us may feel this urge ( I certainly do), but have not experienced a clarifying moment strong enough to facilitate such an abrupt change in lifestyle and purpose. Thanks in advance for responding, and safe travels.

    • Hi Jeff, sorry for the slow reply. I hope you see this :)

      That’s a great question and is probably best answered here.

      In a sense I did have a clarifying moment, as described in that story, when I realized that if I didn’t act on my dream then it would never come to pass. It’s an outlandish dream but I had to try and see if I can make it real.

      But more broadly, I think all too often we wait for a clarifying moment that never comes. It wasn’t so much that one moment that changed everything, it was the years of a vaguely unsettled feeling and the unhappiness with my old life, even though it was a comfortable one. Many people would say I was crazy to give up that life (in fact, most people did say that). But that was the risk I had to take, and it as scary as hell. Any moment could have been the moment I finally made up my mind; I wish I had done it sooner. It really takes a decision on our own part, not an outside trigger in most cases. Once you commit to doing it you will figure out what the steps are to get there.

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