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, Mexico, Photographs, Spotlight, Travel

Lunch, Hair, Advice Column [Photo of the Week]

I was going to post this last week, but then the rainstorm happened.

First off, I think you guys deserve a proper picture of the haircut you helped choose:

Photo by André

Photo by André

To be clear, this isn’t exactly the Lannister cut I was looking for. I did everything I could: brought pictures and learned all the haircut-related Spanish words (sideburns are patillas, by the way). But Mexico is still very much a craftsman economy. Instead of buying something mass produced you’re often paying an artisan to build you something one of a kind, whether that is an iron gate or a new laptop. Even a house doesn’t go exactly by the blueprint: the contractors have their own idea of what will work best. Apparently this attitude extends to haircuts.

Still, it’s close and overall I like it. It seems like other people do too. You can generally tell a haircut is a success not so much by whether people compliment it (they’re sort of obligated) but by the attention you get from the gender of your preference.

In my case I could immediately tell the difference in the second looks from Mexican women as I walked down the same streets I’ve walked for a month. I went to my favorite lunch counter at the public market, and the lady who usually serves me didn’t even recognize me at first. When she did, she made a big deal and started conversating [sic]. In the past our only real interaction was her taunting me when I asked for hot sauce, a routine that never gets old. Now she wanted to know if I had a wife or girlfriend. Subtle.

She then told the younger woman working there to try land me as a boyfriend. The younger girl nearly died when she realized I understood them. She spent the rest of my visit blushing and doing her best to make only fleeting eye contact.

Not too bad, Lannister.

Here’s the whole crew from the lunch counter:

The one in the yellow apron is the trouble maker, and the one on the left is the shy one. Photo by André.

The one in the yellow apron is the trouble maker, and the one on the left is the shy one. Photo by André.

So that’s the photo of the week. My time in Guanajuato is now half over. I’m still making friends here and discovering new places, while also scrambling to plan what happens next.

As a side note, I recently shot a pilot for an advice podcast:

It ran longer than we hoped, and we need to get sharper audio next time. But I’m happy with how it turned out. It wasn’t long ago that shooting videos terrified me, whereas now it seems easy. Of course, Cole (my co-host) is the real secret to success. She’s just naturally warm and funny, and we get pretty ridiculous when we’re together.

We’re going to shoot at least a few more of these to see how it goes. If you have a problem you need advice on, leave a comment and let us know! Meanwhile, I will get back to posting Road Logs here soon.


I don’t believe the universe will provide

Photo by Franco Folini

Saturday I received an email from a young woman who has begun her own travels across the US. She is in search of a sense of meaning and purpose and she shared with me some wonderful, vulnerable feelings I won’t share here. But she also asked me a question:

“I was wondering if you have any tips on how to trust that the Universe will provide, and how to make money while doing this soul searching.”

I told her I don’t believe the universe will provide. I’m worried I broke her heart. But I also hope that out of all the voices telling her what to do, and giving her simple, optimistic advice, maybe my voice will stand out a little because I’m trying to be truthful.

Here’s what I wrote her:

Dear __,

I don’t believe the Universe will provide. She is a beautiful, wonderful, rich universe but she is both loving and cruel. To love the universe is to love both sides of her, and to accept her as she is.

I found that the hardest part of my traveling life was creating a sustainable income while I travel. I still don’t make a great deal of money, but I make enough to live by and keep moving and that’s enough for now. But I was only able to do that by (a) planning carefully (b) learning from professionals how to do freelance work on the road [writing in my case], and (c) taking the risk and the time and effort to pitch many, many clients, getting a lot of “no’s” before I finally had a list of regulars.

There are people who do it very differently. You can work on cruise ships, take odd jobs, or busk and perform for tips in certain cities (other cities just aren’t profitable).

One thing that is very scary to me is knowing that, although I have enough income for right now, I don’t have enough for as I get older. I will need better healthcare, a home base and better professional equipment as I age. So I’m using the next leg of my journey to settle in one place—Guanajuato, Mexico starting in March—to do a sabbatical. I’ll focus on my career, especially putting out more books and planning how I will become a more successful writer.

I’ve also met people who travel with no concern for money, no plan and no resources. You have probably seen or met the “traveler” kids [also called: “gutter punks”] who hop trains and live in squat houses. They have happy beautiful moments but also pain, abuse, guards shoot at them, dogs bite them, friends turn on friends under the influence of drugs, sexual assault is common. Most train hoppers want to get out of the lifestyle before they become career hobos or get killed. Every train hopper has lost at least one friend.

Many people hate money and working but, within reason, it’s also the key to safe and successful travels. It allows you to have a refuge where you feel at peace. I do believe it’s best to build your income/career around your passion if possible, which is why I write professionally. I love writing. But most of what I write for clients is not stuff I would choose to write on my own. I do that work because it makes my dreams possible.

I don’t know if these thoughts are helpful to you. Some other travelers might tell you differently. This is just my own experience. For me, it takes some planning. I admire what you’re doing and I want you to succeed.

What I didn’t tell her, and I wish I had, was that this advice is not really advice I wrote for her, it’s advice I wrote for myself. This is the advice I wish I had taken three years ago.

Before I started traveling, I had set a deadline for myself: my thirtieth birthday. I had to quite my job and leave by then. As that deadline approached I scrambled to make sure everything was ready to go and I didn’t feel prepared. Like my reader above, I reached out to another traveler I admired and I asked his opinion.

He told me to wait a year, save more money and not travel till I had a nest egg.

I ignored that advice and it is something I still regret today. I don’t regret any of my travels or adventures, but I do regret making them absolutely more stressful and anxious than they had to be. I was always scrambling, and I’m sure I missed many opportunities and side quests because of it.

If I had stayed at my old museum job one year longer, I would have started my Adventure with all debts paid and plenty of money saved. I may also have built up a substantial freelance client portfolio before I started. The result would have been more freedom to enjoy my journey once I was actually on the road.

My girlfriend also works and travels, and she did this much better than me. When she quit her corporate job to freelance, she was worried she didn’t have enough clients to make a strong living. So she looked for grants for graduate work in her field, went back to school and got a PhD for free—while freelancing after-hours to build up her business. When she earned her degree she already had a successful one-woman company and money to travel the world.

Our stories are so different because when I have an ideal or a belief I can’t wait to run after it. Sometimes this is a good quality, and it has gotten me into some of the best adventures and breathless wonderful moments of my life. But many soul-searching wanderers, like me and like my young reader, share this trait and sometimes it blinds us. We will harm ourselves by insisting we cannot wait.

I don’t know if that advice applies to you, dear reader who wrote to me, but I know it applies to me. I feel happy about my life, my Journey and my career—I wake up happy with who I am. But I know I could be in a much better place right now, and be much farther along in achieving my dreams, if I had been more sensible. This is, perhaps, the fate of adventurers.

I haven’t heard back from her. I worry that perhaps my note offended her or will discourage her. I hope that’s not the case. My advice is based on my own life and for her it might not apply. But what does the universe provide? She provides us the backdrop, the dizzying endless backdrop, and waits for us to move.

The world is both good and bad.

Therefore, she is good.

To adventure is to make love to the world.
What advice would you give my reader? Please comment and share this post.

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My book Lúnasa Days is available on Kindle and in paperback. Get your copy here.