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.

Heroism, The Heroic Life

Creating Heroic Encounters

Is it possible to “create” a heroic encounter?

Variants on this question come up a lot. To me it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the heroic life. The answer is generally no, but more importantly the answer is you don’t need to and you shouldn’t want to.

You don’t need to because there are already so, so many moments in life when someone needs to stand up or speak out. And chances are you won’t take action in the moment. Most of us have more opportunities to be heroic than we ever respond to, so why try to create more?

You shouldn’t want to because that means questionable motivations. Acting heroically means taking unnecessary risk. If you seek to create more opportunities to do this, it implies self-destructive behavior. When I was 20 and took Chinese sword lessons, I’d always picture running into a mugger and defeating him with my wooden sword. But I never went out looking for muggers.

Heroism is emergent: a quality you can embody more and more with practice, but never quite reach. Pursuing it is more like pursuing enlightenment than going after a promotion.

As such, the project is not chasing chances to act a hero. The project is to develop a heart that’s ready to overcome fear. The easiest way to learn this is to go on a journey.

A journey will not give you a heroic encounter, but it may give you a heroic mindset.

L Days cover_front only_half size

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