Adventure, Adventure Prep, Fellowship of the Wheel, The Great Adventure, Travel

A Roguish Update

Preparation for the Fellowship has kept me busy this week (and therefore quiet on this blog), but I wanted to give everyone an update.

I’m in New Orleans, as I have been since the Texas Leg. For the first two months here I rented a room, and this month I was invited to stay in a friend’s guest bedroom. I pay utilities, help him with a few errands, and we’re all getting along great.

My to-do list while here has been a whirlwind. First I had to get the word out about the ride across Mexico and recruit cyclists, which went well. Then I had to put together our funding campaign, which I did but the results have been slow. And this month I’ve had to focus on getting our little group ready: making sure everyone knows where to be and when to be there, and that all the arrangements are in place when we show up to get started.

This has by far been the most intimidating part of the preparation, and I spend pretty much every day racing from one task to another. I’m the sort of person who really prefers to have a single, large project to lose myself in (like writing a novel or a batch of 10 articles for a client). A to-do list of dozens of smaller, unconnected items is pretty much my nightmare. But it’s also to be expected before just about any large adventure.

Given that I also have client work to do, what’s fallen by the wayside is much of my own personal preparation. I realized this week that I haven’t yet gotten a physical, gone to the dentist or gotten new contact lenses as I’d planned to; I haven’t registered for an absentee ballot so I can vote from Mexico; I haven’t switched to my new phone or made a final decision on what shelter I’ll be sleeping in on the road.

There’s no doubt that these projects will get done. I wake up every morning, check my list and dive in. What will get triaged, unfortunately, is my own writing. Aside from not blogging here this week, I have three finished short stories I won’t have time to edit and send out before the trip, and I’m about 40% of the way through writing another book. It gets extremely strong feedback from my writers’ group, but I won’t make much more progress on it till after we reach the Yucatán.

All of this, of course, makes me question the Adventure overall. I felt the same way last time I left New Orleans to push the journey forward. In one form or another I’ve been planning for this journey since March, when I finished the kayak leg. There’s no denying that it’s taken my focus away from other things I care about.

So I ask myself: what takes me forward? It’s more than just a stubbornness, a refusal to quit (though that is something I excel at). There’s also a sense of excitement. Finally getting to cruise into the Yucatán on my bicycle, the wind in my face, is an image that grabs me. It’s a day, like the day I rolled into New Orleans, that I want to remember for the rest of my life.

And this time I have companions. I don’t know how much will change, compared to past legs, with fellow adventurers at my side. It should make many of the hard times easier, and it will also bring problems of its own. But the individual personalities of those who have stepped forward are recommendation enough, and I would want the chance to mingle with a group like this whether we were on an adventure or not.

So a good crew, a good goal, and a certain amount of refusal to give in. Is that justification for a great adventure? I don’t know. But I’m damn well going to find out.

Please help us launch this adventure:

Fellowship of the Wheel bicycle adventure

Your contribution helps us afford crucial safety precautions, AND you get exclusive perks like behind the scenes video logs, letters from the road and blessings from Mexico! Please support the the Fellowship of the Wheel

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Adventure Prep, Fellowship of the Wheel

Deadline Extension

Fellowship of the Wheel adventure campaign

Several people have contacted me and said that they would like to be able to contribute to the Fellowship of the Wheel fundraiser, but won’t be able to before the campaign deadline. Several others have suggested that I should extend the deadline so that people can give right up till the day the trip starts, which will make it more exciting and possible lead to a few last minute contributions.

So, good news: the deadline has now been extended through November 8!

If you haven’t heard, contributions to this campaign will help us cover important group costs, like a support vehicle to tail us through the notorious border region. In other words, the money you contribute to the campaign directly helps us stay safe as we cycle. It will also help provide must-have equipment such as a wireless device we can use to get wi-fi anywhere in Mexico. That helps us stay in touch and further contributes to our safety.

Supporters get much more than a thank you (although your name is inscribed in a thank you card that will travel all 2,000 miles of our journey with us). You also get all kinds of perks, from video logs recorded as we travel to a series of stories inspired by the places we visit. We can even send you postcards and hand-written letters from the road.

If you haven’t already, please consider contributing to the campaign. Even a $1 donation helps (and gets your name on the card). And please share the link and tell your friends. Check out the campaign here.

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Adventure, Adventure Prep, Fellowship of the Wheel

On Losing an Adventurer

Photo by Amsterdamized

Recently I wrote that a total of 18 people have expressed interest in the Fellowship of the Wheel, of which about nine are serious. So what happened to the other nine?

A trip like this is a big commitment. I’ve always assumed that not everyone who threw their hat in the ring would actually show up. Taking a cue from my college activism days, I expected the “law of halves” to take effect: half of all interested would be serious, and half of those will follow through. In other words, if just five adventurers show up in the flesh I’ll be quite happy.

So I wasn’t surprised that a handful of people have bowed out so far, although I am surprised at the reasons why. I assumed that security would be the biggest source of attrition. Potential adventurers would start out enthusiastic, I imagined, but then balk as friends and family scared them with stories of mass graves in Mexico. (Speaking only for my own friends and family, who have overall been amazingly supportive, telling me these horror stories is an eerily popular activity.)

At least two group members have indeed reported warnings from friends when they announced their intention. But out of 18 people interested, only one has cancelled over safety concerns. And even in that individual’s case, the worries were more his wife’s than his own and it sounds like a busy work schedule was a bigger factor.

Another individual who dropped out had very different reasons:

  1. He doesn’t approve of a fundraiser to help defray group costs;
  2. He couldn’t understand why we’re taking “so long” (80 days) to bike across Mexico.

Both of these objections come down to personal preference. The Fellowship has a clear mission to make adventure accessible and to use that adventure as a chance to learn about ourselves and the world. Both the fundraiser and the slow pace are intentional choices to support that mission.

The fundraiser in particular helps reduce barriers to people who wish to come. The trip is already expensive: you need a plane or bus ticket, a decent amount of cycling equipment, and money for food and lodging on the road. The individual in question, an older adult with a lot of cycling experience, wrote that “I… would rather just pay my share,” instead of relying on contributions. And that’s a very reasonable preference. But not everyone is an experienced cyclist, and it’s easy to forget how costly it can be to a beginner. If I asked everyone to pay a $300 entrance fee I suspect we’d lose several of the younger and less experienced members of the group, and some people may never have expressed interest at all. That would go against the core mission of making adventure accessible.

Likewise with the length of the journey. Our 80 day trip includes three day rest stops every week or so, plus a week long break in Catemaco for Christmas and New Year’s. “The three day rest stops could be eliminated or reduced to one day,” our erstwhile companion wrote. “The 80 day trip could be reduced to 40.”

Again, this is a very reasonable preference. Some cyclists hit the road in order to challenge themselves athletically, to see how many miles they can log per day or how fast they can go. This competitive spirit is a huge motive in the cycling community and can be a lot of fun.

But it’s not our main goal. The breaks give us much more than physical rest—they give us a chance to learn from the towns we visit. Three days is time to see pyramids, to talk to locals, to try a regional dish, to tour a museum, or simply to explore the streets of a new place. These are the activities that make you think about yourself and your place in the world. They’re opportunities to make new friends, to learn about a people and to see things you would never notice rushing by. This is where a sense of adventure and exploration comes from.

I wasn’t the smallest bit offended by this adventurer’s reasons for dropping out. I was grateful he explained them. It made it clear that we want something different from our travels. And it was a good reminder that I should clarify expectation on pacing to each and every member of the group before we hit the road together. We’ll have both long, disciplined days on the road and slow, easy days of freeform exploring. The people who enjoy both are the ones who will be happiest with our Fellowship.

Please help us travel safely (and earn amazing rewards!) by contributing to the Fellowship of the Wheel today.

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Adventure, Bicycling, Fellowship of the Wheel

My Growing Group of Nomads

Photo by ItzaFineDay

I’m amazed by the group of adventurers who’ve joined the Fellowship of the Wheel.

We have a Buddhist who bicycles every day. He keeps vegetarian, but said he isn’t too worried about lard in his beans and rice. And if it’s served with chicken, he told me, he’ll just pull out those bits and give them to someone who eats meat.

We have a webmaster who was already planning a ride across Mexico of his own. In the past he has driven dogsleds in Alaska and built earth houses in New Mexico. He was going to make the trip across Mexico solo but, like me, thought it would be more fun to go with a group.

We have a creative writing professor, a Quaker who studies international education, and a girlfriend/boyfriend duo who do their bicycling as a team.

There are more, but you get the idea. At first I was floored by the sheet number of people who responded to my call for adventurers—about 18 total, and roughly half of those are serious—but as I get to know them better I’m increasingly awed by the types of people they are. Not all have cycling experience, but all have some kind of adventurous spirit and have lived amazing, unusual experiences. Many are nomadic.

One trend in particular stands out. I asked the group members to take turns introducing themselves by email. One after another said the same thing: they sold or gave up their possessions so they could live a different life.

In many ways that’s the ultimate commitment for someone seeking a life outside the ordinary. Once you give up your belongings you are burning the ship that brought you from a traditional life to one filled with adventure. I remember the freeing feeling during the summer I gave up my things. I rarely think of the belongings I once had, which held me back from traveling, and when I do it’s with a sense of relief.

Needless to say, I’m excited to meet each of these adventurers in person. Once we hit the road together I will introduce them here on Rogue Priest, but more importantly I’ll also ask them to start blogs of their own and report their own experiences. It’s good to have a multiplicity of perspectives.

Meanwhile, you can help us make this trip a safe one by making a contribution. In exchange you get access to video logs of the journey, stories about the places we visit and even get postcards sent from the road. Please contribute to the Fellowship of the Wheel today.

Do you have questions about the people I’ve recruited, how I recruited them, or how I went about screening them? Leave a comment below. What do you think of the group so far?

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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!

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Adventure, Fellowship of the Wheel, Spotlight

In a World of Cynics and Fiends

Photo by S. Tarr

Photo by S. Tarr

“I know it’s not easy to follow our dreams in this world of cynics and fiends, forgotten hopes and purpose left unanswered, left unredeemed, but we must strive for it still, and on the way we will find others who travel alongside us as they too reach out towards their own hopes and dreams.”

This splendid little note was sent to me by adventurer S. Tarr after he contributed to Fellowship of the Wheel crowdfunding campaign.

Perhaps you’d like to contribute, too?

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Adventure Prep, Fellowship of the Wheel, Spotlight

Help Us Launch the Fellowship of the Wheel

Fellowship of the Wheel bicycle

I’ve never been a whiz with videos. I can write, I can draw, I can even kind of sing—but shooting and editing videos is just not something I grew up doing. That’s why I’m particularly proud of the one I just shot for the Fellowship of the Wheel funding campaign. Once it was edited and live, I sent it to a few friends to get their reaction, and the consensus was “it’s cute!” (That’s a lot better than the consensus for my last video, which was “you need a better microphone.”)

This campaign aims to raise at least $1,200 to cover costs such as a support vehicle in the border region, a portable wi-fi device and more pre-adventure training. The goal is to keep us safe and keep our risks to a minimum.

Many thanks to all of you over the past week as I planned the campaign; your comments on the prospective rewards, both here on the site and privately, have been immensely helpful. I made a few small changes to the rewards list and I believe we’re offering some very gratifying perks to contributors. The goal with almost all of them is to help our supporters feel closer to the Adventure and participate in it from home.

I hope you’ll take a look at the campaign, check out my attempt at a video, and consider throwing your support behind us as we gear up. And, of course, please share the campaign link with as many people as possible to help increase awareness. Click here to take a look.

Thank you!

 

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