Thailand, The Heroic Life, Travel

The Tragic Joy of the Heroic Life

“Love it the first time.”

These words have been my credo since Day Zero.

They came to me literally on the eve of my departure, as I biked into Minneapolis for the last time and saw her skyline above me. Spotlights in the mist, rainclouds parting, 3 million lives unfolding. I caught my breath and wondered if I’ll see my city again, or if I’ll die on my walk.

I breathed out loud: “Love it the first time, Drew.”

I committed the scene to my lifelong memory, put my head down, and resumed biking.

Tragic Joy

This credo has come to serve me many times on my quest. Almost daily I recite these words, beholding with joy some happy scene or experience.

In part, this is because the Heroic Life involves travel. I can never see everything. I pick my priorities and live with my choices. Instead of making phantom plans, I cherish the memories I have. And I look forward.

I believe this view is required for the Heroic Life. You must accept that today may be your last experience. And you must love that truth. You must love that there may be nothing more: the moment is enough. It is sacred in itself.

This is the tragic love of the Heroic Life.

In moments of happiness, my heart soars like I’ve leapt from a cliff. Moments are fleeting and mortal, as we are.

Soul Mates

In the story of the Temple on Doi Suthep I mentioned someone important. I didn’t see her, but a few paces away was Saarein. We wouldn’t meet till later. Heaven brought us together.

When I got home I rested and showered. The temptation was strong to go to bed, but I wanted to keep my ankle moving. I went out for Indian food.

At the next table, a Dutch woman in a breathtaking shawl sat down, alone. (A woman on her own is an unusual sight in Thailand.)

I pushed weariness from my mind. Summoning my training I asked if she spoke English. She did. Would she like company?

We talked for hours.

“I follow the gods of nature,” I said.

“Me too,” she said.

The next day she taught me to ride a motorbike. First I clung behind her as she tried to kill us. Then she let me try to kill us. She was a patient teacher, one hand gently on my shoulder to show she wasn’t afraid.

We walked through caves with the Buddha. We offered incense, we prayed, we talked. As the sun set, I drove us through country roads. The sun hit the rice fields and the old walls and rooves. Everything glowed gold; we waved and the people smiled.

It was picturesque, but we didn’t capture it. “I’ll remember without a camera,” she said.

“Me too,” I said.

I knew this was our only day. Tomorrow she was leaving for Laos, then onward on her travels across Asia. In two weeks I’d go on to Mexico. From the moment we met we had 30 hours together. The clock ticked down.

We didn’t speak of this. We understood. She taught me many Dutch words, but never good-bye. Late that night I watched her zoom away on her motorbike, my fellow adventurer and my soul mate. I went to bed, and I slept easily.


It may seem that the Heroic Life brings this upon itself. If you travel to challenge yourself, you will part with many soul friends and lovers along the way.

In truth, every love is fleeting. Every joy is mortal. Most people choose to forget that. They try to build eternal happiness. When things change their hearts break. The Heroic Life allows no illusion. It confronts you from the start.

          The tragic joy of the Heroic Life:
                    Love it the first time.
                              Heaven may be a dream…
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