As I was leaving the airport in Delhi, I had an extra 500 rupees that I had yet to change back. I realized that I could change them for the $10 they were worth, or just spend them on something in the airport. I stumbled upon this book, The Aleph, that I had never heard of, but was the number one best-seller. It was by Paulo Coelho, an author to one of my favorite books, The Alchemist, so I decided to give it a try. Within just a few pages I came across this passage that described exactly how I had felt during the first of my travels. I shared it with those I had been traveling with and we all realized just how perfectly the words were written, and how it described everything that we had been through.
…“Travel is never a matter of money, but of courage. I spent a large part of my youth travelling the world as a hippie, and what money did I have then? None. I barely had enough to pay for my fare, but I still consider those to have been the best years of my youth: eating badly, sleeping in train stations, unable to communicate because I didn’t know the language, being forced to depend on others just for somewhere to spend the night.
After weeks on the road, listening to a language you don’t understand, using a currency whose value you don’t comprehend, walking down streets you’ve never walked down before, you discover that your old ‘I’, along with everything you ever learned, is absolutely no use at all in the face of those new challenges, and you begin to realize that, buried deep in your unconscious mind, there is someone much more interesting and adventurous and more open to the world and to new experiences.”
I read almost the entire book on the plane home. Once I had arrived in the states and was back at my parents house I had just a few chapters left. I came across the following passage that could only be written by someone who has taken a trip of self-discovery, like the one the four of us had just taken.
…“The journey is coming to a close, the adventure is about to end, and in three days’ time, we will all be going back to our respective houses, where we will embrace our families, see our children, read through the correspondence that has accumulated in our absense, show off the hundreds of photos we’ve taken, tell our stories about the train, the cities we passed through and the people we met along the way.
And all to convince ourselves that the journey really did happen. In another three days’ time, once we’re back in our daily routine, it will feel as if we had never left and never made that long journey. We have the photos, the tickets, the souvenirs, but time - the only, absoute, eternal master of our lives - will be telling us: you never left this house, this room, this computer.
Two weeks? What’s that in a whole lifetime? Nothing has changed in the street, the neighbors are still gossiping about the same old things, the newspaper you bought this morning carries exactly the same news: the World Cup about the start in Germany, the debate over whether Iran should be allowed to have nuclear weapons, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the latest celebrity scandal, the constant complaints about things the government promised to do, but hasn’t.
No, nothing has changed. But we - who went off in search of our kingdom and discovered lands we had never seen before - we know we are different. However, the more we try to explain, the more we will persuade ourselves that this journey, like all the others, only exists in our memory. Perhaps we will tell our grandchildren about it or even write a book on the subject, but what exactly will we say?
Nothing, or perhaps only what happened outside, not what changed inside."
As for the four of us, we know that we have been impacted and forever opened by our travels.