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Starting the Journey to Ithaca

Boat on the Beach in Gokarna, India

In the past six months I have lived in four countries and called more than twenty-six places home. I've traveled more than twenty-five thousand miles using cars, buses, jeeps, trains, airplanes, rickshaws, taxis, motorcycles, and my own two feet.

I've gotten lost walking at night in Bombay. I've watched thousands of giant bats descend on the great city of Udaipur. I've walked through clouds, surrounded by fields of corn and I've climbed ten-thousand feet into the Himalayan mountains, covered in sweat, sand, and sunburns.

Sitting down to write a summary of the most incredible six months of my life, I found myself faced with the task of telling a story of epic proportions, one that felt on par with the Lord of the Rings and The Odyssey. I considered limiting it to the story of my inner journey, but then I realized that was even more grand than the physical one.

As I reminisced and pondered what to write, my journey reminded me of these words by the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy, written almost exactly one-hundred years ago:

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon -- do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)

I like to think of my Ithaca as that moment before I die where I look at back on life with a feeling of contentment; that moment where I say to myself with confidence that I was happy for everything I had done, everyone I had met, and all the people whose lives I helped change along the way.

That’s my Ithaca. The journey between this moment and Ithaca is pure opportunity, pure potential, pure life. I might be lowering my sails and preparing to set anchor in a familiar cove for a few months, but the journey itself is far from over.

This journey began when I decided it was too important to postpone and although the journey may have been epic, there wasn't anything extraordinary about its beginnings -- this journey simply became the most important thing in my life.

Are you postponing something that your gut is telling you would be epic? Have you been putting something off that you know deep down inside needs to be done?

The journey will only begin when you decide it's too important to continue putting off. There will be people -- Cyclops and Lestrygonians -- who try to deter, distract, and discourage you. Pay them no attention. There will be seemingly insurmountable challenges that you need to face. Do not feel intimidated.

This is your journey and your great voyage through the sea of life. You choose who to share your journey with and what stops to make along the way. You choose when to raise the sail and when to set anchor. You choose what Ithaca means.

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22 Comments

  1. Oh what a magnificent poem, thank you for sharing this Raam…..And the poetic prose does not stop with the poem. Your writing is full of it. Safe journey home – and can’t wait to hear of your next adventure, and the next time you are ready to sail off…..!!!

    • Thank you, Farnoosh! I love that poem too! There is something about epic journey’s by sea that feels really close to my heart… I was probably a sailing explorer in a past life! πŸ™‚

  2. Hey Raam,
    I just stumbled on to your blog on Thursday and I’ve already read many of your articles. To say the least, I’m blown away by the depth of your heart. It’s rare to find someone with any depth to them. I hope that we can be friends and learn from one another through our journeys to “Ithaca”. I’ve done some travel to the 3rd world and I thought some of the same things that you wrote, like why is it that I have so much while all these people have nothing. Just like you I’m on a journey and I want to help people, but I know it’s a long road. The hope that I have is that If I can really love others and stop being selfish, God can use people like that to make a huge impact on this world regardless of how much money they have. Love is the most powerful force in the universe(and you seem to have a lot of love in your heart). I really look forward to learning from your travels, thank you for sharing them online. I know that the road can sometimes be lonely at times, I just want you to know that you have a friend that you can lean on if you need to.

    • Hi John,

      Thank you so much for your comment. It’s so nice to hear from such kindhearted people like yourself and to know that others are out there on a similar journey.

      Loving others and expressing genuine gratitude and gratefulness for everything around us is an extremely important first step. I think we then need to live a lifestyle that sets an example for others to follow (walking our talk) and we need to be willing to dedicate a portion of our time to helping others.

      I also think innovation and finding new ways to use the technologies and communication channels that are now available to us is extremely important — this is a consideration that didn’t exist even a hundred years ago. We have tools and resources available to us now that prior generations wrote SciFi movies about!
      Please know that I’m also here if you need someone to lean on and that I look forward to staying connected and sharing our journeys!

  3. Hey Raam – I can’t believe it’s been six months. I still feel like we just met, although I think we met a good time before your departure when you were still a procrastinating dreamed struggling to downsize his existence and looking for a purpose.

    You’ve done the main thing you needed to do, prove to yourself you can do what you like and show yourself that following your intuition pays off.

    And hey, now you have a groovy beard. Seriously you look like a woodcutter from the 1900s.

    • Hey Ali,

      Yeah, I was talking to my mom about how it feels like I left a few days ago, but that at the same time, the moments within the journey themselves felt like a lifetime.
      I plan to heavily trim my beard and hair as soon as I get back to the states, but I like the idea of looking like a woodcutter from the 1900s. πŸ˜€ This is the longest I’ve ever grown it — I even had an Indian come up to me today while I was sitting at the airport and assume that I was Muslim!

    • I couldn’t agree more, Rob! Both journeys feel equally life-changing. I feel like all I can do is float in their incredible energy, as I’m caught between two powerful forces that are generating waves of change that will be rippling through my life for a long time to come. πŸ™‚

  4. Raam, your journey makes me want to move beyond, strive for more, live my own journey — I am inspired to move ever closer to my dream of traveling this planet more fully and more often. Thank you.

  5. I love the passion with which you wrote this lovely journey.
    It’s an inspiration to the journey that I’m planning to do one day. On the other hand, like you wrote: “This is your journey and your great voyage through the sea of life.”
    For me that means, to be aware that life is so beautiful as the sea is … reminds me that, I’m a navigator of this long journey that is my life.

    Thank you so much for this article.

    Best,

    Viviana

    • Thank you, Viviana!

      Each of us is indeed on our own journey and while we’re all floating in the same sea, we all have different obstacles to navigate around — the ocean conditions vary greatly from one location to another! πŸ™‚

  6. ummm….WOW, just wow. This is probably my favorite post. I love the poem, I love what you have to say after it.

    this is something I need to read every day to remind myself…that one day cyclops has to stop ruling what I do. : and it hasn’t become important enough to stop putting off obviously, but I feel it coming on….

    • The cyclops stop ruling when you poke them in the eye and refuse to listen! They stop ruling when you hold your ground and refuse to ignore your intuition and your heart.
      You’re on the right path, Natalie, just keep going! πŸ™‚

Webmentions

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  • Ali Dark January 1, 2011

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  • Farnoosh Brock January 1, 2011

    What a magnificent poem, thank you for sharing it Raam & safe travels home! RT @raamdev: Starting the Journey to Ithaca http://bit.ly/a3Ylk9

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    RT @raamdev: New on raamdev.com: Starting the Journey to Ithaca http://bit.ly/a3Ylk9 <– The last post on my six-month journey.