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The Beautiful Voyage

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 Ithaca means.
— Constantine P. Cavafy, Ithaca

There’s a special place in my heart for The Odyssey. It captured my attention in early adulthood and held on tight. I might have sailed away to the Greek Isles in my own odyssey had things gone differently. And so having a heart so set on travel doesn’t surprise me very much at all. In fact, what surprises me is the amount of time I’ve spent in my home port. When you find home you know it, even when the road calls you like a Siren.

I didn’t have the heart to break up Cavafy’s poem, and offer it here in its entirety for my fellow travelers to celebrate (as travelers do). Perhaps the flow may seem off, as if the entire voyage is top-heavy, but so be it. We must break the rules now and then in our lives if we hope to see what’s outside our box.

And that’s the point, isn’t it? To see what’s far outside of our comfortable box, and to live to tell the tale. The box will be there when we get back. But we’ll be different, won’t we? We’ll witness things we’d only believed as myth, and things we’d never known existed but will stay with us forever for having been there. We’ll carry the sparkle of faraway places in our hearts that escapes from our eyes as we tell of places we’ve been. Similar sparks escape from the eyes of fellow voyagers who have been to the same place, and a special fire burns brightly when the sparks are shared in other ports of call. There’s a club of understanding that is earned living dreams and encountering what is carried in our souls. If that sounds ridiculous, well, check your sparks for ignition. You may need a tune-up.

Do you understand what Ithaca means? If not, give it time and room to grow. You’ll find it far from the comfortable routine, just waiting for you to go there. You just might come across me on that journey too, chasing Ithaca and learning more about this voyage every day. So tell me, do you see it now? Isn’t it beautiful?

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One Comment

  1. Wow, that is the most beautiful text I have read in a long time. I was supposed to read the Odyssey back in high school. I never did because it was to thick haha. But wow, I think I might pull back on that decision.
    I’m happy to say that I am currently on this voyage to Ithaca—physically and metaphorically 🙂 I look forward to seeing more of your posts.

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