Spiritual Awareness: The Journey of The Personal Legend

“There is only one way to learn. It’s through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.”
– Paulo Coelho

I don’t know how many of you have read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, but it’s one of those books that should be required reading by everyone. I am actually on my third read in a year. Each time I read it, I find something new and poignant about Santiago’s journey.

It’s a story about finding your Personal Legend, which is basically your life’s journey to what you were meant accomplish in life. In the story, the journey is both a physical and spiritual one for the main character.

The reason I thought about writing this post today was because a good friend of mine is on her own journey in both spiritual and a physical way. She will be backpacking across Asia for four weeks all by herself. I know that when she returns from her trip she will be forever changed. I know when I did a mini version of what she’s about to do it changed me forever.

Some years ago a group of girlfriends and I wanted to travel to Hong Kong. We were lured by the promise of awesome shopping, and back then I was a huge shopaholic. Each and every time we planned on making the trip, someone would bail on us. So finally I decided that I was going without them.  Well, I went without them. This would be my first solo international trip, to a country I had never been to before. Did I mention I do not speak one word of Mandarin Chinese?

I did my research, bought Fodor’s travel book,  plotted my trip and set a date to travel. The night before I was leaving, my mother came by. I think in her mind she was there to look at her child one last time. I am sure she thought I was crazy. But I assured her I had planned the entire trip for five days to the teeth. I felt safe and secure and unafraid as I was about to have an adventure.

I was fine until I was on the plane leaving Newark. When the doors closed, I panicked! Wait! Was I really going to go to China by myself? Well it was too late to bolt then and so I settled in for the seventeen hour flight.

I will spare you the specific details of my trip. But what I will tell you is that when I landed in Hong Kong, I hit the ground running. The hotel manager where I stayed in Kowloon personally looked out for the crazy Jamaican girl who was traveling by herself. I learned to blend in as best as I could (right?) and I roamed the city.

The Hong Kong Night Market is something remarkable to experience. At 9PM, a huge bazaar erupts downtown. It’s packed, loud and full of all kinds of things to buy and eat. A lot of what you are eating tends to move. Riding the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbor at night is amazing! The Hong Kong skyline at night is something to behold. I followed my Fodor’s book to the “T” and found all the little hidey-holes, including the best places to eat dim sum as that was the only thing on the menu I could figure out.

But that was not the best part of my trip. I took the train to Shenzhen a couple days later to do some shopping. I found out the hard way that they don’t have bathrooms across the border. The public toilet is a hole in a wooden floor. There also is no toilet paper. Got the visual? I spent hours in the border city losing my mind, buying all kinds of things. Then it was time to really push myself a bit further.

I stood in the train station in Shenzhen, looked at the marque, despite everything being written in Mandarin Chinese I successfully bought a round trip ticket to Guangzhou province further into mainland China. As I sat waiting for the train, other passengers openly stared at me, whispering to others around them and pointing at me. It was rather comical to see. Once onboard and settled, I got a nice view of Chinese life and terrain from my window seat. I got to my destination, looked around and realized: “I am crazy, there is no one here that looks like me!” Until a lone black man saw me and looked at me wide-eyed and got very excited.

I had booked a room at a decent hotel near the train station and once I settled in, I headed out to peruse the town. I will tell you one thing about traveling solo in a foreign country: your instincts, your gut, and your intuition will be your guiding force. I listened as it told me where not to go. I navigated through that city the whole day never once afraid of anything happening to me.

On the way back to Hong Kong the next day, I was caught in a summer monsoon-like rain, for hours. Stuck at the Marco Polo Hotel, I watched as water flooded the streets. The last train from Shenzhen to Hong Kong was close to leaving and I could not afford to get stuck and miss my flight home the next day.

So yours truly, rolled up her yoga pants and walked across the street through ankle deep street water. I have no idea how I did not catch a foreign bug. It was hot and I was sweaty, but inside my heart was bursting.

When I got back home, (which took me around the world another way) I felt like I had accomplished something great. I knew if I could travel to a country where I did not speak the language and get around and explore, then I could do anything. I look back at that trip and see a little of The Alchemist’s Santiago in me. I went on a journey, I met other travelers, had an amazing adventure. I came back ten feet taller and much braver than I was when I had left. I loved that trip so much I went back shortly thereafter and took a friend. That second trip was another wild adventure all of its own!

I think if at all possible, everyone should take a trip somewhere, far away from home all by themselves. You will see how similar we all are through the eyes of other people. You will learn to trust your instincts. It will make you an open, more daring person. It will change your life.

So when I think of my friend as she is expanding her life with this adventure across Asia, I get very happy. Not only for her but for anyone who is able to take life to another level. I know she has inspired me to do another solo trip. As a matter of fact I started the process of heading to Australia, somewhere I have always wanted to visit.

Trekking across the world does wonders for your spirit. You begin to see how connected we are to each other. When you view life through the eyes of another culture you learn something new about yourself. Traveling helps you grow in leaps and bounds. If you can’t fly across the globe, take a few solo trips in your backyard. Stay off the beaten path and explore life.

Embrace your Personal Legend and find your alchemist along the way.

Live the Life!


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