A year ago I started to become restless and distracted. My mind was no longer focusing on the work in front of me. Something had instantly change my path.
Traveling pretty much runs in my blood. My parents met in a foreign land and spent their time off traveling the world versus heading back home. I was born in a land different from my parents south asian heritage and immigrated to another. Both my parents encouraged me to travel and do my own soul searching when I was seeing troubled times as a young man. As soon as I was granted a passport that allowed me better mobility as a citizen, I began focusing my energy on wanting to know about the world by seeing it for myself. It became a life long dream of mine.
It was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho that reminded me of the importance in chasing this dream. I've never had what I've been feeling more accurately depicted by reading the pages of a book. It was the story of a young man who set out to find his personal legend and through his journey he found something more. I always felt alone and torn when dreaming of living a life on the road and now I realize it's because I was in search of something that is greater than me. I've pulled a couple of the quotes from the book that I resonated with and have tried to make sense of them with my past experiences travelling.
Here are some of those reflective teachings:
"Before a dream is realized, the soul of the world will test everything that was learned along the way."
As the years went on I felt my dream of travelling was starting to become buried under my work. I started accepting the necessity of survival by looking for stability and watching some of my older & closest friends reach those amazing milestones of life; you settled down with a career, you get married, you buy a house and then have kids. I spend time with them knowing how amazing these accomplishments are and wondering If I took a wrong turn somewhere, with my own path being far from their shared reality.
Yet the sense of knowing that there is something greater for me to do is what stops me from settling at this moment. Even the word settle feels uneasy for me. I've chosen to accept the complex chaos of the world as lessons and reasons to live by. I recall waking up one afternoon from mid sleep on a bus travelling through the mountainous regions of Panama. I peered out of the windows to the green slopes looping of the road, oddly dotted by shacks of housing stills giving life to as the communities of the region. I remember telling myself that one day that I will get off the bus to meet these communities.
As we move towards our dreams we master lessons learned to help us reach our long term destinations. I was getting sick of the short term travel that I had to embark on. The time was never enough to truly understand the complexities I was seeing and feeling. I did not feel like I was accomplishing anything and I longed to do more.
"There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve and that is the fear of failure."
What happens when I leave, what happens with the life I've created here? What if this is not the life that was meant for me? What if I completely fail in what I have set out to accomplish?
It is hard to ignore these questions when you decide to chase your dreams, they spark the fear of failure. When we decide to move to a new destination, we come to realize that life will continue regardless of where we are. The hard part is realizing that we are not longer part of that life. As a result we may to become consumed by focusing on the new experience in front us and very often this means starting from scratch all over again. So we will never know if the road was meant for us, until we start walking down it again & we will never know what that success feels like until we have failed once or twice. The journey for our dream must start somewhere.
Four years ago I remember contemplating a move to China. The opportunity of having family overseas in foreign destination has always been helpful in allowing me to set up basecamp before venturing onwards. I traveled in the winter, at one of the coldest times in the country where temperatures had been sinking to its lowest record since 1997. On top of this I was also based in the northern provinces that are constantly hit by the Siberian winds. It took me one week to acclimate before I could actually mobilize. I've been able to blend into most countries I've traveled but here I was truly a foreign identity and way outside my comfort zone. This was pre Hard Knock Leadership and my purpose behind travelling was still being defined. My body was beaten by the cold and late nights out, so once again I spent the last length of my journey being sick. I returned home frustrated, seeing a lot but not having any impact left by my footprints. I realized I would not have enjoyed relocating here by myself but If I didn't try it out, then I would have never known what It being away on my own felt like.
The fear of failure leads you to stick within your comfort zone because it is secure and feels safe. Embarking on a journey in search of your personal legend will be uncomfortable and will not provide the stability of any certainty. This is because your dream is uncertain until you start walking it step by step. It is only then that you will overcome the obstacles in front of you. Letting go of the life I have created has been one of my biggest fears when it came to being on the road but I said it will not be the point of where I fail.
"Remember that where ever you heart is, there you will find treasure"
Your heart can be strongest weapon when it comes to defining that dream. For the longest time I knew that it was travelling that made me the most happiest. The feeling of being somewhere that I did not know excited me as much as it scared me. I would return to a place I called home leaving pieces of my heart in the different destinations that I have travelled to.
I made my first trip to Panama in 2010 with some of boys to explore and surf. The time of our traveled coincided with the yearly Carnavale, known to be the largest in Central America. This was a festival that shuts down every city and small town in the country for four non stop days of celebratory spirits. We drove through six different provinces across the Panamanian landscape and this became one of my most memorable times abroad that started with leisure. It was a place that felt like home even though it was our first time there. We mapped out every route ourself and simply got lost in the rich culture and harsh reality of the most southern tip of the Northern American continent. My love for this destination has allowed me to return back for the last four years on freelance work and I'm still finding the treasure that exists there today.
Committing yourself to what you love is important. We are wired as humans to seek our personal legend this way. For me it was realizing that the type of trips that I need to take to create my story. My heart has been longing to continue on the road ahead and it here that I seek to find the treasures in life.
"When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too"
Every experience I've gained from taking the road less traveled has inevitably made me a better person. Both the good and the bad experience has helped me navigate the way I continue to lead my life and has given me a stronger sense of purpose in what I want to dedicate the rest of my time towards.
I connected with a familiar face who shared a similar longing to being undefined on the road and as we both expressed our difficulty in sharing these off the beaten path experiences with others who have not journeyed as far. It's never easy doing this all on your own but through conversation I realized that we had still grown to a better point than where we were before, even if we had to grow alone.
I know that in order to have a better understanding of my personal legend I will need to take on something that is more long term to define this dream. The short term journey's on the road are no longer doable for me. I've chatted with a number of people in my life about this longing and have received words of encouragement and praise, yet I know the hardest parts are yet to come. In the end I know I will have to take this road to be better and make the world that surrounds me a better experience.
"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it"
The personal legend I've been searching for more and more in the past year has not let my soul rest. The longer I stayed, the more I became distracted. I knew it was my time and started actualizing it. Now in three weeks I'll be wrapping up my life in Toronto to head out on what may very well be one of the longest journeys of my life.
To be continued: On the Road: Pt 3
Pick up the The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho & use this read to channel your energy in mapping out your own personal legend.