Ithaca and Why Bother With Your Journey?


When Odysseus returned to the greek island Ithaca, after a long and adventurous gruelling journey (Cyclops, the Sirens, Poseidon, the witch Goddess Circe – to name a few encounters not to mention his trip into Hades), his problems had only just begun. There were so many suitors after his wife, Penelope, that he killed them all along with some family members who retaliated.

So we may wonder – why bother going on these journeys at all? Maybe it would be better living a simpler life, feet up, not doing much at all. But I like an adventurous life. A life of travelling and discovering new things. I can’t help being curious and that choice is always going to be challenging.

But people will warn you that going to Bolivia and crossing the Altiplano is dangerous. All manner of disasters can happen. Yes, that’s true. Novel experiences often involve an element of risk but that’s half the fun. They fill out our lives. There is no soulful exploration staying at the London Ritz.

From time to time it’s good to question our path in life and where we are heading – so we can make those adjustments when needed. But it’s wise to be present in the journey rather than concern ourselves with what we may or may not achieve at the end. Because once we are at our destination, like Odysseus, the joys and the sorrows are behind us…another journey beckons.

And when venturing forth it’s important to remember that if you don’t carry the Cyclops in your soul then you’re paths will never cross. Any darkness you do encounter is that which you brought with you. Bolivia here I come.

In 1911, The Greek writer Constantine Kavafis, wrote a delightful poem explaining how it’s the journey not the destination that should remain in our hearts and minds. It was called “Ithaca”.

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 mean”.

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4 replies

  1. Hi Tom and Mitch…always interesting. I tend to agree with Tom. Having said that we all go through periods of hardship where it is difficult to see a future that we would like for ourselves. There is a way out of any restrictive situation – it may not be the perfect way – but the path is there. In regards to travelling and the journey – Odysseus’s journey can be seen as metaphorical – I know an elderly couple who live a very simple life and they have never travelled. However there life has been quite a wonderful heartfelt journey – full of life and people as they have worked hard for the local community. I think they at times they regret not getting out and about and seeing the world – but I understand that travelling would never have really suited them. So if we find ourselves choosing not to travel by plane or ship or bike – then we should travel in our hearts.

    • Hi Chris, yes absolutely. Additionally I would suggest that whichever means we chose to travel by, our travelling should always simultaneously be accompanied by travelling in our hearts – I believe it´s essential if we want to become truly free

  2. Dear Mitch, please consider the following: It´s not what you have gathered of material wealth that makes the difference. It has to do with what you FEEL for what you have. It´s about energy! In any case, the only person who can change your life in a way to make your dreams possible- is you! Maybe you need to find a different job or even better come up with an idea and be self employed. Anything is possible once you have created the energy for yourself.

  3. Thats all very well, for those of us who have the money to live the life we would like to. I love traveling also, have wonderlust and a sincere desire to return to the places i love, like Peru, Thailand etc. But I’m just a humble Starseed who tries to disconnect from the Matrix by daily exercise, meditation, good diet etc. but never seems to get anywhere financially and works casually in a labour intensive matrix job with nil opportunities. I’m not grumbling, I take life as it is, but money is the key to freedom and it isn’t easy to come by in this world.

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