Have you heard of Paulo Coelho? Of course, you did. Paul Coelho is one of the most popular novelist of all time. His books bring inspiration to many wanderers such as myself. But, would you believe that I only got to read one of his books this year – The Alchemist?
Last January, my husband and I embarked on a grand voyage in two regions of India – Kerala and Rajasthan. It was completely eye opening and life changing trip for the both of us as we’ve finally busted every myth we knew about India. I could write several blogs for every city we’ve visited but I dedicate this blog solely for the purpose of how ‘The Alchemist’ changed the course of our lives.
While spending a week in Pushkar, we came across fellow travelers in the humble family-owned guesthouse we were staying in. A hippie-chic woman from America was leaving and she decided to pass on some of her books to us. That was when I first took a glance of the book ‘The Alchemist’. I’ve heard about it so many times before but I never really had the chance, nor the interest, to read it. Until now.
I opened the first few pages and read the prologue. Effortlessly, I was hooked. Easy as that. Without even reading the entire book yet, I knew it is going to be interesting. My husband couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw me reading. I never read books for a long time since I started working as a digital nomad. My life since then revolve around computers, laptop, phones or any digital device for that matter. I mean, I just don’t have the time. Or, at least, that’s the excuse I give to myself. Now, that’s starting to change.
If there is one big take away from reading ‘The Alchemist’, it’s to ‘follow the omens of the world’. In simpler terms, it’s to heed every bit of clue the world bestows upon you as they will influence the course of our future. Or, in the simplest terms, everything happens for a reason. My dear husband, though a fan of the book, thinks it is non-sense as he believes that everyone is the master of his own life and nothing is mere coincidence or fate. Although I do not contest, I have explored further.
I believe that there is a greater power or force that has a hand in our existence and destiny. Some people may believe it is God, Jehovah, Allah or any other name he or she is known for… But, I believe, it is simply the one. I have been agnostic for a long time and this story can be explored in all different directions. I have every bit of respect for both religious and non-religious people as they have for me. Respect begets respect.
I believe that no matter how difficult of a situation we are in, it is preparing us for something greater in the future. I believe that every bit of happiness is earned and not given. I believe that in the process of achieving the ultimate stage of our existence, we have to lose a great deal of people and things to realize that in the end, the journey is all about you and your role in this world.
I would not have realized all that without reading the book. Well, perhaps, it has been in the back of my mind for a long time, just waiting for an excellent book to cultivate my thoughts. The book has brought me some clarity. Clarity over every failure and mishap in my life. As a human, every time we are in a predicament, we always question ‘God’ why it is happening to us. But perhaps, the real question should be ‘what lessons did I learn from this challenge?’.
Beginning of this year did not go according to our plan. We were suppose to go to New Zealand on February but my husband forgot his driver’s license back home. And since I don’t drive, the option of renting a camping car in NZ is a no-go. Therefore, it’s pointless to go to NZ without a van. So, we put that dilemma in the back burner then proceeded to India as planned.
A few days before our big trip to India, we’ve decided, perhaps too quickly, to booked a ticket to Papua New Guinea for two weeks in replacement of NZ. We soon then realized that it costs a lot more money to travel to and around PNG than NZ due to the scarcity of mass tourism and well, roads. In order to move around PNG, we would have to take planes each time that would shell out €100 per way. Accommodations are a pain too. Due to low number of tourists, there is no option for backpackers to stay in. We would have to book expensive (for the price) hotels that ranges from €50 to €200 per night. In other words, it is simply not a backpacker destination. The cheaper options would be in Port Moresby, but that’s not where the best things are. You go to Port Moresby only to arrive and leave, nothing else. Having realized all these, we sooner regretted booking those expensive flights. And because we hardly change our tickets, we’ve booked non-refundable ones. And now, we’re kicking ourselves. But, we digress.
After India, my husband spent a few days in Bangkok for his business while I went to Cebu to see my family. It was a good distraction from our soon-to-be catastrophic trip to PNG, we imagined so. We only booked 3 nights on our arrival and the rest was supposed to be spontaneous. There is almost nothing online about PNG and no reliable guide books either. Even Lonely Planet merged PNG into Indonesia’s guide book. It’s that scarce it’s not worth a separate book.
Then one day… coronavirus happened. Well, it has been around for awhile but mostly in China. This time, the world has just started to tremble of its menace. Consequently, flights were changed, delayed or cancelled here and there. To no surprise, our flight to PNG has been affected. The new schedule does not suit us so, we decide to cancel with pleasure. Imagine our relief! Phew, that’s one bullet dodged.
Now, the ball is back in our hands. No more hasty decisions, we reminded ourselves. We carefully booked a cheap ticket to Borneo and spent two amazing weeks there. We explored the tip of Borneo, the jungle and finally, Sipadan, one of the best dive sites in the world. Amazing times! However, it still begs the question, where to next? We still have one more month on this side of the world that we don’t know where to go to!?
We sat quietly and looked at the map of the world. We wondered where else can we explore on this side of the world. I know, a great problem to have. Well, we’ve been to all countries in Southeast Asia except for Brunei (no offence, it doesn’t strike our interest). We haven’t been to Nepal but it’s not a good season to visit at that time. We were looking at South Korea but it takes forever for me to get a visa. So, that’s out, too.
Exploring down the bottom of the map, there’s New Zealand. That mutual feeling of my husband and I had us wondering, why not New Zealand? After all, I already have the visa and so, we just have to travel sans camping car. People did it, we can, too. It shouldn’t be that hard, right?
Finally, we decide to go to New Zealand. Just like the original plan, except without our own transport this time. With careful consideration, we booked a return flight to Auckland from Manila, 24 days in our most anticipated country of all time. Sounds good enough for us!
Then not for long, we embarked in to our journey to Middle Earth, I mean, New Zealand. (Sorry, I watched too many LOTR movies.) We explored the North Island first then made our way to the south. As the story of the Covid19 developed, we found ourselves in a lakefront town called Te Anau, the gateway to NZ’s magnificent fjords. We were supposed to be at the last leg of our trip before flying back to Auckland then back to Manila when the Prime Minister raised the alert level hampering the travel sector. Eventually, our flight back to Auckland has been cancelled and making our way by road and ferry would have been a great ordeal.
After our fair share of stress and roller coaster days, we chose to stay. It would cost us an arm to fly out. Going back to France is not a very smart option either as the virus has just unleashed its wrath in Europe, it’s basically like going to war unarmed.
In all honestly, it was not so much of a difficult decision for us. We love this country and staying a little longer wouldn’t hurt us. Well, except food-wise and my husband’s business but we’ve prepared for it. 🙂
Now, circling back to how this relates to the ‘omens of the world’. Our itinerary, though a messy one, has lead us right to New Zealand, the country where we’ve wanted to be since the beginning. If we would have been in New Zealand around February, we would probably be in Thailand or Philippines during the lockdowns. And quiet frankly, I would not be warm for that. Here, in New Zealand, we are in full alert level, call it lockdown if you will, but we are still free. Free to roam, hike, go fishing, wander around as long as we respect social distancing. We live in a charming apartment fronting the lake that offers calming views. My husband is free to go out fishing and we can do day treks around the the national park. We are definitely not complaining! In fact, we consider ourselves to be lucky that we stumbled upon this place just in time for lockdown. We wouldn’t want anywhere else!
Every night before I sleep, I feel grateful to be here – surrounded by tall mountains, listening to the songs of the birds and most of all, in the arms of my beloved. Every bit of change in our itinerary made sense now. It was as if it was meant for us to be here. Right on timing.
Just like the domino effect, every thing we do has a chain reaction to our present and future. Things just don’t happen for no reason. Things don’t happen too early nor too late. They happen just right on time.
If ever you find yourself questioning what’s going on in your life right now, I hope this 1000+ word article will help shed light to your worries.
Cheers and as they say here in Maori… Kia kaha! In English, stay strong!