The Importance of the Journey


When you set out for Ithaka

ask that your way be long,

full of adventure, full of instruction.

The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,

angry Poseidon – do not fear them:

such as these you will never find

as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare

emotion touch your spirit and your body.

The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,

angry Poseidon – you will not meet them

unless you carry them in your soul,

unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.

At many a Summer dawn to enter

with what gratitude, what joy –

ports seen for the first time;

to stop at Phoenician trading centres,

and to buy good merchandise,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

and sensuous perfumes of every kind,

sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;

to visit many Egyptian cities,

to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaka always in your mind.

Your arrival there is what you are destined for.

But don’t in the least hurry the journey.

Better it last for years,

so that when you reach the island you are old,

rich with all you have gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.

Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.

Without her you would not have set out.

She hasn’t anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you.

So wise you have become, of such experience,

that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean.

by Constantine P Cavafy

I want to write a commentary on this, but I don’t know if there is anything I can add. In Tawas, the power boaters were amazed that it took us 9 hours to complete a trip that took them 2. But we didn’t “go to Tawas.” We saw the second spark plug as we left the Bay, swam at Gravely Shoals, and got a close up of the freighter dock. On the way back, we pushed Moonraker beyond what we thought to be her limits (and nowhere near her real limits, whatever they may be!), we heeled over on a close reach–closer than what most boats can do, and we soaked up some wonderful sunshine.

One sailor we talked to said, “When I’m on my boat, I’m where I want to be. I don’t want to rush there and back, I just want to be on the boat.” It’s about mindfulness, about taking in the moment and learning what it has to teach you. There is no reason to rush back and forth. This is not just boating, it’s life. Don’t be so concerned with the destination that you forget the journey.

We didn’t reach “Ithaca” this summer. We didn’t even make the trip under the bridge that I had spent a year preparing for. Yet, what we gained was worth so much more.

2 thoughts on “The Importance of the Journey

  1. “At many a Summer dawn to enter
    with what gratitude, what joy –
    ports seen for the first time;”

    Beautiful. I haven’t read much poetry lately. Thank you for sharing the poem and your message.

    Dan @ ZenPresence . com

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