Pre-Trip

An excerpt from The Alchemist:

A certain shepherd sent his son to learn about the secret of happiness from the wisest man in the world. The wise man listened attentively to the boy’s explanation of why he had come, but told him he didn’t have time just then to explain the secret of happiness. He suggested that the boy look around the palace and return in two hours. “Meanwhile, I want you to do something,” said the wise man, handing the boy a teaspoon that held two drops of oil. “As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill.” The boy began climbing and descending the many stairways of the palace, keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. After two hours, he returned to the room where the wise man was. “Well,” asked the wise man, “did you see the Persian tapestries that are hanging in my dining hall? Did you see the garden that it took the master gardener ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?” The boy was embarrassed, and confessed that he had observed nothing. His only concern had been not to spill the oil that the wise man had entrusted to him. “Then go back and observe the marvels of my world”, said the wise man. Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and returned to his exploration of the palace, this time observing all of the works of art on the ceilings and the walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around him, the beauty of the flowers, and the taste with which everything had been selected. Upon returning to the wise man, he related in detail everything he had seen. “But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?” asked the wise man. Looking down at the spoon he held, the boy saw that the oil was gone. “Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you”, said the wisest of wise men. “The secret to happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.” The shepherd said nothing. He had understood the story: a shepherd may like to travel, but he should never forget his sheep.

After about six months of planning destinations, transportation, vaccinations, etc., the countdown is at last, just a single day. As I finish up the final details, I am overwhelmed with excitement mixed with a little apprehension. Have I overlooked something important? How am I going to lug around all of my belongings in a single bag for eight months? How are Matt and I going to put up with each other for that long? This is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, with the chance to see world-class museums, architecture, and learn about fascinating cultures. This doesn’t come without sacrifices though; when we get back, we will both unemployed and homeless… Hopefully it is worth it…

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