This is how Santiago, the protagonist of Paulo Coelho's little book: The Alchemist, is written off by a ticket agent when he inquires about passage to Africa but doesn't follow through with a purchase. This bit of the story is significant to me in a couple of aspects. First, it equates travel with the idea of being free and living fully. Escape through travel is a common dream for people and the ticket agent recognizes that. He sees it all the time in the eyes of his customers, and in regards to Santiago, he is right. The boy is seeking a treasure by following his "Personal Legend" which is leading him to Africa, and he is hitting a wall in simply not having the money for a ticket.
That brings me to the second aspect, which is capitalistic crassness--that commercial precept that commodifies everything, including dreams of freedom. It says that desire and a brave heart are not enough to pursue your life goals. You have to have money so you can make somebody else rich in the process.
I have wrestled with this problem in my life. I've had the desire to travel but not the means, and often not the courage. At the heart of this desire are the ideas of freedom and of finding meaning in this physical life. Both ideas include a fair amount of subjectivity, I suppose, but I agree with Joseph Campbell who said that what the seeker is really seeking is "an experience of being alive."
...so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our innermost being and reality, so that we can actually feel the rapture of being alive.
Our desire for that rapturous experience is what creates our mid-life crises as we grow older and feel our diminution. We write our bucket lists and dream of breaking the chains that prevent their fulfillments. We sit in our cubicles and count a million widgets for the millionth time. A fear rises in us that we dare not voice, yet we must voice if we are to be true to ourselves. And if we can do so, we speak in agreement with Tolkien's character in The Return of the King, who, when asked what it is she fears, says:
"A cage," [Éowyn] said. "To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”
To lose the desire is the saddest part.
I believe we go on when we are done with this life, but that doesn't mitigate the disappointment of having wasted it. So we live with the aching need to give vent to a primal scream and run from our cubicles and out the corporate doors. Only then can we go to a distant land and stand on a mountain and gaze down on a sacred valley. There, in the cool morning air, we will feel the energy reaching out to us from the earth, from past lives and companion spirits. This is the point we want to reach; a beginning from which we would live the remainder of our life in earnest, squeezing from it every morsel of being and inspiration until we can see it plainly in front of us, and know it for what it is.
When we find our cage strong, and our bucket list goals unreachable, we often turn to stories--books and movies--to provide that inspiration we can't experience in the living. Some stories do a good job of describing our cage and portraying our escape. Ben Stiller really brought this out in his movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. In Stiller's version of Thurber's story, Mitty spends his life in a basement workspace where he has been "doing his job" for years, suppressing his impulse to experience life, and venting through lucid imaginings until he finally chooses to take a step into reality. That step leads him to some extensive traveling that allows him to experience the wider world, and so find the reality of his own being.
In Stiller's movie and in Coelho's book, travel is used as a symbol of living deliberately and fully in the moment. To achieve such living--the experience of being alive--is the reason for breaking free in the first place. In both stories, that breaking free is begun with a decision. Santiago decides to explore his Personal Legend, and Walter Mitty decides to search for the photojournalist himself rather than let someone else do it, or not do it at all. So the the step into the wider world begins with the simple decision to do so.
But there may be obstacles to overcome in carrying out that first step--maybe really big ones. For Santiago, it was simply that he had no money (i.e., the means), hence, the ticket seller's comment. Walter Mitty had to overcome his deep rut and his lack of belief in himself. Such obstacles are often the manifestations of practiced, internal inertia that we may hear as a voice inside.
Miley Cyrus' song, "The Climb," begins with the words:
I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there's a voice inside my head saying
"You'll never reach it"
I hear that voice every day. It is the accuser, berating me for being so foolish as to think I have any hope of breaking out of my cage. It tells me the world is too small, and the evil in it is too great. It says I'm lucky to be surviving, that my Dentville novel will suck, and that I'm not even a good and faithful servant. It tells me I don't have the money to travel, and that even if I did, all I would see is a tourist's veneer in front of a wasted, dying world.
But I keep trying. Something won't let me give up. For some reason, I keep believing I will find a way to fly out of my cage. I think this is not courage so much as not being able (or willing) to do anything else. It may be a Don Quixote kind of courage, where I follow a dream in the face of a reality that pummels me, sometimes greatly. Such "courage" is often called naiveté or lunacy, and is usually ridiculed. Then it becomes a matter of sheer endurance.
So endure, my friend, and know that the pursuit of your passion, your Personal Legend, is enhanced many-fold when it includes helping others. Especially if your help contributes towards their finding their Personal Legends. I hope this helps you find yours.
As for me, I still want someday to stand on a mountain and view a sacred valley. I want to feel that rapture of being alive because I am NOT a good and faithful servant.
I'm just another dreamer.