Conversation with the master – The journey

By Paulo Coelho

During the recent move to my new apartment, I found a series of notes of my conversations with J., who belongs to the R.A.M. order, a small brotherhood devoted to the study of oral traditions and the world’s symbolic language. These notes cover our meetings from February 1982 through to 1990.

I recently asked him whether I might share parts of these texts; he agreed, and some have already been published in the first two issues of Warrior of the Light Online. I have transformed the texts into dialogue for better reading, and the words are not exactly those used by J., although the content is absolutely faithful to that which I heard.

These texts are not in exact chronological order. I decided to begin with some of our conversations from 1986, which was when he insisted I go on the Road to Santiago.

– You said that going on the Road to Santiago is important. For it, one must give up everything for some time: family, work, projects. And I don’t know whether I’ll find everything the same when I return.

– Indeed I hope you won’t.

– So should I take the risk of losing everything I have conquered up to now?

– Lose what? A man only has a soul to be won or lost; apart from his life, he has nothing. Past or future lives do not matter – at the moment you are living this one, and you should do so with silent comprehension, joy and enthusiasm. What you must not lose is your enthusiasm.

– I have a wife, whom I love.

– (laughing) That is the most common excuse, and the most foolish of all. Love has never prevented a man from following his dreams. If she truly loves you, she will want the best for you. And anyway, you do not have a woman whom you love; the woman is not yours. What is yours is the energy of love, which you aim at her. You can do that from anywhere.

– And what if I had no money for the pilgrimage?

– Traveling is not always a question of money, but of courage. You spent a great part of your life going around the world like a hippie: what money did you have then? None. You could hardly afford the tickets, and nevertheless I believe they were some of the best years of your life – eating badly, sleeping at railway stations, unable to communicate because of the language, being forced to depend on others just in order to find some shelter to spend the night.

“Traveling is sacred; mankind has traveled ever since the dawn of time, in search of hunting and grazing ground, or milder climates. Very few men manage to understand the world without leaving their home towns. When you travel – and I am not speaking of tourism, but of the solitary experience of a journey – four important things occur in your life:

a] one is in a different place, so the protective barriers no longer exist. To begin with this can be alarming, but soon one gets used to it and starts understanding how many interesting things there are beyond the walls of one’s garden.

b] since solitude can be great and oppressive, one is more open to people one would not normally exchange a single word with, back home – waiters, other travelers, hotel staff, the passenger in the next seat in the bus.

c] one starts depending on others for everything: finding a hotel, buying something, knowing how to catch the next train. One begins to realize that there is nothing wrong with depending on others – on the contrary, it is a blessing.

d] one speaks in a language one doesn’t understand, uses money whose worth one does not know, and wanders down streets for the very first time. One knows the old I, with all it learned, is completely useless in the face of these new challenges – and begins discovering that, buried deep down in one’s unconscious, there is something far more interesting, adventurous, open to the world and to new experiences.

“To travel is the experience of ceasing to be the person you are trying to be, and becoming the person you really are.”

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  1. marie-christine says:

    Yes, you are “engaging”and immersing yourself into life again.

  2. Cristina says:

    Cuantos tipos de viajes existen?

  3. Holly says:

    the love of my life sent this to me when we were making ways to path. to live our separate lives until we can come together again and build something for ourselves.

    in the moment of decision making i was confused and hurt, torn apart by my needs and inable to see beyond. she found your words and sent them to me, we both found such healing and you sir are my quiet in the morning, when the days and longing for her swells.

    Your words surge and comfort me, giving me perspective, will and hope.

  4. Carina says:

    My dream has always been to go to Africa. Last year I had the opportunity to go there, I spent 4 weeks in the heart of Africa, Uganda. It was very interesting and I have no words for the hospitality and love I met from people around me. I will definitely go back one day, there is more to discover about Africa and me myself.

  5. joybell says:

    I have often thought about this and you have touched on it. How does one loose their soul? Anyone??

  6. Pysen says:

    Calling for the warm Iraq
    What is it called when you are deprived of the right of your language?
    Where do you go when you are deprived of the right of your country?
    Who are you when you are deprived of the right of your identity?
    Where do you live on when the land under the feet is not to be owned?
    Where do you live when you are deprived the right to stay where you are?
    Where do you put all these questions when they ask for an answer?
    Travel to Iraqi Kurdistan now!

  7. Yajna says:


    Just a little something on love- I think there is one movie that can truel encompass love, and that is The Fountain. Has anyone seen it? It is remarkable, if you haven’t do yourself a favour and watch it. Its just absolutely brilliant.

    Love Yajna

  8. Yajna says:

    Dearest Paulo and friends,

    I simply loved this.

    Thank you for being.

  9. Leaf says:

    When my first husband left me for someone else, I took the proverbial half of everything we owned, bought a van and a camping stove, and buggered off to Scotland.
    I slept under the stars at Robert the Bruce’s campsite.
    Washed my hair in Loch Lomond.
    I wasn’t heartbroken any more….I wandered around, loving the fact that I could get up and go in any direction I chose.
    If it wasn’t for the fact that I got a job offer back in my hometown (which wasn’t where I was previously) then I would surely still be roaming around.

    What I realized was, that I’d come back a new ME

    and I soon gave up the job to work on my Art.
    I remember tidying up my van one pay-day, after long hours in the printer’s and I found last weeks pay-packet, full £120, under the seat….What’s the point of that? I said….where’s the time to myself? Where’s the time to even spend the money I earn?
    So I left the job.

    I’ll shut up now…


  10. austere says:

    Thank you for sharing.
    Someday, Istanbul; which draws me like a magnet.
    From this piece I take what I will, there is a karmic debt due.

  11. Tania says:

    One never finds things the same when you return from a journey ,thats because your not the same person ..something in you has changed ,your longing for new experiences ,people ,and places makes you see things as they are .
    There is no loss .And love is only energy -it should be unconditionally ,when you are whole ,you should be able to love freely .I have always said a saying from a workshop I did once years ago -Its not about the Money !
    its about the underlying things ,money is just energy too..its about courage , passion ,risk ,love all of those .
    Traveling is sacred , the search for much more ,and yes you become the woman you where meant to be who falls in love with life …
    Blessings Tania

  12. Cristina says:

    Cuantos tipos de viajes existen?

  13. wanbliska says:

    For now, I can’t leave my son alone, but travelling is my dream. Younger, I thought I have something really rare to find.
    I travelled a lot in Europe, without money. Sometimes, it was close to a frustration, but it never avoid me from travelling. As I discovered, that in that way, magic appears.
    That is sublumation I mean, because I had not a penny sometimes, and yet I had persons to talk too or not, a bed to sleep in, food to eat, and even free packets of cigarettes…
    Of course sometimes I slept under a market shelter, or on a cold seashore. Events told me that I was free and protected, brought in the mothered belly of Earth and Universe. I never had to worry.

    For ever, I always liked to travel without preparing anything. I prefer those kind of travels, than arriving in an hotel, and have heating.

    Then the journeys stopped. Thanks for reminding me about.

    Journeys are blessings.

  14. Agnieszka says:

    The journey… takes courage..
    but.. if you true to your heart, to your dreams, if this is what you really want…
    It’s not easy to leave everything behind..everything you got used to, everything you know, what gives you the feeling of being safe,
    if you don’t.., if you stay..,
    yes…your enthusiasm, your inner light, your love…will cease, extinguish,…die,…and you’ll become this…wicked ghost, who cannot find its own place, whose eyes are…empty, sad.

    I cannot walk on earth like everyone,
    my being wants to go freely,
    my heart is the wildest one,
    it has to fly up high,
    it has to dance when music sounds
    fooling around with fire..


  15. tara says:

    I love especially that part of a journey when you are in between places… when one has left behind the person one was at the point of departure and has yet to become the person one will be at the point of arrival. This is how it feels to be truly oneself!

    You are quite alone yet feel a deep sense of connection with all around you. There are no barriers because you have nothing to defend. Encounters with strangers are unguarded and direct. There is a freshness in the meeting for neither has expectations of the other.

    The beauty of the journey is the adventure of abandoning ones illusory sense of self to the unknown and allowing the richness of ones true self to be experienced in each unfolding moment. The world can no longer be thought of as a dangerous adversary but must become instead ones companion and provider. Past and future cease to exist and now becomes a gift to be openly shared. What joy!