March 14th 2022

Today I re-read what used to be my favourite book: Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.

It probably still is my favourite book, but it’s interesting to me that my prescription of that title is often very situational.

I bought this book in New Zealand, from a bus stop bookstore called Petronella’s in Lake Tekapo. (Here’s my blog post from that day: https://jacn.co.uk/2020/02/16/alchemist/)

I walked into that shop to kill some time, because the bus I was getting was not for another three hours.

I was getting that bus because I’d decided to end my trip around the South Island early to travel back to Queenstown to spend the last few days of my trip with a girl I’d just met and become quite fond of.

Deciding to get that bus was probably the most spontaneous thing I’d done in my life to that point, and a week later I was genuinely considering quitting my job and staying in New Zealand indefinitely.

The bus journey was four hours, and I started and finished The Alchemist during the drive, and the book did it’s best to convince me to stay. The book is about a journey to find one’s destiny. To live your Personal Legend.

It was that spontaneous, romantic mood which made me get that bus, and reading that book on the journey made it feel like destiny. It became my favourite book not because of the story, but because of the situation. The book spoke to me like no other book ever had, but I always figured that mostly that was because of the situation I was in.

I was terrified, and nervous, and confident, and alone but not alone, and I was travelling through an unknown country looking for love. The parallels with The Boy from The Alchemist are obvious.

In the end, I flew home. The girl and I continued to speak, but then a pandemic happened, and the world closed, and she was really far away, and then I fell in love for real.

Today is the first time I’ve read The Alchemist since that bus journey, and I was glad to discover that I do still love it. It does still speak to me, just in a different way now.

Whereas before I found parallels in the aspects of travelling and a sense of adventure, I now read into it in different ways.

I can see that sometimes you go far and wide looking for something, only to find out it was at home waiting for you all along. But you’d never have found it if you didn’t go on the journey in the first place.

Let me read you something. Or write you something, I suppose:

“You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.”

The boy continued to listen to his heart as they crossed the desert. He came to understand its dodges and tricks, and to accept it as it was. He lost his fear, and forgot about his need to go back to the oasis, because, one afternoon, his heart told him that it was happy.

“Even though I complain sometimes,” it said, “it’s because I’m the heart of a person, and peoples hearts are that way. People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them.”

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Two years ago, on a bus from Tekapo to Queenstown, that passage would have meant something completely different to me than it does now.

I feel like a very different person, in a very different stage of my Personal Legend, and the two years since the last time I read this book have been quite the journey, but my heart has told me that it is happy.

Until tomorrow, I hope yours is too.


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