I just finished reading "The Cruelest Journey: Six Hundred Miles To Timbuktu" by Kira Salak. It is quite an amazing journey taken by the lone female adventurer Kira Salak through one of the difficult and dangerous terrains in the world. Along the way, she had some pretty profound discoveries, emotionally and physically. Below are good quotes from the book that I think are pretty accurate descriptions about the journeys of life, and worthwhile writing down and going back from time to time.
"[M]an whose soul has been enlightened by is Creator, and enabled, though dimly, to discern the wonders of salvation, will look upon the joys and afflictions f this life as equally the tokens of Divine love." - Mungo Park
"Self-confidence for any difficult or risky endeavours relies largely on the power of imagination, on a person's ability to see the end before the end has come, to see oneself exactly where we would like to be." - Kira Salak (K.S.)
"[M]y trips allow me to unearth parts of myself that I've long since buried as dead, showing me who I can be. They are, in many aspects, processes of rebirth." - K.S.
"[T]he necessity of revamping all of my requirements and expectations for life, of doing without, of knowing that I need very little to sustain me." - K.S.
"Here is the epitome of travel to me: being dazed by newness and exoticism, with all previous experience, all former reference points, deserting me utterly." - K.S.
"We are all at the mercy of a whole slew of forces that are more easily ignored than faced. Forces out of childhood, forces from present causes and conditions, forces as enigmatic as life iteself, that tell us we must try to achieve something or get somewhere. No expedition, no journey, no personal challenge seems a product of whim or accident, initiated because something is simply "there."" - K.S.
"My journey on the [Niger] river is inevitably teaching me humility. I am learning that body can survive on basic foods, and that they needn't taste or look good to perform their task of quieting the stomach and providing nourishment.... [A]nd how strongly the West tried to convince me otherwise.... We're taught to think we need certain things if we are to be comfortable, safe, happy. And so it's all about fear. Fear of having the "wrong" rather than the "right" things, fear of not having as much as the next guy, fear of what we look like and how we sound. The endless fears." - K.S.
"There are times when I'm traveling when I forgot that things pass, and then the so-called benefits of an experience elude me, and I can think only of the difficulties. I find it hard to appreciate anything with the sweat running off my face and burning my eyes, the sun's heat scorching my skin, my body aching from holding the paddle. What room for "experience" when there is only a wish to get to the next place faster, so that the end might be nearer?... [Y]es, at times I forgot to see the beauty for all my sweating and paddling and exhaustion. What I did not say was that beauty doesn't forget me, that it intrudes even in the midst of my slow, often tedious way of travel. It surprises me in clouds of birds shooting across an early morning sky outside Mopti. Or shows us in the white butterflies struggling across the Niger, beating fragile wings. Or in all these evenings spent in thatch-hut villages, the nights dazing me with stars. It is beauty enough for me. Too much beauty, at times, so that I must shut my eyes to it all." - K.S.
"The West, with all its rush and stress, has trained me to believe that I must fill every moment of every day with something "important." What counts as "important," though, is never entirely clear.... [A]ll worthwhile endeavours have clear and definable objectives from the start...must yield something tangible, something valuable, which furthers one's career or brings in money or achieves a certain standing. These are the things I would be doing instead, if I weren't on this river." - K.S.
"I feel a new patience that requires no effort on my part. It results naturally from each day, from an understanding that no matter how hard I paddle, it makes little difference. Timbuktu stays far away, and these hours don't pass any faster. I have no obligations out here; my mind can't scold and cajole me into a new project. I'm not bothered by calls or e-mail or people at my door. Here, I have no choice but to be completely present in each moment of my life. Mali slowly, meticulously, imprints itself on my mind." - K.S.
"I'm wishing I could explain it to people - the subtle yet certain way the world has altered over these past few weeks. The inevitability of it. The grace of it. Grace, because in my life back home every day had appeared the same as the one before. Nothing seemed to change; nothing took on new variety. It had felt like a stagnant life. I know now, with the utter conviction of my heart, that I want to avoid that stagnant life. I want the world to always be offering me the new, the grace of the unfamiliar. Which means - and I pause with the thought - a path that will only lead through my fears. Where there are certainty and guarantees, I will never be able to meet that unknown world." - K.S.