BABL 064: The Book Every Traveler Should Read

Hey Life Architects, Adam Carroll with another Build A Bigger LIfe Solocast. On today’s show I thought I’d share with you a story about one of my earlier adventures, a surprise gift I received from a stranger and what that gift has done for me since then. I’ll share some stories, some lessons learned, and a book suggestion that may very well change your life.

It did mine.

Shortly after I graduated from college, I sold books door to door for a company called Southwestern Advantage. I spoke about it on Episode 38, The Hardest Job I’ve Ever Had. And while it was indeed a difficult job from an emotional and mental perspective, the rewards were pretty amazing. I met some of my closest friends doing this job, and also was presented with an opportunity to travel abroad with a friend of mine right after my last summer.

Clint Taylor, known to his friends as CT, invited me to travel with he and a couple other guys to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Hawaii to celebrate a successful summer on the book field. And, because I was staring down the barrel of a full-time job, the prospect of traveling around the world appealed to me that much more. So I jumped at the chance.

However, by the time we decided on our plans and paid for tickets, it ended up being just CT and myself on the trip. To this day we tell stories about our journey, our mishaps, the end over end rollover accident on Day 2 of the trip (more on that in future shows), and probably most told are the stories about the people we met while on the road.

If you’ve never gone on a trip like this before, there is something that is not understood until you’ve experienced it. The “backpacker culture” is one that is incredibly open to everyone that is on a life journey, a walkabout, or a holiday, whatever you call it in your vocabulary. Backpackers staying in hostels, like the ones we stayed in, are very accommodating, very open, very hospitable in a variety of ways.

As such, when you first check into a hostel, there is a basic summing up of the people that walk in the door to see if you can tell where they’re from. Americans are pretty easy to spot because we chew gum rather obnoxiously, we’re loud, and generally speaking the way we dress stands out a bit. After traveling for awhile, it was always an honor for people to think I was from Switzerland or Italy. Don’t ask me why, it just was…

One of the first places we visited on the trip was Cairnes, Australia. Cairnes is a backpacker haven, a place where many travelers go on their way up to Cape Tribulation or on their way down the Eastern Seaboard of the continent. Cairnes was a place very used to the backpacker culture and place where everyone was welcome. In short, the place was amazing.

But the worthwhile part of the story came on Day 2 when sitting around the pool (admittedly nursing a headache from the late night before) when I struck up a conversation with a woman from Norway. She was reading a book that had a somewhat interesting cover, almost like an image of ancient text or a symbol you’d see on a centuries old building. She would smile to herself, put the book down for awhile, write things in her journal, and then return to reading only to do the same thing over again minutes later. I finally stopped her right before she returned to reading and asked her what book had her that engaged.

At that she handed the book over to me and said it’s one I must read. The fact that I’d even asked her about it was an omen she said.

Being a relatively naive traveler I wasn’t sure what that meant, but she assured me that once I read the book, I’d get it. She told me the story of how she came across the book in almost the exact same way with a person in Perth, Australia. She was sitting in a hostel and asked a fellow traveler what they were reading. She told me this stranger had signed his name in the front jacket of the book, dated it, and gave her the book telling her she must do the same. She was directed to read the book from cover to cover without anyone around. Then, the second time through she was to read it in public places and pay attentions to the omens around her. If someone asked about the book, they were obviously ready to receive it and she was to give it away with her name in the front of the book and the date. She had to instruct the next person to do exactly the same.

And this is how I came to read, love, and share the book by Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.

If you’ve never read or never heard of this book, I encourage you to visit the show notes and order yourself a copy (or 5) to read and hand out to people in your life that may need to follow some of the directions that they seem to miss out on in life. Paulo calls them Omens in the book.

The Alchemist is the story of Santiago, a shepherd from Andalusia who had a deep desire to travel so saved his money, bought some sheep, and learned how to shepherd them through the countryside, the city, how to sheer them for money, and ultimately about how to live comfortably in his surroundings. The trouble for Santiago comes when he has a dream about a treasure that he is to find in Egypt at the Pyramids. The dream is so vivid for Santiago that he sees a gypsy fortune teller that tells him his dreams are a message from the soul of the world and he is to follow it.

A chance encounter with a king wearing a gold breastplate emblazoned with gemstones who seemingly knows Santiago’s fate, his family history, and the dreams inspires Santiago to go on a voyage to pursue his Personal Legend.

I won’t ruin the book for you if you haven’t yet read it, but I will tell you that Santiago’s voyage is not easy, it’s not brief, and it is full of conflict and lessons. Each of which will speak to you as you read the book, much like it did to me.

There are four themes from the book that I thought were most impactful to me. You may find these similar themes when you read it, or find a completely different meaning altogether. I think that is the power of The Alchemist. The message differs for everyone who reads it.

The first theme is watching for and following omens.

Santiago learns how to spot omens in the desert that tell him when a battle is about to be fought, but just as readily learns to read the omens of people that come into his life at just the right time.

Candidly, I re-read the book on an airplane flight this week, and was reminded that certain things in my life were most certainly omens that I hadn’t been open to. I’ll keep you posted on what happens as I follow some of those in the coming days and weeks.

The second theme is following your heart.

Paulo Coelho calls it your Personal Legend. That part of you that knows what your future has in store and calls you to it. Some people heed their personal legend while others ignore it for the fear of pursuing (and potentially missing) it.

Whether you believe in a personal legend or not, there have undoubtedly been times in your life when you knew exactly what you were supposed to be doing. Whether it’s a calling, a nudge, your intuition talking to you, following those things is akin to following your personal legend. I once heard a speaker say that we were not put on this earth to be employed, we were put on this earth to be deployed. Your personal legend is your deployment and those who build a big life generally are following theirs…

The reason that we don’t follow our personal legend is generally because of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of success, sometimes just the fear of breaking out of what’s complacent and comfortable. A friend of mine suggested this once to me.. your heart never compromises but your mind will justify. That’s why those that don’t pursue what their heart calls them do will usually justify in their mind that “I have a good job” or “what if it doesn’t work” or “it’s probably just a fleeting desire anyway”. In reality, it’s your mind justifying what your heart most wants. And generally speaking, the heart wants until it gets.

Theme #4 is taking action.

Santiago never would’ve fulfilled his personal legend had he not taken action. His first action was selling all of his sheep and buying a ticket to Africa. Then it was figuring out how to save enough money to travel through the desert. And on and on and on, Santiago was faced with the decision to take action or not take action. Inevitably, the first action he took was enough to get the process started.

So my build a bigger life question for you on todays show is: are you taking action on what your personal legend is? If not, why not? Fear, complacency, lack of knowledge? What is one simple step you can take to get to the next level in pursuit of your personal legend?  and most importantly, will you take it?

The fourth theme of the book is waking up to your life’s calling. This is similar to following your heart, but requires that you get very focused on listening to the inner knower. My interview with Cassandra Bodzak, episode 51 is a prime example of waking up to your life’s calling. Cassandra was an actress in New York, loved to cook and do yoga, and she was woken up to the vivid fact that her life calling was to use all of her experiences to help other people create a life that lights them up. She woke up to her life’s calling, and in pursuing it, moving from New York to Southern California, she has empowered a whole new tribe of people to reengineer their lives for the better.

The Alchemist, from the story is someone Santiago meets towards the end but helps the boy achieve his personal legend. According to wikipedia, alchemy was the medieval forerunner to chemistry and an alchemist was someone who could turn base metals like lead into gold.

The Alchemist, the book by Paulo Coelho has the ability to do that for you. In the pursuit of building a bigger life, I cannot recommend the book and it’s lessons enough.

As you experience your own omens, let me know about them by emailing me at If you have questions, book suggestions, people I should interview, or just want to share your story, I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time, here’s to you building a bigger life.


The Alchemist