The Zahir: Wise words to travel by

By Jimmy Lee

In Paulo Coelho’s The Zahir, the novelist’s trademark introspective monologues reach a pinnacle that can be too much for one to handle. But amidst all the rumination, Coelho drops an absolute gem of a quote, and one that guides not only my travels, but my daily life. Hopefully, it can inspire you as much as it did me.

“After supper, it’s the usual routine: they want to show me their city’s monuments, historic places, fashionable bars. There is always a guide who knows absolutely everything and fills my head with information, and I have to look as if I’m really listening and ask the occasional question just to show interest.”

“I know nearly all the monuments, museums, and historic places of all the many cities I have visited to promote my work – and I can’t remember any of them. What I do remember are the unexpected things, the meetings with readers, the bars, perhaps a street I happened to walk down, where I turned a corner and came upon something wonderful.”

“One day, I’m going to write a travel guide containing only maps and addresses of hotels, and with the rest of the pages blank. That way people will have to make their own itinerary, to discover for themselves restaurants, monuments, and all the magnificent things that every city has, but which are never mentioned because ‘the history we have been taught’ does not include them under the heading ‘Things You Must See.’”