I was reading the book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari which has the following sentence:
He describes his time in this far-away land as a personal odyssey of the self.
What does this sentence mean?
The key point about the original Odyssey is that it involves not just a journey (full of adventure and misadventure), but a journey home to his wife and son. In the course of it he has to go down to the underworld, where he meets the ghosts of various people he has known, including the blind prophet, Teiresias, who forecasts his future destiny.
This allows the odyssey to become a literary metaphor for any journey of self discovery, because of Teiresias, but also because because he survives hardship and danger. The idea captures also that of setting out and returning the wiser in the place from which you started. This ‘journey’ can, of course, be physical, or spiritual or both, as in the Ulysses of James Joyce, which takes place both physically and mentally in the course of a single day across the city of Dublin. So we can have a personal odyssey.
The most beautiful statement of the personal odyssey is in a poem by the great Greek poet Cavafy, called Ithaka. Ithaka was Odysseus’ home, and in the Odyssey he Odysseus sets out not from Troy, but from the Island of Ogygia, where he is trapped by the magical nymph Calypso till Zeus finally commands her to let him go. The poem begins:
As you set out for Ithaka,
pray that the voyage be long,
full of adventure and discovery.
It then continues with the adventures and dangers in the way and how to face (or avoid) them. Until, in the translation to be found in www.cavafy.com
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what your destiny.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her, you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
Translated by Edmund Keeley/ Phillip Sherrard
This is the epitome of the personal odyssey. It is what is meant in the passage you quote. But It must be said that the expression “a personal odyssey of the self” is pleonastic. Indeed, In Cavafy’s poem, even the word personal is not needed.