Monday, November 11, 2013

Five lessons learned from the camino

Even though I had promised to keep you all updated of my progress during my walk to Santiago de Compostela, I did not. Surprisingly enough, I really did not feel like sharing my experiences while I was still walking. I just wanted to enjoy the moment, and take time to digest everything. And guess what? I MADE IT! I walked about 650 kilometers and arrived in Santiago strong and deeply touched (read: crying like a baby).

It was the most amazing experience! For 28 days I walked. I got up between 6 and 7, had a cafe con leche with toast or a chocolate croissant and went on the road. Every day I walked 20 to 30 kilometres in about 6 hours. Every day I sang this song, waking up some of my fellow pilgrims:

People ask me if I have seen the light in Spain or if I have turned Christian and the answer is that I haven't. However, I did pick up some pieces of wisdom from the great people I met along the way. Here are five lessons I learned during my camino:

1. If blisters are your worst problem, your life is pretty good
On the camino life is brought done to the basics. You walk, eat, sleep and walk again. What you need is a strong and healthy body. If you have a blister (or two, or three), walking suddenly becomes a lot less fun. Even though I walked out of a village crying behind my sunglasses because of my blister pain, I could still see that this was not the end of the world. So, I said thanks. Every day. For all the good stuff in my life; the fantastic people I met, my own strong (!) body, the support from my friends and family back home. It's good to be able to see things in perspective.

2. Always trust the yellow arrows
Every day you follow the yellow arrows that are painted on walls and trees everywhere. Sometimes they appear just as you start to get worried you may have missed a turn. Steve Jobs says he connected the dots looking back, meaning that his choices in life only started to make sense to him afterwards. The yellow arrows on the camino made me realise that it's important to trust that things will make sense. In the end we will arrive somewhere cool knowing that what mattered was the journey, and so when we feel lost we can trust a yellow arrow will eventually appear.

3. Unfollow patterns
A rigid kind of discipline ruled on some parts of the camino. There was one hostel where the staff came barging in at 6.25 saying that we had to get up and have breakfast, because we needed to be out the door by 8. The lady even squeezed my friend's toe saying that she slept way too long! The routine was: get up, pack your bag, tape the toes (or any other hurt body part), and walk. Walk fast so that you could arrive early at the next hostel and secure a bed. Some people were quite stressed and after two weeks I decided to not be stressed out by them. Yes, I got up early and walked my part every day, but I realized I did not want to just do what we mostly do in our daily lives; go with the routine and forget about our purpose.

4. Let go
My first days on the camino I spent fantasizing about throwing away or sending back items for my backpack as it was breaking my back. It was about eight kilos and I wanted it lighter. It kept me busy for hours and hours in a row. I couldn't stop thinking about it. Until I did. After that, I hardly felt the bag during the last weeks. Somehow I had gotten used to the weight and was able to let go.

5. Make friends
My camino was about many things, but more than anything it was about making friends. I met some fantastic people I hung out with a lot. We had great conversations, lots of fun, went through hardship together and became camino families in the end. I cannot wait to go again...

Here my friend Vicky and me sing 'We are going', the song she sang introducing herself at the firsthostel we stayed at.

1 comment:

Miriam said...

Now I just want to pack my bags and start walking!