More lessons learnt while walking the Camino – part 2

More lessons learnt while walking the Camino

Last time I wrote about some lessons I learnt on my pilgrimage and I promised to share some more.  The reaction to the previous blog was overwhelming – thank you for each response and inquiry.  Enjoy this read!  My own feet are itching again already….

          

The Pilgrimage to Santiago is a unique experience. While I would have loved to walk the entire way (850 km), it is not easy to get away from my duties and professional responsibilities for so long. Because time was limited, I wanted to make the most of the experience and indulged in every minute of this beautiful experience.

Camino lesson 107 – let go

Somewhere along the route it became unimportant which day it was, how far I had to walk to my next destination or what the weather forecast had predicted. I truly immersed myself in the journey and it became easier to let go of planning, trying to control my day and wonder what waited ahead.  To truly be immersed, I had to learn to just enjoy the here and now.  Tomorrow will look after itself.

Being overly concerned about tomorrow steals today’s purpose and joy.  Remember, today is the youngest you will ever be again!

Camino lesson 108 – look after your two feet, blisters can be avoided!

Prior to the Camino, I read various articles about the importance of foot care during this long journey.  There are many theories about the best socks, which blister plasters to pack and other foot rituals.  Having walked and run many kilometres on South African trails, I decided to use my own tried and tested recipe.  Good ol’ Vaseline and stockings as a first layer nested in mohair socks bought on our own Garden Route, ended up being my winning recipe for healthy feet.  Well walked-in trail shoes, at least one size bigger than my usual shoe-size also did the trick.  My shoes came off at every stop, and where possible, my feet were bathed in crisp water from rivers or fountains on route – this was truly magical.

Walking is a basic instinct, so too much fuss causes complications.  A motto on the Camino is “one step at a time, one foot before the other”.  Just like life actually – one step at a time allows you to climb the highest mountain and finish the most arduous route.  Look after what grounds you, it will take you far! Keep it simple.

Camino lesson 109 – be a good pilgrim

The Camino de Santiago is a gift for pilgrims, a tradition that is left for us to enjoy, but also to take care of. To make the pilgrimage to Santiago sustainable, it is necessary that the trail of our passage be marked only in our memory and hearts and for this it is also essential that we be especially sensitive with our waste: no food, plastics, packaging, packaging or garbage in general should contaminate the roads, spoiling the experience of those who come behind.  I was impressed by the zero tolerance for litter and wastage on the Camino – my kind of place, indeed!

I find it astonishing that people take so much from the planet and life in general, but return so little to relationships, nature and the planet.  Swedish teenage climate activist, Greta Thunberg, recently reminded the world using very strong words, that we must take more responsibility for the general state of the planet. Think again about your unnecessary plastic bag, straw or any plastic object which can be replaced with a more environmentally friendly item.

I want to be a good pilgrim in life, someone who treats nature, opportunities, relationships and the planet with respect.  I urge you to do the same!

Camino lesson 110 – live lighter, carry less stuff

Prior to the Camino my life was complicated.  It possibly still isn’t entirely uncomplicated.  But I learnt that living lighter by carrying and hording less stuff is a relief.  I initially felt secure with a backpack containing items (a torch, and extra raincoat, padkos, and plenty other stuff) I never needed. My backpack became lighter as I continued my journey and shed several items along the way.  I learnt to carry only the essentials as the Camino truly provided for all my needs.

Everything we acquire takes up space, and then needs to be maintained, cared for, insured, cleaned and and…. why do we bother with so much unnecessary stuff?  What are you carrying in your backpack that weighs you down?

Camino lesson 111 – accept help and lend a helping hand

The Camino is an equaliser – who you are and where you come from is immaterial. I appreciated early on that when you are new to the Camino de Santiago, you should show respect and always listen to those who know more than you, collecting their experience with gratitude.

On the third day of my journey, I had an ugly migraine complemented by a painful spastic colon. It actually came as no surprise as this is usually how my body rebels against change and untreated stress in the days preceding a break.  I had to continue walking though.  Just one step at a time, but, nevertheless.  As required by our stoic culture, I suffered in silence, but my two walking buddies who know me well, saw I that was in agony.  The three of us walked slowly, stopping more frequently as usual.  I just tried to breathe deeply.  I walked alone for a long stretch when a complete stranger who observed my obvious discomfort, insisted on taking my backpack and walked with me in comfortable silence. This kind Peruvian bought me green tea at an oasis along the way and helped me into a hammock which miraculously appeared between willow trees not far down the same road.  After a heavenly nap, I felt strong enough to finish the day.  I didn’t see the Peruvian again on the Camino, but I will never forget his gesture of kindness.

Side note – hopefully I responded to all the opportunities I had to help others along the way.

Camino lesson 112 – give thanks, be more grateful

The Camino was the best adventure I’ve ever experienced in my life.  I did not do this on my own though.  Thank you to my tribe who assisted me in making this happen.  Each of you know what you have helped me accomplish.  I became more true to myself during this journey that started long before my first step on the Camino.  My sister-pilgrims, my beautiful children who encouraged me every day, my supportive parents, my family and dear friends who cheered me on, my colleagues who stood in for me during my absence and the kind professionals who advised me on making some tough life-changing decisions before my departure.

If there is one lesson that stands out, it is gratitude.  Be thankful and remember that although each step needs to be taken using your own feet, you are never truly alone on your journey.

 

        

What is this infamous Camino de Santiago again?

The Camino de Santiago is a collection of routes (or ‘pilgrim ways’) that track through the French, Portuguese and Spanish countryside and ends in Santiago de Compostela, or more specifically, at the old Spanish town’s cathedral. The traditional route starts in France at St-Jean Pied de Port and continues for more than 800 km to Santiago de Compostela.

The Camino Francés or French Way is the most famous of all the Camino de Santiago routes, featuring in many documentaries, books and movies such as ‘The Way‘ and ‘I’ll Push You’. While St Jean Pied de Port marks the starting point of the Camino Francés, you can start your Camino from any town or city along the way, provided it is at least 100km from Santiago.

If you would like to learn more about my journey or would like to plan a pilgrimage, you are welcome to contact me.  I also found the following websites useful:

www.caminoadventures.com/camino-frances

www.CSJOFSA.za.org

A beautiful village on route

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