I’m not long back from completing the first leg of the Camino de Santiago beginning in France and crossing into Spain. I took a long, well overdue break from social media and blogging. The Tough Cookie needed to head off, reconnect with herself, nature and life! What better way than to contemplatively ‘Walk the Way’ for one week.
Lessons Learned along My Way:
Before I had left to head off on my adventure I had felt very stressed, had lacked energy and vitality. I had deadlines for my college work, my own work with UNLOCK had been hectic and I realised that my head was so busy, clouded over and I lacked focus. Some might have thought I was crazy heading off when I had so many important assignments due two weeks later, however it was just what the doctor ordered! Do you ever feel like you’re on autopilot each day, not noticing the world around you, the people, the places? While I was walking, it honestly was as though my senses were reawakening – I could ‘see’ the beauty in nature around me, the diversity of people (such as Koreans, Sweedish, Americans, English, Africans) so many people from all corners of the world come and walk the Camino. You sometimes don’t realise how blurry your eyesight is while ‘running’ through the to-do list of a normal week.
Walking approximately 23km each day for roughly 7hours including little breaks along the way, I began to feel every fibre of my being, my muscles and limbs! I thought I had a reasonable level of fitness, that is until I began to climb the winding roads and inclines each day. During some steeps you wonder if you’ll make it to the top or not! Not to mention carrying a 10kg backpack in 22degree heat!
I will never forget the first day, I believe it was the toughest (walking along the Pyrenees) without sight of a café or shop for miles. It was a hot day and I feared not getting any food or fluids into me. After not much sleep and no reserves I remember spying a tiny trailer in the distance and hoping and praying it was someone selling water and some fruit! It was!! A man had his little stall of coffee, bread and bananas!! It was as if I had won the lotto, I nearly ran to meet him I was that weak with hunger! The smallest and most basic things can be the biggest and most important elements. It taught me a big lesson to be more grateful for food and water in my life. Those everyday essentials that we all too often take for granted.
It’s said that during the Camino people go through various ‘stages’ – physical pain, emotional and spiritual pain. Most travellers were there to complete the whole five stages which would take over 5weeks. I admire those people as after one week I could really feel my body crying out to me! You begin to have aches in places you didn’t realise existed!! At some moments I wondered why I was doing it, why did I put my body under this pressure?! However the sense of achievement, the ability of the body in proving your head wrong is ALL worth it. Myself and my friend whom I travelled with did struggle physically at times but that’s when we uplifted each other, we offered up our pain through prayers and intentions for ourselves and others. The Way doesn’t have to be spiritual or religious however we did pray each day and for me it made all the difference. Being in such peaceful and calming surroundings in nature along with prayers, reflections on our life, our friends/families and pain that we have suffered to date helped feel as though we were cleansing our being, letting go of past hurt and clearing the way for the future we envision.
Isn’t it awful how we can forget to laugh? Well I know I certainly can anyway! Sometimes I can take life too seriously, get all caught up with the ‘adult’ things that need doing and forget to embrace the silly/fun and child side of myself. During this trip there’s no mad nights out, no partying (which I’m not into anyway!) but boy did we laugh! On one particular evening I remember (photo evidence above!) being bent over on the side of the path in complete hysterics to the point I was fearful I’d wet myself!!! My friend had mentioned something that was funny from earlier in the day, she caught me unaware and I was falling over with laughter. It felt so wonderful it was just what my body, heart, mind and soul needed. Laughter helps us Live Longer, that’s for sure. It taught me to take more time out for those fun moments, to meet up with those people who are naturally humorous and help me laugh!
As mentioned I had been feeling quite work out and exhausted before I had left. The trip really helps you to begin to prioritise yourself, your well being, physical and emotional. Myself and my friend while walking chatted about so many topics, we also had times of silence. I realised that I hadn’t prioritised myself within my life lately at all and all too often I put others needs first. Because your body and mind is tested and challenged within the walking/climbing/heat, you begin to have moments of epiphanies where your life becomes clearer and you can see what areas you need to look after more. For me it was most definitely about fuelling my social life, wellbeing and fun more. There must be a balance between work and play!!
For the last day my friend was unable to walk due to her five blisters on her feet. She encouraged me to walk solo for that last stretch and she would meet me by taxi in the last village later that afternoon. I was worried, anxious and unsure whether I would be safe and ok on my own. I realised that I had relied on her to know the route and to guide me as she had done it previously. This was a big challenge for me! Some 31year olds might laugh at this but it honestly did scare me. I was up for the challenge! I left the room at 6:20am alone in a city searching and looking for the well known scallop shell or yellow arrow (signs to guide you on the way!) eventually I found some other walkers in the darkened streets and began the route. Very early I met a Sweedish lady who had lost her phone in the bushes. I began to help her and we found it. From that moment we sparked conversation and this was my new ‘buddy’ for the day. We conversed about all topics of life – work, family, loss, health, travel, romance! We clicked instantly and found out we were quite alike! This is the experience of the Camino, meeting people from all walks of life, sharing your story and connecting deeply! I knew she was sent to help me complete my final leg that day. That last day helped me to see to trust myself more, to know that I’m capable, safe and able to complete anything I set my mind to!
Since returning I feel much more refreshed, it has sparked a travel bug within me, to add more adventure to my life and most importantly to think of myself more often! It feels good to trust myself! I’ve got this 🙋🏻👍🌟💜