Wanna know the BIG lesson the Camino taught me? Here we go:
I reached Finisterre on the 22nd of April 2019. It was my 35th birthday. This was the final destination – kilometer ZERO. 14days of walking, 300km behind my back.
I did it – I completed the Camino de Santiago, this journey that unfolded in the span of 3 years. I finished what I started in 2017 – the epic 850km trail.
This was my G-O-A-L. I kept my eyes on it and I reached it. That’s it.
Wait a minute, that’s it? Is that all? I felt empty and exhausted. My knee was killing me. I wanted to go back home so badly. Sleep in my own bed, have a shower in my own bath and eat my own food in my own kitchen. I was so sick and tired of packing and unpacking every single day.
Fuck minimalism, I wanna go home. That’s enough.
But, but, but … the last 2 times I walked, I loved it. I didn’t want it to finish. I was dreaming of coming back and living in Camino time.
What was different this time?
Instead of fixed time and an open end, I had a fixed time and a fixed end. I had to reach the end goal Santiago, and on top, I wanted to walk another 100km to the coast to Finisterre on the Atlantic ocean coast, where the original end of the Camino is. The coast where the pilgrims were burning their shoes and clothes, a symbolic rebirth of a kind.
To reach the goal I was planning to walk 27km a day. For a day is not much of itself. I had walked 32km a day before. I was tired but it wasn’t a biggie. 27km a day should be possible. I got this, I’m experienced I know the Way.
But this was my biggest mistake – it’s one thing to walk a day for 32km, it’s a completely different thing to walk 27km in 14 consecutive days. Instead of reaching the next destination at about 2-3 pm, relaxing, reading a book, having a nap, cooking dinner, chatting with fellow pilgrims, we arrived at 7-8pm completely exhausted. We searched for accommodation only having the energy to fall down on our beds. We had only a couple of awake hours to recover before the craziness began again.
My Camino buddy
Compared to the previous Camino journeys, this time I had a companion. A very sweet person who wanted to keep up with my crazy schedule, a noobie on the Camino. She didn’t know what her pace is, so she just gave all she got. I didn’t want to break her enthusiasm, so I played along.
We started at the same time, she quickly disappeared somewhere ahead of me. I lagged behind and often she had to wait for me for an hour or so in the next cafe. I was taking my time – that’s what Camino is all about. But in general, I didn’t like this game of catching up and feeling of needing to hurry.
Were I alone, I would have probably realized this was a neck-breaking pace, and I would have revised the plan. I would have followed my hunch to stop at the vegetarian Refugio 8km before the designated goal for the day. Or at the wooden house with the lush garden and the ❤ rating in my guide. I would have just stopped and recovered there. I did this kind of thing a lot on Camino 2 and I loved it.
Because I had already walked 400km in my previous visits, I considered myself an expert. I thought I knew what I was doing. I followed the plan blindly, without listening to my body.
And it’s not that I wasn’t in a good shape, in fact, I’ve never been in better shape. I had lost 4kg, my backpack weighted below 8kg, and I had been going to the gym almost every day for half a year. Still, this exact Camino wanted me to slow down, savor, just be. I didn’t listen to it and I suffered.
As I look at my pictures I barely remember being at these places. I didn’t take the time to savor them, to have a deeper conversation or just put my sleeping bag under a tree and enjoy a siesta.
I can now see the wisdom of the Camino. It’s the environment responding to my actions. It was painful, exhausting and stressful but in the end, these were lessons I needed to learn the hard way. I’m grateful for them.
Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt – marvelous error! –
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from all my old failures.
– Antonio Machado
So, dear friends and random strangers, save yourself the pain use these lessons to improve your own path to your goals.
- Approach life with a beginner’s mind – the experts often overlook things, just because of the notion they know the terrain.
- Keep your eyes open while you have them on the goal. Don’t just stare at the goal, but also pay attention to what’s happening here and now.
- Don’t judge your future performance only on your single peak performance – there’ll be slower days, there’ll be crises. Account for that.
- Don’t get distracted in the company of others. Listen to your body and intuition to show you the way.
- Stop and evaluate. If there’s a red flag (my hurting knee), don’t just ignore it and push through.
- Savor the journey – the end is there, and once you reach it you’ll be probably happy for a moment, but empty afterwards.
So, that’s the end of this journey. I will probably do the Portuguese Camino at some moment of time. But for now, I am done.
The Camino de Santiago caught your attention? Wanna learn more (including what to pack)?
For my previous Camino experiences check out here:
Photo credit: Kate App’s archive
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