It starts around 5am, hearing the silent crickets wake up, around the same time as the rooster…..
Fresh smells of eucalyptus, fresh mint, wild berries, apples, kiwis…..
Dawn has yet to be broken, and already one by one, old and young, people have started their walk, a pilgrim’s walk, with a sea shell hanging off their light or heavy backpacks, armed with a walking stick or none, they are off on a journey ….
A few days in, and I have already thought how much the El Camino is symbolic for so many reasons, for those that are Christians, for those whom want to take time out, for those that want to get fit and those that are just curious.
Starting at Lugo with a group of enthusiasts, working with refugees, in marketing, technology, sports, a mixture of cultures, languages and perspectives but all with a same vision.
It reminded me of the Hero’s journey, introduced to me back at Singularity University. A cycle of normality, then a crisis and triumpant. I wondered what brought each and everyone of us here.
We are greeted with ‘Bon Camino’ by strangers, locals, cyclists and even children. Some offered water, fruit and conversation along the way.
I am walking the Camino to seek clarity and clearing. Every morning, we set an intention of what we hope to achieve. The intention aims to motivate that journey of going across hills, highways, footpaths and mountains…….
Each step I take I think of words like, ‘peace’, ‘love’, ‘strength’, ‘power’, ‘hope’, ‘thank you’….and in the guidebooks that I have scanned through many refer to a time for reflection and conversations for a higher power.
With limited internet access if any, the journey is a special one.
I have been part watching ‘El Camino The Way‘, a story of a man whose son passes away on the journey of the El Camino.
As he decides to take the journey, which his son did not manage to take, he discovers the world and changes in his one way. There are moments where he is challenged by others, struggles with natures and fights for what he believes in, one can see the symbolism in the backpack that we carry.
A friend of mine suggested, ‘travel light and carry little’. Like life, how often do we burden ourselves with carrying too much stuff, unnecessary stuff – things of the past, our worries, past mistakes, other people’s problem, in life and in work and how by walking the El Camino, we are taught in a very physical way, ‘Are you going to carry that?’ ‘For how long?’ 1000km? 2000km? 500km? 40km? 10km?
When we think of our journey of life, what have we held to – things, thoughts, beliefs that no longer serve us?
Do we not feel the weight?
A quick search on the El Camino and you will see all these videos and websites on how to travel light. Everyone is encouraged to carry the minimal and to take your own pace.
I find the backpack of all our possessions for this journey very meaningful. In the same way, we are not what we possess, neither it is what we wear on us, our qualifications, or accolades, but it is the present moment when we sit around a table full of strangers, friends and fellow pilgrams.
When we offer water to those that have run out, food for those that are hungry, and conversation to pass time, this is a journey travelled by many.
The incredible thing about the El Camino is that some would say it has shaped the landscape of Europe, from Northern Europe to the North West of Spain, or from Hungary to West; there is the Portugal routes, or routes from France and a way of recognition we take stops at cafes, Auberges and stop for a stamp.
Some take their bicycles and some may even travel by horse to the El Camino.
The landscape is breath taking, parts of Spain I never knew of and how some start so young, and others 90+ can really inspire you.
Everyone has a story on the El Camino.
Some say that miracles happen on the El Camino.
Do you believe in miracles?
It doesn’t matter.
I have heard so many amazing phrases:
‘It’s about stepping through the shit’
‘Take your time, this is not a race’
‘Believe in power and peace’
‘Speak to your higher power’
‘Reflect on your relationship with God’
‘The test is to continue walking despite the pain’
Every step is a gift. I don’t think of the pain, each pebble is part of the journey.
I went through thinking my emotions, experiencing many many feelings to then focusing on my breathe – making me think how it’s really the smaller things that matter, the details.
How life we are walking a path, with many roads to cross, we turn left, right, up a hill, down a valley, after a while, at each junction we need to make a decision.
How do we make that decision?
Fortunately, we are led by the shell symbol. However, it gets me thinking of how in the past, people may have really had to make a decision of where to go – no compass, no mobile, zilch.
The pain the muscle for me is like training.
Training to overcome the challenges we face, training to walk through it all.
It is also to appreciate the beauty of living, love of life and celebrating every moment that we have on earth.
After a series of days of walking, meditation and yoga with talented, bright and hardworking individuals – I am impressed and equally amazed at the strength of the indiviuals working with youth, refugees, disabilities and societal problems.
On the second last day I held a short Metta meditation which I knew impacted my life and a good friend of mine.
The four main lessons I learnt from the El Camino:
- Walk through it – what ever life throws at you;
- It is all a gift – the pain and suffering in life, the unexpected illness, the tragedy or surprise – there is a silver lining to it all, the beauty is the processing and finding the gift in it;
- Love and passion – to all those around you, but most importantly to one self;
- Follow the way – the path is a divine one, from young kids to elderly up to their 90s all walk the path. Follow it with your heart.
Walking the El Camino