Walking in the heart of the Pyrenees, our ascent started into the mountain range. Bursting with enthusiasm to explore and a drive to keep up with the others I pushed on uphill. Suddenly I felt a severe pain in my knee. How could this happen on the very first day of a planned five week long walk? I was not willing to give up walking with the others so easily.
Back in Melbourne my work day in hospitality started at 7am and ended around 10 o’clock at night. It felt relentless. I guess I had been used to this lifestyle and hadn’t stopped to question it. Maybe you’ve experienced this kind of rut yourself.
Doing this for several months began to take its toll on me mentally, physically and emotionally. Talk about burning the candle on both ends. For what reason? Was it to live the life somebody else wanted for me or to make more money? There had to be something more. That’s when I had the idea of slowing down to reconnect with myself again. I wanted to completely remove myself from the day-to-day and find the space to see things from a new perspective.
I decided to walk the ‘Camino de Santiago’ – a 5 week, 900km trail following ancient pilgrim routes from southern France to Santiago de Compostela
The seed was planted and I decided to walk the ‘Camino de Santiago’ – a 5 week, 900km trail following ancient pilgrim routes from southern France to Santiago de Compostela. Why do that? I imagined that I would come home being able to levitate, find my inner self and know exactly what my future looked like. That plan couldn’t have been further from the truth. Not being much of a planner I simply showed up with few expectations and the unknown of the slow road that lay ahead…
I started walking the very first day from the French village Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, through small villages placed in the mountainous landscape, then crossing into Spain. I walked together with 3 other people. The oldest of them was an English chap in his 70s. He suddenly powered on ahead leaving us others for dust. I tried to keep up to no avail.
In that moment there was a choice to be made. Was I going to let my big head get the better of me and fight to keep up with this old but mentally strong man or do I slow down and start to listen to what this pain in my body was trying to tell me?
Shortly after we were walking up the hill I felt a pain in my knee, and just like that I was unable to move my leg
I chose to push the rock up the hill, to keep up with him as if it was some kind of competition. That was my default behaviour – it usually shows its ugly head when I am not listening to my body, stressed and busy. Shortly after we were walking up the hill I felt a pain in my knee, and just like that I was unable to move my leg. I hobbled along with my walking stick. I had injured myself, not knowing how bad, until we reached Roncesvalles – the village where we were going to stay overnight.
You get to choose your own way. That’s what makes this your Camino
Greeted by a Dutch man who could see the pain I felt, he said “We all walk on the same strange paths to Santiago but you get to choose your own way. That’s what makes this your Camino”. In reality it’s far easier to go along with the speed of our environment than to stop and question “Why have I actually chosen this pace for my life?”
That evening I reflected upon how important it was going to be to listen to and to love my body. I chose to work at finding my pace to walk the next 875kms in an enjoyable way. I had learned the first of many ‘my Camino’ lessons on this walk: Slow down, listen to your body and feel your way into the pace that is right for you.