This was one of the many quotes that came up during my recent trip where I completed 170kms walking stage 1 of the Camino France with a friend. This quote really helped summarise this trip and how in such a short space of time there was so much learning, growth and connecting with people which totally recharged and re-energised me. I decided to share my top 5 insights along the way which you may find useful.
1. Time out in Nature is Crucial
Taking time out for yourself, checking in to see where you are and where you are heading is crucial to our well-being. Listening to your heart and not the noise of society and social media that we are currently bombarded with. In nature you can stop and rest, putting all your worries aside and take time to notice what is around you. What type of path is under your foot? Are there flowers around? What can you see in the distance? Can you smell anything in particular? Any particular sound catching your attention?
All these helps focus your mind on the presence and zone in on appreciating where you are right now. It also allows you to develop gratitude for all the good and positive things right now. Yes, our feet may hurt but we still can walk. We can go outside and not fear for our lives. We know we will have food in our bellies and a roof over our heads and be warm while we sleep safely. We have lots to be grateful for and this was a great way to start the day by pausing and thinking of all the things we are truly grateful for in our lives. This is also a key skill to help build your resilience and your mental health and well-being.
2. Focus on the Journey, Not the End Destination
Day 1 of our walking we had a minimum of 25kms to do with some steep inclines and declines as we climbed over the Pyrenees into Spain. We knew it would be tough yet as we set out we were content and excited for what lay ahead. Along the way we had a lovely view of the mountains and the morning dew. We only could see the peaks, yet we knew we were heading in that direction and we were Ok not being able to see the whole path ahead of us.
It reminded me of my life, I know what goals I am working towards but still unsure as to how exactly the path will unfold and what challenges lay around the corner. Yet I am still excited and continue to head in the right direction and keep focused on the prize while enjoying the journey. This trip certainly was an amazing journey rather than being focused on the destination. Having this approach allowed us to break the climb into smaller stages, we then just kept focused on that, checking in with each other along the way, supporting and encouraging where necessary and celebrating the little milestones along the way. By taking it in smaller stages, allowed us to embrace each step of the way without overwhelming ourselves on how long and tough the day was going to be. Now the key learning is to apply this to my everyday life here and keep focused on enjoying the daily journey rather than becoming impatient and wanting to rush towards the end destination
3. Looking Out for Others
On the Camino everybody is a friend, ready to offer a helping hand no matter what. Whether it is a helping hand down a steep decline, offering some water or sunscreen, help translating or ordering food, figuring out directions or getting some advice there was always someone you can count on. Asking for help was easy as everybody had this comradeship about supporting and encouraging each other. This really helped restored our faith in humanity to see so much goodness and kindness on a daily basis. All of us were angels of some sort along this trip, in the right place at the right time as our paths were meant to cross so that we could help someone in need. Everyone when passing would say “Buen Camino”, sometimes you kept walking, other times you would walk and talk along the path with these people. But most important things for me was making eye contact and saying hello as their response would indicate if they needed help. In our modern society we are constantly in a rush, too busy to connect with people. It has nearly gone to the extreme that if a stranger makes eye contact we feel unease, we are thinking what they want and we try move past as quickly as possible to avoid the discomfort. But one of the nicest things someone can do is make eye contact and smile, it automatically lifts our spirits. I noticed this too while living in Dublin, people be shocked if you said hello as you walked along the pier walk, yet for me as a Galway girl this was the norm and I realised I really cherish that aspect and love being back in Galway for this reason. So, take time to connect with the people you encounter in your life. You may never know how your smile could really help someone else or how important your offer of help can change someone’s life.
4. When Down and Out, We Need to Pray for Strength to Get Through
Our lifeline on a heart monitor is up and down, this is when we are alive, it is flat when we are already dead. Yet sometimes we find it hard to accept the ups and downs of life and have convinced ourselves it should be all smooth sailing. However, this would mean there be no room for learning and growth as people to allow us to flourish in our lives. Along this trip overall there was a lot more ups than downs, which really helped keep our spirits up while walking each day.
But one down for me was, it was day 3 of walking and I had a flare up with endometriosis which meant I was crippled with pain and very near to passing out, even strong pain killers were of no use. This was not good as we had at least 12km to go before reaching Pamplona. We were 1km from next town but I was getting close to passing out. Thankfully with the help of my friends I was able to get to the nearest building which coincidentally was a church. I laid down on the seat as I felt myself starting to black out. In the past when I get like this, I am wiped out for at least 24hrs to 48hrs minimum.
This was not ideal for me as I really wanted to walk the whole journey of this stage, so I wasn’t prepared to give up yet. I turned to prayer and begged for strength to get through this. Thankfully I had my own little miracle that allowed me to continue the rest of the journey thankfully without any more incidents. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer, it really helps me draw from inner resources when I feel I’m struggling. It also gives me hope while continuing to help lift myself up each time I struggle with the challenges of life. Once I get that strength to get through, my prayer then turns to one of thanksgiving and praise as there is always something to be grateful for even if it the situation is not an ideal one.
5. Everyone Has a Story
This was the truly amazing part of this journey, meeting people of all ages and nationalities and hearing their stories that brought them here. Everyday brought new stories, sometimes we got to hear more of our friend’s stories or it could be somebody totally new but you click and for them few moments you share your stories. On this journey we shared laughter, tears of sorrow, tears of joy, there were hugs and kisses and other times it’s the sharing of food and drinks as we continued to listen and share our life lessons or little tricks to help the feet bare the challenge of walking 20-30kms each day. This connecting with people was so easy as they were like-minded and open to talking to who ever crossed their paths. Whereas back in our day to day life, I noticed how hard it can be to connect with people these days. Most the time our heads are looking down at the screens, we are missing looking at each other and sharing precious moments whether it’s a simple “hi” or just a smile which help us connect and allow others feel comfortable to share their story. Nowadays we have to make more a conscious effort to notice people around us and be open to having conversations with others, you may surprise yourself with what you learn or who may become a friend.
As we learned to walk slow along the way, so many good things happened.
Though our journey was short we made good friends, we continue with them in their hearts as they continue on the remaining 650kms to Santiago. These people were in our lives only a short time but have left an imprint of a lifetime.
We will cherish these memories for the rest of our days and will try apply these new learning into our everyday lives as we continue on our journey that we call LIFE.