I had a lot of time to think on this 5 week walking journey – thinking helped me forget my foot pain and fatigue most days. This was a complete vacation for my mind – it was free to roam in and out of memories, ideas, and emotions. A mind needs this and I am a firm believer that this is the only way to accomplish a vacation for your mind…to actually take a real break and get away from all of the day to day for a long enough time that it’s free to roam.
The trail provided a symphony of sounds that would take me into a somewhat meditative state in the early morning. The sounds of coo coo birds, croaking frogs, and the soothing sound of my feet crunching along the dirt path all combined in a beautiful rhythm. The birds and frogs were invisible to me like the orchestra pit in a theatre – but I knew they were there, urging me on to keep my 4/4 time with my stride. As I walked and walked I felt like I my mind was roaming around deep into the trail of memories it had amassed over the last 5 years of travel. I thought intensely about why I started traveling, and why I started writing about it.
The Camino taught me many lessons, some funny, some painful, and some blissful. But here were my two main take-aways for me personally over the course of 450 miles.
Make you own way
The Camino is called The Way of St. James. But ‘The Way’ taught me how important it is to ‘make your own way’. I’ve always been driven by this in my life choices – from my relationship status, to my living conditions, to my extracurricular activities, and finally to my travels. I don’t like to do what others are doing, I desperately want to blaze my own trail – and that trail is what leads me to happiness.
I believe that in the last 2 or 3 years in an effort to ward off the unknown and fear, I haven’t been always ‘making my own way’. For so many the natural tendency is to follow and replicate these days – it’s comfortable. When I follow I get all caught up in what everyone else is doing and what I ‘should’ do as an entrepreneur and freelancer. I love my blogging friends and relationships, however I find myself getting too caught up worrying about what others are doing and what I ‘should’ be doing if I want to be successful. I beat myself up because I’m not writing an ebook, I’m not speaking at blogging conferences, I don’t have the right search engine optimization, or I’m not on all of the ‘right’ social media outlets. But all of this self-flagellation is ridiculous because let me just say – no one has the answers to success. There is NOT one way to success – there are many.
Plus – as much as I dearly love my follow bloggers and friends, they aren’t my audience. They aren’t ultimately who I want to speak to with my writing or photography. I want to speak to the want-to-be travelers – I don’t want to concern myself with the industry and what everyone else is doing to make a living – I just want to make my own way. When I make my own way, I am at my happiest. That is what the trail told me. I want to leave a mark on this world and help people think differently about their lives, work, travel, cultures, and living independently. That’s it. It’ s nothing more complex than that.
I used to live in the world of ‘should’ back when I worked in my traditional corporate job – and I don’t want to live in the world of ‘should’ again…not even in blogging. So – no more worrying about others, or being worried about not being included, or worrying about where my finances will come from. I thought a lot about why I went down this travel writing/blogging path and it comes back to the fact that I LOVE to travel. I am at my best when I travel and explore and I absolutely LOVE to share that with people. Plain and simple.
As I met other travelers along the trail for 5 weeks I had another theme that was literally thrown in my face – satisfaction. I’ve been traveling about 6 years now and I have forgotten how cool my job and life is. I’ve forgotten because I think I’ve been trained by my own American culture to never be satisfied. We are always taught to strive for more, never stop – but in our haste to always be bigger and better, we seldom appreciate where we are. In America it seems like we believe ‘never be satisfied…else someone will pass you up’ – why does it always have to be about being the best – can’t it just be about being?
It took other pilgrims to remind me that I love life and work and it’s ok to be satisfied. When I met others along the trail and we exchanged stories, without fail people said to me, “How inspiring, you are doing what you love.”, or “I want your life.”, or some other variation of enthusiasm and wonder. After hearing this over and over again, it hit me – I had forgotten how lucky I am. When I would see the reactions of others when I told them what I did, I wondered why they were so excited as it all seemed so normal to me – it’s just my life and doesn’t everyone do this sort of thing? Ummm – no, they don’t apparently.
Thanks to the many, many pilgrims I met from around the world placed on the Camino trail like ants marching to Santiago, they reminded me of how frickin’ great my life is. I realized I needed to stop striving for the ‘next level’ or ‘something better’, but instead sit back and relish this life I have and where I’m at. Constantly trying to improve and do better is fine, but I’m not longer going to let it get in the way of simply being satisfied. Sometimes you have to see your life through other’s eyes to understand what it really looks like.
And then with only 2 days left I had some great news that I could hardly believe. It sort of re-affirmed everything I had learned in these last 5 weeks – a perfect ending to this walk for me. I learned that I will be serving as a scholar/artist-in-residence at a prestigious school in an exotic location for a few weeks in 2014. (I promise I will share all of the details in the future when solidified) This is a chance to speak to kids, young adults, and faculty on what I love – travel, passion, and life change. It’s a beautiful recognition of the work I do and the makes me believe more than ever that it’s important to ‘make your own way’. So for the last two days of walking I thought long and hard about how lucky I am, and how absolutely satisfied I am with ‘my way’. To top it off, this opportunity was made possible by good friends from my life way before I started traveling. Even though I travel non-stop, it’s so important to hold on to the good friends you make in all parts/times of your life.
The Camino did just what I needed it to do. Thank you Spain.
Beside the 3 main themes, here’s the list I kept daily.
Things I learned on the Camino:
• Trail running shoes aren’t meant for trekking through muddy fields.
• How to put a needle through my foot
• What a weather front is and what it feels like when it moves through your path.
• How important it is to have dry feet.
• Flat and boring can be beautiful.
• Silicon ear plugs are the best invention after the wheel.
• I control absolutely nothing except my attitude about everything
• Bodies adapt and are much stronger than we give them credit for. Instead we use our body as an excuse on why we can’t do things.
• Sometimes people just click and you can immediately be yourself with a complete stranger.
• How to gauge a distance. I now know what 3km looks like on the horizon.
• Never ever throw away a plastic bag…you can use it for many things.
• Gin and tonic really is the best drink on earth.
• Scalpels are better than a pin if the blister is deep.
• You are never ever too old.
• Just when you think you know what to expect – that’s when you have no idea what to expect.
• Beer before a strenuous climb won’t kill you.
• There can be times when it’s appropriate to wear socks with sandals.
• You truly aren’t in control.
I’m Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it’s not just about travel, it’s also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.