I have a good friend who is moments away from embarking on something really big. And I am really proud of her. But nervous for her, too.
You see, my friend Amanda is setting off to walk her Camino. Some of you may be familiar with the pilgrims’ route el Camino de Santiago de Compostela, The Way of St. James (in Spanish, Sant Iago).
Amanda is a gifted writer, as well as teacher and musician. Here is her post from September 2012, painting a wonderful picture of how her seed of the Camino was planted.
On the Right Path
I love it when the universe lets me know that I’m moving in the right direction.
(I don’t love it when spiritually ambivalent people use the word “universe” as a substitute for other, more complicated concepts that are harder to articulate. That said, I do it all the time.)
I’m not always sure what I believe in the spiritual sense, but I do believe in signs. And lately all signs have been pointing, oddly enough, to a cathedral in Spain.
First there was JS on the plane to Madrid, about to embark on the Camino de Santiago. Then there was my Florence hostess who nonchalantly let it slip that she had walked the camino without equipment. Then R and J invited me over to watch “The Way,” and since then two blogging pilgrims have stumbled upon and linked back to my blog.
And just to drive the point home, tonight a storm blew through my city, sending gusts of wind through my open windows and blowing all but one of the index cards off my bathroom window.
Okay universe, that’s cool. Let me just drop what I’m doing here and take an 800 km stroll. It’s not like I have plans or obligations. And we all know I speak excellent Spanish.
My Florence hostess began her camino by accident. Finding herself at an existential crossroads, she set out on a walk one day, encountered some pilgrims, and just kept walking.
At first I couldn’t understand how someone could accidentally walk the camino. But then I gave it some thought and realized that we often don’t realize that we’re on a path until we’ve already taken the first few steps.
Recently R has taken to closing some of his Facebook posts with “buen camino!” The first time he did it, it struck me as a somewhat amusing statement to make from behind one’s computer, three thousand miles from Spain.
But they say that there are many paths on the camino, and that journey begins in the pilgrim’s hometown. Perhaps the journey begins the moment one recognizes oneself as a pilgrim in the first place. So the more I thought about it, the more I realized that R and I are already on our own journeys of the spirit.
And maybe all these signs aren’t really about walking to church. Maybe the universe is just trying to tell me that there is more to Spain than jerks and germs. Maybe it’s telling me to get my butt off the couch. Or maybe it’s telling me that I’m heading in the right direction, but that the path ahead is going to be difficult.
I mean, you really couldn’t come up with a better metaphor for difficulty. Can we be honest here? An 800 km walk sounds kind of awful. I can’t even begin to imagine the blisters, the plantar fasciitis, the unholy stink of dirty clothes. (Most pilgrims bring two outfits, I’ve learned – one for walking and one to wear at night while washing the first one.) It sounds really, really hard.
And yet I can’t stop thinking about doing it.
I am particularly attached to Amanda’s pilgrimage for two reasons. First—twenty years ago I set out on my own trek, a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail. I know my many mixed feelings at the start of that journey: excitement for the adventure, but fear of the unknown territory—both figuratively and literally. Fear of injury, fear of not being strong enough. Fear of dangerous people, fear of loneliness.
You start to get the picture—a lot of fear. But, I did it anyway. I got out there, I got started. And things were hard, challenging, and tiring. But I got through that. Things went wrong, but I figured out solutions.
I didn’t hike the entire Trail, but I hiked for sixty days and almost 500 miles over the mountains of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
My trek wasn’t what I expected, because I had no idea what to expect. But, it changed me. Some change was immediate, and some I still see surfacing just now, very subtly, yet I can trace back to those days in the mountains. It was hard and scary. There was risk. Some small, bad things happened; but at any moment, any number of big bad things could also have happened.
Yet it was one of the most powerful, transformative experiences of my life. Probably because of all the unknown and my fear around it, and getting out there anyway.
So, my second reason for being so attached to Amanda’s Camino—it aligns so strongly with my ideal behind life coaching and ideal living. Every day has unknowns; stuff that’s scary to each of us. And, we always have that choice to step out and journey, despite the fear. To not limit ourselves; to not live small and safe. To push beyond our edges and perceived limits and grow beyond our wildest dreams.
This is what you are reigniting in me, Amanda. Thank you! Buen Camino!