End of September this year (2016 that is), me and my other half embarked on a 300km journey on foot, from León to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, through treacherous mountains and dry, stony plains, beautiful hills and deep forests, picturesque towns and abandoned villages – looking for … well, not sure what.
We had no plans, at all.
I am a big planner who likes to know what the day holds and schedules everything into the diary, but this time I challenged myself to take it real easy and let things happen to us, instead of us being behind the wheel as it usually is.
All we knew was the date of our flight to get to Oviedo and the date of the flight back 16 days later. Other than that, nothing. We didn’t know where we were going to sleep each day, if we’d be able to reach our goal Santiago at all, how many kilometres a day we’d be able to walk, etc.
It was a magical experience that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. And yes, we’re definitely going back for more.
In a series of articles, I’ll share with you a few moments that I believe were really meaningful and transformational experiences for us, but first, a little summary of what the El Camino is to those of you who don’t know much about it:
El Camino (‘Spanish: The Way’) or Camino de Santiago is synonymous with the Way of Saint James, a network of ancient itineraries that were formed by those making the pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostle Saint James by both land and sea from different parts of Europe.
The most popular and best-known route, the Camino Francés (‘Spanish: The French Way) enjoyed the support from the church from as early as the 11th century. Starting in a picturesque little town on the French side of the Pyrenees, St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, it is a mere 769km long journey in the North of Spain, through Pamplona, Logrono, Burgos, Leon, Ponferrada, Sarria all the way to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
The way is usually marked with yellow arrows which are painted on trees, house walls, stones etc. and signs that show the stylised shell of Saint James, the scallop shell.
It is an ancient route that people embark on for many different reasons. Religious motives are still prevailing, but most modern pilgrims have a mixture of motivations, including getting away from it all, spiritual experiences, interest to get to know authentic Spanish cuisine and culture, desire for athletic activity, contacting like-minded people from different age groups, cultures and social classes.
For us, it was all about leaving our busy London life behind for 16 days (the longest break we’ve ever taken so far) and seeing things from a different perspective, getting ‘some’ exercise to refresh our bodies and minds, and whatever happens to us – just take it all in.
León seemed to be the right starting point for the journey: 300km away from Santiago, 15 days in total from the actual start to the goal and then back to the airport. That’s easily doable, with a 15-20-25 km average daily walk. What we didn’t know much about however was our physical capabilities: We don’t really do sports in London, except I walk a lot in the City and Mr F. goes swimming occasionally. But that was it. Mentally, we were prepared for the journey, physically – not so much.
In a series of blog posts, I’m going to share with you a few of our challenges we had to overcome and some precious lessons we’ve learnt along the way, in the hope that perhaps I can inspire you a little to take a different perspective and challenge your own assumptions, appreciate what you have and discover what makes you really happy. I think this is vital if you want to do your best work and enjoy your life along the way.
Until then, here’s a question for you:
What is it that you find most difficult when it comes to preparing for a break and most importantly, how do you overcome it?
I’m assuming it’s all to do with the ‘making sure everything to run smoothly while I’m away’ sort of story … How do you achieve that?
I’m asking because I really struggled with sorting out everything last minute before this journey and ended up leaving with 2 hours sleep – something I don’t want to repeat …
Please share your thoughts and ideas directly in the comments below.
Thank you, as always, for reading and allowing me to be part of your day.
See you real soon.