Camino Whys

(from my soon-to-be-published book, Just One Step: The Journey to Your Unstoppable You)

Last week I shared some initial thoughts on the ways that your why impacts and accelerates your life’s journey. This week I’m sharing some of the specific whys that I experienced and claimed on my Camino journey.

As noted in the Just Say No chapter, aloneness and solitude were part of my why for this Camino journey, but this why went much deeper. Not only was I physically alone much of the time, but I also chose to experience the Camino free of every possible distraction. Not only did I walk alone most of the time, but I chose not to listen to anything on my phone – no music, no audiobooks and no podcasts. Similarly, I didn’t take any books with me and didn’t do any reading for the entire two weeks. My only interaction with the written word was what I wrote in my leather-bound journal every evening, as I chronicled the experiences, thoughts and people from each day. I also chose to disconnect from my business, with the exception of no more than fifteen minutes of checking emails at the end of each day. As the only person that was part of my business at the time, I checked emails every day, but I didn’t respond to any emails or return any calls until after I returned. Likewise, I didn’t engage with social media while I was gone other than a maximum of fifteen minutes every day to post a comment or video specifically about my Camino journey and experience. While these may seem like small steps, they were big shifts for me and all part of my why of solitude, separation and worldly disconnection.

This why and its resulting intentional decisions created an outcome that fed into another why – time and space to be present and ponder whatever came to me. I’ve devoted an entire upcoming chapter to the most precious lesson that I brought back from the Camino – the power and magic of full presence – but here I’ll say simply that being present during every step of my Camino allowed me to have the experience of in-the-moment thoughts. Another element of this why was the pause – the conscious choice not only to slow down your pace, but to embrace and create pauses in your daily experiences. Whether your pauses are in conversations to minimize your emotional reactions, pausing in your decision-making as described in the Just Say No chapter or literally just pausing during your day, the impact of the pause on your daily experiences, your presence and your relationships will be palpable. And all of these outcomes follow from your intentional whys that are put into practice.

Whether they were about something I was seeing or experiencing, or about something that popped into my mind, my Camino journey was like a flowing river of contemplation, ponderings and thoughts. It was an experience of connection with my thoughts and intuitions that I’ve never before experienced, and it offered me profound levels of clarity and discernment. It was as if I was walking through a process of growing wisdom without any plan or instruction, and it was real. 

Another why that surfaced through my Camino experience was the intentional and often conscious act of facing my fears and getting outside my comfort zone, whether those fears be external and experiential or internal and emotional. Nothing about the Camino was my normal. In fact, this was a typical set of questions that I was asked before I left for the Camino (and my answers):

  • Do you regularly travel to Europe? No, only once before, in 1999.
  • Have you ever been to Spain? No.
  • Have you ever hiked a long distance with a pack? Not since a Boy Scout hike on the Appalachian Trail when I was 15.
  • Have you ever carried all of your gear for any period of time? Again, not since I was 15.
  • Have you ever stayed in a hostel or albergue? No.
  • Do you speak much Spanish? No.
  • Have you ever hiked 15 to 20 miles a day? No.
  • Have you ever hiked more than 150 miles? No.
  • Have you ever taken such a solitude journey? No.
  • Have you ever spent this much time alone? No.

One person in particular asked me these questions before I left and, when I finished answering, she said (with a smile), “It’s all new and you’re okay with all of it. You’re crazy!” You get the point – none of my upcoming experience was typical of anything I’d done before, and I was choosing to step into my uncomfortable, my unknown and my fears. All part of a why to have an experience outside of the normal and to see in what ways it would touch me and teach me.

Next week I’ll share three specific whys that framed and informed my Camino experience. Until then, I encourage you to continue to explore your own whys and to begin to claim them for your own journey of life.

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