Just Why

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

I shared with you in Chapter 3 (Just The Facts) about the painful issues I endured on the Camino with my ankles and feet. First, there were the two shin splints that I encountered (my left shin on day two and my right shin on day three). Even more significant were the painful problems that developed on the balls of both my feet starting on day three, which were with me for every step on the Camino starting that day. The typical pain level was four to six, but when I stumbled on a rock and didn’t land just right … pain off the charts that literally brought me to tears. This was the painful challenge I faced for nearly all of my Camino journey; a challenge that proved to be one of my greatest teachers from my experiences. And this painful reality of my journey has caused so many people to ask, “How did you do it?” and “Why didn’t you quit?”

Most people have two guesses to answer the question of why I didn’t quit. First, because I’d come so far for this big adventure that I wasn’t going to quit or shorten the journey. After all, I’d come so far, planned so much and paid so much to be there. Good guess, but no. Second, because I’m persistent and I just gutted it out to finish, despite the painful challenges. An even better guess because I’m the type of person that would do that – gut it out – but this is also not the answer. 

When I was sharing this story with my good friends Thom and Mary, and had shared the foregoing questions and guesses, I noticed that Thom had a big smile on his face. When I asked him what he was grinning about, he said, “I know the answer. It never crossed your mind to shorten your trip or quit. It wasn’t even part of your thinking.” And Thom is precisely right – I never considered quitting or shortening my journey, and the reason for this is simple – my why negated all possible what’s and how’s. My why – my purpose and mission (and I truly was on a mission) – overcame all the pain, so much so that even the pain became just a part of the experience and not something to overcome or endure. It was just there, with me, as part of my Camino journey and experience.

I already had strong beliefs about the power of the why before I went to the Camino, and my Camino experience only deepened these beliefs and clarified how impactful your why will be in helping you not only to overcome, but to achieve – even to be unstoppable. Remember that unstoppable doesn’t mean that you never stop or rest, but that you’ll always carry on and continue as you chase down your dreams and desires. Your why is one of the key ingredients to your unstoppable you.

My Camino journey was filled with so many different whys, whether they were the whys that took me to Spain or the whys that presented themselves while I was on the Camino. As I shared at the outset, my why began when I synchronistically watched the movie The Way in that hotel in Raleigh, NC. My why deepened as I learned more and more about the Camino experience. My why deepened again when I took the risk to engage Mark Leblanc as my coach and mentor, and I felt my why say “yes” when I learned that I could do a part of the Camino in May of 2017.

My why gained profound momentum as I stayed open and just listened as everything in my life lined up for me to take this Camino journey. My why – mostly an intuitive sense more than a conscious thought or decision – had been drawing me to the Camino for two years. As Mark shared with me in his home in December 2016, he saw the look in my eye and knew that I was going to make the journey because I’d been called by the Camino. That call was the voice of my why, even if I didn’t fully understand it and wouldn’t understand it until I was on the Camino and, in some ways, many months later. My undefined why was at the heart of my journey to the Camino, and it was there in northern Spain that I encountered so many other whys that unfolded inside me.

One of my other intentional pre-Camino whys was to escape – not to escape my life, but to escape the ways I’ve always done things. To escape my connections to people. To escape my connection to the world through technology and social media. To escape what I’ve always known. To escape my daily distractions of information. To escape myself and my own mind. To find a way to slow down my experience of life so that I can more deeply experience my life. All of these are different forms of the why of escape.

It was on the Camino that so many other whys unfolded and flooded around, through and within me. Yes, I knew that one key why of the journey and calling was the need to be in solitude and to take this adventure alone. I also knew that one why was to push outside my comfort zone in many ways. I’m fairly low maintenance when it comes to travel, so the sleeping arrangements were never a concern to me, and I had made the purposeful decision not to make reservations on the Camino, so I was prepared for those uncertainties. And while I’d already begun to embrace significant travel experiences on my own in 2016 when I went to Hawaii alone, this trip to Spain was my first trip to Europe in nearly twenty years. I’d convinced myself that traveling to Europe was somehow a big deal and something you had to really plan for, but I realized through my Camino adventure that one why was to understand the simplicity of travel –  even to other countries and continents.

Thanks to the Camino, I now see travel to far-away places as nothing more than booking a flight and having an up-to-date passport. Certainly I was also aware in advance that my Camino experience was part of a why of living and experiencing a journey into the unknown, without the normal comforts of life – to carry my world with me on my back for those two weeks and to make my way and figure it out every day, just one step at a time. These were some of the whys that I was aware of before the Camino, but so many more whys showed themselves to me while I was on the Camino. Next week I’ll share more about the whys I experienced and claimed on my Camino journey.

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