Wondering why?Jun 09, 2023
It’s taken me a while to write this. My Camino journey has been over for some days and I’ve been processing the whole experience. And getting used to my home time zone. ⏰
Along the way the question people asked me most often is: WHY are you doing this? I love questions that start with WHY, so let’s play with that.
But first, a review of the WHAT:
I spent two months in northern Spain, walking the Camino de Santiago. My entire journey was about 555 miles, starting in St. Jean Pied-de-Port in France, stopping in Santiago de Compostela and ending in Finesterre. The first 3 - 4 days were cold & rainy, so I was cold & wet. I was so excited that it didn’t matter to me. Most of the rest of the days were relentlessly sunny.
I had a pretty simple routine: wake up, get dressed in one of my two hiking outfits, eat breakfast and start walking. I typically walked between 6 - 11 miles. Most days included second breakfast (I 💜second breakfast!) at a cafe filled with other pilgrims. We’d shrug off our packs, leave them outside and head in for cafe con leche and either a tortilla or pastry. Lunch was usually quick, either snacks that I carried or a sandwich on the go. After arriving at that night’s lodging, I’d typically drink a celebratory beer, shower and wash my clothes. Then dinner and soon afterward, climb into bed.
I spent most of my walking time solo. I did meet wonderful people along the way, so I wasn’t a hermit. But every day it was up to me to figure out where I was going, how I’d get there if I couldn’t walk the entire stretch, where I’d sleep. All with my rusty Spanish and rarely enough sleep. I showed up to the Camino with foot pain, which, funnily enough, didn’t resolve itself by walking several miles each day while carrying a backpack. 😁
So WHY did I do this?
The quick answer is: because I wanted to do something big & scary by myself. For the past couple of years, I’ve thought of this a lot. I wanted to have a big vast experience that would really challenge me and be something I could look back on and feel really proud of accomplishing.
I wanted a big block of time & space to simplify my days and reflect. Two months is a long time, even though it went quickly. Not only did I simplify my daily routine, I dramatically reduced the possessions I had. I loved this so much, I started dreaming of coming home and cleaning out closets.
For most people, reaching the cathedral in Santiago and receiving a compostela (a certificate) is the big goal. Not for me.
What I really wanted was to reach Finesterre - “the end of the earth” on Spain’s coast. Walking until I literally ran out of land and reached the ocean. I’m not 100% sure why, but this was much more special to me. Maybe because there’s a lot of symbolism in walking a long distance until I can’t walk any longer. By the time I reached Finesterre, not only was I out of walking surface, my body wasn’t willing to walk any longer. I didn’t cry when I reached Santiago; I cried a lot when I reached Finesterre.
All of this (and much more) fueled me when I struggled. One of my favorite quotes is from Chelsea Dinsmore: When you question not what you can do but why it’s important to you, the how reveals itself. Some days I wasn’t sure how to continue on, but I always found the way.
A lot of learning/reminders came from this trip. This one feels like it applies to anything you’re working toward. Keep connected to your why and you will make it happen.