I saw a terrific movie last Sunday, a documentary — “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago”. Don’t know if you’re familiar with the Camino Trail — it’s a 700+ km pilgrimage route you can walk from various points in Europe to the city of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.
Yeah, you heard right. You walk it. Seven hundred plus kilometres. About 434.96 miles, give or take a couple of dozen blisters. Callouses. Cases of tendonitis. Bum knees. Tears. Exhaustion.
Everyone has their own reason for doing it. For some it’s simply to know they can. For others it’s to overcome an illness or fear, to find the answer to a question they may not have even yet asked, to find themselves, to come to terms with a loss, to celebrate an event or a milestone, or simply for the sheer fun
and adventure of it.
The point is, what takes you on the journey is unimportant. What matters is what you take from the journey.
One woman, an American, really interested me. Not totally sure of why she decided to make this trek she struggled from the very beginning. Although she looked physically fit, as hard as she tried, she just couldn’t keep up. Much slower than the others, she suffered through a lot of pain, pretty much constantly. As a result her emotions often got the better of her and she worried she might have to quit.
At one point she stopped. Stayed behind for a few days to get some medical attention, rest and heal. That seemed to be a turning point for her. When she got back on the road, as it were, she starting walking her Camino — and stopped trying to keep up with everyone else. She stopped comparing herself to them. She walked at her own pace. And suddenly, I noticed a tremendous change to her gait. She was no longer walking gingerly, trying to avoid what must have been a lot of discomfort. She was walking easily. Her posture was much improved. There was a ‘lightness’ to her movements. It was obvious she’d found her stride — mentally and physically — and I knew she’d make it to the end.
And that’s when it hit me.
Same as life, really. In fact as I sat there, in the theatre, I realized we all travel our own version of the Camino throughout our lifetimes. Each and every one of us. And no two are alike. Putting one foot in front of the other, day in, day out. Some days we make excellent progress. Some days we stumble. We all have our own demons to face and to conquer — or not. Our own challenges and obstacles to overcome — or not. Our own pain and tolerance for pain to deal with, be it physical or emotional or both. Or, for that matter, spiritual. There are many different routes we can take. And we all have to do it in our own way, in our own time frame.
For some of us it will be easier. For some, very difficult and, at times, seemingly downright impossible.
Perseverance is what gets you through, though.
In the film they spurred each other on, soaked their feet, broke their blisters, changed their footwear and even divested themselves of anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary, in an attempt to lighten their load and make it to the end. One girl kept only her toothbrush and the clothes she was wearing. Everything else was left behind. Another had no trouble leaving cosmetics, clothing and even her sleeping bag but couldn’t part with her journal — even though it was large and heavy.
When it comes to life we do exactly the same thing. We lick our wounds — metaphorically speaking — and, hopefully, carry on. Sometimes we’re forced to leave people behind. Those who hurt or betray us. Sometimes we have to walk away from a bad marriage or a destructive friendship or a dead end job. Sometimes it’s material goods and possessions we no longer need or have room for. Sometimes it’s a dream we ultimately have to accept just can’t be realized. Sometimes it’s getting past the mistakes every one of us inevitably makes along the way. Sometimes it’s the guilt we feel for hurting or disappointing others. Sometimes it’s our own pre-conceived notions.
Regardless, just like those trying to lighten the physical load they’re carrying on their backs as they walk those seven hundred kilometres we, too, must lighten our load — so we can navigate life more easily, freely, successfully. And however we do it, one thing is certain: It takes courage, confidence and commitment.