What did I learn? – 20 August 2014

When I talk about the Camino ( 😉 yes it inevitably comes up sooner or later!) this is one of the most common questions: “What did you learn on your Camino?”

I’ve had some time to reflect on this, and the answer is pretty obvious to me now: I love walking.

Simple as that! Yes, there are many other little things, but the thought that always keeps bobbing back up to the surface is this one. I love nothing more than to be out walking, particularly the Camino, of course, but anywhere away from the daily humdrum. In fact, you’ll often find me walking somewhere early in the morning, before work, or whenever there is a moment free during the day.

I knew I loved walking when I was at school. I walked the Fish River Canyon in Namibia when I was 16 years old. Since then I walked many other hiking trails, but somewhere during the years I forgot the joy of walking. Life happened, as they say, and other things got in the way. It’s so easy to sit down in front of the computer instead of going out for a walk.

The Camino gave me back the joy of walking. BC (Before Camino) my longest hike had been 5 days. The Camino turned into a 36 day hike. That’s a long time alone with your thoughts. Before I set off I had anticipated that during those moments alone I’d come up with some very profound thoughts and wonderful insights. But instead I discovered that my brain felt quite “empty”. No life changing throughts came marching out. But I much prefer the alternative. I discovered that simply “being” was what I enjoyed. “Being” alone in nature, being with my shadow, even being with God. (I had some interesting chats with him.) And being with other pilgrims when we met up. There is a simplicity in being in the moment.

Walking wasn’t without problems. It took 2 months before I could walk properly again. When I saw a doctor about my swollen feet he said: “What do you expect? You abused your feet!” I went to see a podiatrist and got given custom made orthotics which are supposed to correct my gait and take the pressure off the knees. That seems to be working. And finally, I ditched the heavy boots (with a heavy heart – I love those boots) and bought lighweight Keen boots – they are the only other boots wide enough for my feet.

So I’m out walking again, taking it slowly, coming to grips with the idea that I’m actually more vulnerable than I thought. But that’s ok. I know my limits. I also know that I can walk 500 miles, despite these limits.

Walking the Camino has given me a feeling of accomplishment. I know I have done something wonderful. I know my frail human form can do this. I know I can do other great things with the life I’ve got left. I know I can enjoy doing these things.

Life is a pilgrimage. And I love walking. So all is well.