As a psychiatrist it is my job to treat anxiety. The funny thing is that anxiety is exactly what nearly made me stop almost every day as I walked the Camino Trail. That was the moment when I realized that the mind must be stronger than the body, so I had to ask myself some questions along the way:
1.Why am I doing this?
2. If it is so difficult, why are people coming back for more?
3. If I’d have the chance, would I do it again?
4. What is the difference between finding yourself here vs finding yourself on a beach in Greece for example?
5. How am I going to finish this?
Why am I doing this and why are people coming back for more?
I returned home injured and with the trail unfinished, only to realize that the answer to my question was simple: “I do this for the love!” You may find that to be a bit strange because who in their right mind would choose to walk 400km “for the love”? The answer is that thousands of people walk the Camino de Santiago routes each year and they too, do it for the love.
So, what does that mean?
I loved the Camino Trail before even starting it and I loved the idea of what the Camino represents. It goes without saying that I enjoyed making the journey, but it is the love of a good adventure and a worthy challenge that really appeals to me.
I loved making new friends and the intense connections found with other travelers as we made our way along the trail. I loved the aches and pains after a long day of doubting your ability to see it through to the end. Most importantly, I loved that incredibly sappy feeling that occurs in the golden hour; when you’ve surpassed your pain barrier only to find yourself walking on sunshine and the world is a beautiful place once again. There is a special moment when your dreams no longer feel quite so out of reach and you start to believe in your power to achieve anything. That, my friends, is what I mean when I say that I do it for the love.
Would I do it again?
At my psychotherapy residency, the supervisor asked us if we had decided to what age we are hoping to live. She said that we should be very careful when choosing our desired ages because this is how we will determine how much time has been left for ourselves.
The rule is simple: take 24 hours and begin subtracting the time spent at work (8-10 hours), the time spent traveling to and from your job, and finally the time spent studying, sleeping, and general self-maintenance. After those calculations, one is typically left with roughly 2-3 hours in a day left for pursuing things that bring happiness. Multiply those hours by the number of days in the year and then by the years making up your proposed life expectancy. The result will most likely be less than what a person needs in order to achieve a sense of personal fulfillment.
Yesterday evening at dinner, I met a 70 year old man from France who said that he was on his 7th trip along the Camino Trail and that he had already walked for roughly 700 km.
To reiterate, this man was 70 year old, he had traveled the Camino 7 times, and walked more than 7000km in total throughout his life. This, he claimed, is what gives him the freedom needed to feel satisfied with the time dedicate to himself.
This revelation led me to ‘upgrade’ my life expectancy to at least 80 years old. It was incredibly inspiring to hear his story and I am beyond grateful for getting to know this kind of person along my journey.
Therefore, I will walk the Camino again and when I do, I will most certainly finish it in its entirety. I make this promise to myself because that is what the trail taught me; to believe in myself, to appreciate life, and to never be afraid of stepping outside of my comfort zone.
There is so much more that the Camino taught me, all of which can be read about in greater detail right here.
Why finding the real you on the Camino?
If I am being honest, I had to come back home in order to realize that there is a significant difference between finding the real you on an ‘all-inclusive-kind-of trip’ vs finding the real you whilst doing the Camino.
To understand what I am talking about, here is a glimpse of how my days were spent as I made my way along the trail
- 6:30 a.m: wake up and repack your things.
- 7 a.m: breakfast.
- 30 am: shoes on and start walking.
- 30 am-12: listen to nothing but the birds and the sound of your own steps and be happy. Think, rethink and overthink every aspect of your life.
- 12 p.m: stop and check if your legs are still attached to your body. Then walk some more. Think, rethink and overthink every aspect of your life.
- 14 p.m: lunch then walk some more. Think, rethink and overthink every aspect of your life. Try to still be happy.
- 17-18 p.m: stop walking and crawl to your Albergue.
- 18:30 p.m: shower and wash the clothes you wore for the day.
- 19 p.m: eat dinner and try to socialize.
- 21 p.m: massage your legs with lots and lots of anti inflammatory gel. Cry whilst doing this.
- 21:30 p.m: put earplugs and try to sleep
- 1:30 a.m: still can’t sleep because of all the snoring
- 6:30 a.m: repeat
I think that I have made myself very clear on this.
How am I going to finish this?
I actually have no idea how I am going to finish because I have not yet completed the task. I guess I will keep asking myself that for the next year as well.
with help from @wildcamino who inspired this meaningful answers)