In June of 2019, 13 of us embarked on a special journey, walking the Camino de Santiago. We had one “warm up” day of 12 km, then walked the last 118 km of the Camino Portugués from Valença, Portugal, to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, in 8 days. As an American who is not used to the metric system, I figure you also might be struggling to quickly convert kilometers into miles to get a better understanding of how far we really walked. 130 km is 85 miles. That’s like walking from downtown San Antonio to just north of downtown Austin.
When you walk that much over consecutive days, you have a lot of time to think and ponder life. These are the three secrets to success in life I learned while walking The Way.
Preparation is Key
If you don’t usually walk 8 to 10 miles in a day, it will serve you well to get in walking shape before you hit the Camino. One of the gentlemen in our group who increased his daily walking and even walked a few 9-mile days in the month before leaving was quite sore by the third day. He realized that he had never walked consecutive long mileage days during his conditioning, which is why is muscles were tired.
None of us in the group were hikers nor did any of us normally take vacations that involved this kind of trekking – except for my husband and me who walked the last 150 km of the French Camino back in 2011. The others in the group relied on our advice about to what to wear (or not wear) and what to carry (or not carry) while we were out on the trail.
Lesson learned: For any situation in life, make sure you prepare. If you have never done something before, seek advice from those who are experienced. Understand what you are getting into and what resources are required in order to properly prepare and complete your initiative.
Break Down Large Goals into Smaller Bites
When everyone first signed up to go on this Camino journey, they were ecstatic about this adventure and checking off an item on their bucket lists. But as The Walk drew nearer, some trepidation began to hit. “Will I really be able to walk 85 miles?” When you sit down and view the distance 85 MILES, it can seem overwhelming and frightening. “If I normally just walk a few laps around a track, how in the world will I walk 85 MILES?!”
If the big picture scares you, look at the small steps that get you there. We were going to walk roughly 8 to 10 miles per day. Those numbers are much easier on the eyes and brain than 85. But what if 8 to 10 still frightens you? You can break those down further into: breakfast, walk 2 miles, snack, walk 2 miles, lunch, walk 2 miles, break, walk 2 miles. Two miles? I can do that!
Lesson learned: When the end goal seems daunting, divide it into smaller pieces. You’ll realize that it is attainable if you take one step at a time.
Mindset is Everything
*During our warm-up day, the 79-year-young woman in our group heard her knee pop. Fortunately, two of us were right near her when it happened, so we were able to steady her. We were in a rural area, so there was no stopping at a nearby business to get some help. We walked with her until her son came back to walk with her, and she hobbled to our next meet up location where a van waited. As I completed my walk the rest of that day, I imagined how demoralized she must feel. She went down for the count on the first day! When we chatted later that afternoon, I asked her how she was feeling. She responded, “I’m so glad this happened here. It probably would at some point, and if this happened in my yard in the middle of nowhere, nobody would’ve found me for weeks.”
Talk about finding the silver lining. What a positive spin to put on the situation! She rested up the next day on the van and was taken to the hospital when we reached a larger city. The doctor told her it was a sprain. She left the hospital with a knee brace and ibuprofen. She eased back into walking the next day, then continued – at a slower pace – the rest of the days. She walked into Santiago with the rest of us.
*On the second to the last day, the 82-year-young man in our group tripped on a missing chunk of asphalt and fell. A little later that afternoon, he slipped on a rock but was caught. That evening, his ankle was swollen. He accepted an ice pack and kept his foot elevated for much of the evening.
In the morning, I took a peek at his ankle, and it looked pretty darn swollen. He said it didn’t hurt when he walked, only when he touched it. “Are you OK to keep going?” I asked him. “Yes. I just won’t touch it,” he replied. He walked the entire 85 miles on The Camino.
*One of the ladies in our group had back surgery almost two years ago. She walked daily in preparation for this trek, but she had doubts about finishing. Each day, she had to push back the little voices that told her not to believe in herself. Instead, she had to allow the encouraging voices to muscle their way in and motivate her to keep going. She, too, walked all 85 miles.
Lesson learned: “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.” Henry Ford hit it spot on. Your mindset is the key to accomplishing what you set out to do. We all have doubts and negative thoughts, but if you allow those to dominate and to get in the way of motivating you or obstruct your brain from finding work-arounds to unexpected glitches, then you’ll never get where you want to go. Be an optimistic realist. Focus on the positive.
Walking the Camino de Santiago for 85 miles also gave me time for far less deep thoughts as well as crazy ideas and silly ponderings. But those thoughts are for another time. For now, I leave you with these three big life lessons, 3 secrets to success in life. That’ll be enough to get you going on your life’s journey.