A recent repeat viewing on SBS televison of the film “The Way” with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez reminded me of what a potentially transforming experience walking this ancient pilgrims’ trail can be.
It pays homage to the time-honoured adage that life is about the journey and not the destination. So much of our life is set around objectives and seeking to achieve our goals, but sometimes at the expense of enjoying the journey and the moment. The overriding objective for many pilgrims when they first embark on the Camino is to reach Santiago – the destination is paramount. But I’m certain within a few days they discover that so much pleasure is in the rhythm of walking, taking in the beautiful countryside, having time to contemplate and reflect, enjoying a cerveza at a local bar or chatting to other pilgrims from all over the world who are sharing the same trail.
Walking the Camino offers one of those rare times in life to slow down to a walking pace and embrace everyday moments without the pressures of normal life. It’s a kind of slow journey which enables us to reacquaint ourselves with the things that actually matter in our life, whether it be nature, family, friends, food, wine or fitness.
I have walked our version of the Camino many times now and each time new discoveries unfold and, of course, I love reaching Santiago because the sense of achievement is exhilarating, knowing I’ve covered over 200 kilometres on foot, and have reached my ultimate destination. But so much of the pleasure for me in this walk is how it transports me to a different world which is focused on the present – often as simple as putting one foot after another – and leaving the other world of emails, phone messages, dinner arrangements and family commitments behind.
Walking is unique in this sense as we only have ourselves to propel forward so there is very little need to think about the practical elements of life and travel, like getting on and off trains, driving a car or navigating – you merely follow the yellow arrows on the trail and eventually you’ll reach Santiago de Compostela. In the meantime by opening up a space that is free of the daily distractions of life an opportunity for change or renewal is possible.