My Six Lessons from the Camino
July 13, 2012
So, what have I learned on the Camino and what will be different now that I am back?
Lesson #1 – Do One Important Thing Every Day
In order to get to Santiago in the time allotted, I needed to walk an average of 26km (about 16 miles) each day. The guidebook breaks down the entire Camino in segments from 1km to 17km, at the end of each you can sleep, eat, or sightsee. Sometimes, after a long day, walking one more segment to the next town just seemed impossible. But, you know what? I made it to Santiago actually one day sooner than the original plan. However, there were times when I needed to remind myself to take one step, then another, then another. The Most Important Thing of each day was to walk those 16 miles to attain the bigger goal of 500 miles. If I didn’t walk enough one day, I would make it up in the next day or next few days. Once I made it to the albergue and the goal was accomplished, I was free to do all of the secondary tasks like showering, laundry, eating, and writing.
So my plan for doing things now is to decide what is currently the One Most Important Thing and get it done. Now that I’m home, my One Important Thing is not as big as Walk Sixteen Miles, but it will be a task of sorts that will help me accomplish my bigger goals. After my One Important Thing is done, then there’s no pressure to get a list of secondary things done, although somehow without the pressure, those tasks are getting done anyway. Plus, I don’t feel guilty if I play Legend of Zelda with Coach Morgan, because I’ve gotten my One Important Thing done. At the end of the week, I’ll have Seven Important Things done. Since I’ve returned to a fairly empty calendar, my One Important Thing has been to post this blog every day. I haven’t yet, but once this blog is done (at least for now, this is my second-to-last post) my next One Important Thing will be to sit myself down with my goal list, break the goals into tasks, then do the One Most Important Thing every day. Maybe once I get that down, I can work on Two Most Important Things, or even Three. Hey, a girl can dream!
Lesson #2 – I Really Don’t Need All That Extra Stuff
For the last five weeks, my “home” has been the space between my mattress and the upper bunk. The total sum of my possessions weighed less than twenty pounds and fit in my red backpack. My home decorating consisted of picking wildflowers and arranging them in my side backpack pocket. The albergues and bars provided space for eating and hanging out.
So my first impression on returning to my house in Virginia was “Yikes! It’s huge!” Then, “I have way too much stuff!” The bookshelves are overflowing, my bedroom closet has too many pieces of clothing I don’t wear, my kitchen has too many gadgets. Let’s not even talk about the attic. (A side note – I was waking up in the middle of the night feeling that my bed was too soft! I would move to the chaise sofa, read for a bit, and finish the night sleeping there.) The next Important Thing after the blog is done and goals are set will be to seriously declutter my space.
Lesson #3 – I Need to Feed My Extrovert
One thing I learned on Camino was that I’m really an extrovert! In my current life, I spend a lot of time alone at home or travelling with George and Morgan. When you travel with someone, there’s a tendency to focus just on them and not get out and meet other people. On Camino, especially since I started walking alone, my previously hidden extrovert came out to play. For me, meeting people and getting to know them has been one of the most interesting and exciting parts of the Camino.
I don’t know how I’m going to do it yet, but I am committed to getting out more in my own ‘hood. Maybe I’ll join a book club, the Ladies Who Dine (call me, Bonnie!), attend more outdoor concerts with Susie, or start volunteering somewhere. Now that Morgan will need less of me, I should have the time to get out and be social.
Lesson #3 – I Don’t Need To Eat As Much As I Thought
Dear readers, remember when I was complaining that I didn’t seem to be losing weight? Well, I gotta send a big shout out to Saint James for hearing me – when I got on the scale at home, I was 10 Pounds lighter! And, I look pretty good, if I say so myself! Most of my pants/shorts are too baggy now – another reason to declutter – I’ve got to go through all of my clothes and see what is too big. I’ll be taking those too-big things and donating them to Goodwill. Not keeping them around!
On Camino, even though I ate what I wanted, I rarely was starving when it came to mealtime. I was happiest sharing a meal with another pilgrim or just having a few tapas. I really got used to smaller portions. In order to continue this habit at home, first, I am no longer eating in front of the tv (dinner, and breakfast, too, is outside on the pier). Second, my plate is not piled high any more and there’s more veggies on the plate than meat. If I find the scale creeping up, a night or two of just a satisfying salad for dinner gets those scale numbers back where I want them.
Lesson #4 – Keep the Body Moving
I loved getting up to walk every day. My body loved it. The first hill in the morning was always a killer, but it felt good to keep moving. I really hated stopping for very long because it was taking away from the walker’s high (is there such a thing?) I felt moving along the trail. Besides my initial knee swelling, which subsided after I kept it wrapped and cortisoned, and other leg pains that would pass, I really had no problems.
However, my legs hurt for the first week after coming home. Mary’s friend, a marathon coach, told her that the walking we did on Camino was like doing a marathon every day. My schedule did not allow rest days, although there were some shorter days, and it eventually took a toll on my legs and knees. When I got to Santiago, I went to squat down to talk to some folks in the square and I couldn’t do it. Still can’t bend my knees like that for long.
The running coach told Mary that the best recuperative action was no action at all. I’ve been taking that to heart, and for the last two weeks, I’ve not done any exercise whatsoever. A couple of days ago, I started my yoga practice again (with no pain) and walked a morning 5km with George (no pain). I was in pretty good shape in May before Camino; I just weighed more than I wanted. Now I’ve got the weight down, and I just need to keep moving to keep my stamina and strength up.
Lesson #5 – Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff/It’s All Small Stuff
Maintaining the inner peace and harmony honed on the Camino is more of a challenge now that I’m home. Yet, as I encounter problems, I remember that some things, like the pain in my legs came and then went, need to be watched and not dealt with just now. Some things that can’t be changed must be acknowleged and made peace with. Some things that can be changed will be addressed one step at a time. Nothing is the end of the world, and a chocolate cookie can cure a lot of ills.
Lesson #6 – I’ve Gotta Find A Way to Give Back
OK, Santiago, you were really there for me in Spain. I saw you in the smiles of the people I met, the meals shared, and the healing of the blisters. I cannot begin to describe the blessings I’ve received from you through every fellow pilgrim, hospitalero, barkeep, nurse and doctor, tourist office, or store employee. Thank you for the random Spanish person who, when they saw I was taking the wrong path, set me on the right one. Thank you for the truck drivers who honked their “Buen Camino” as they drove by. Thank you for making it possible to make this pilgrimage in good health, with good friends, in great weather.
For my next request, Santiago, help me find the best way to give back. I’ll have my ears and eyes and heart open, ok? Can’t wait to hear again from you!
You can be sure that there are many more lessons that I’ve learned on the Camino and I’m personally excited to see how they will play out in my life in the months ahead. If any of you fellow pilgrims are still with me, please post a comment on your Camino Lessons. I’d love to hear from you.
I’ve got one more post on Camino before I continue on to my Next One Important Thing, and that’s the WHY that I promised you at the beginning of this trip. See you tomorrow.