Camino Audit #6 – What I have learnt, so far…

To walk the Camino is to do a pilgrimage.

That’s what I did – I became a pilgrim. I followed in the footsteps of millions of other pilgrims who, over the years, the decades, the centuries, have made their way to Santiago.

I am now a pilgrim. What does that mean?

GRATITUDE:

As I was walking the Camino, being a pilgrim meant, to me, being grateful. Grateful for simple things. I was grateful for a bed at night. I was grateful to be able to put on clean clothes the next morning. I was grateful it wasn’t raining. I was grateful on those days when the pain receded.

I learnt the meaning of gratitude.

Before the Camino, whenever I travelled and I checked into a hotel, I was never happy with the room I got. I’d always ask for a bigger room, or one with a better view, or on a higher floor, or I’d try and wrangle an upgrade.

I was a pain in the ass. I was ungrateful.

No more. In future, I’ll be grateful for whatever room I’m given.

If I can take that concept of gratitude back into my everyday life – if the Camino affects that fundamental change in me – then the pilgrimage will have been worth it.

HUMILITY:

I wanted to learn humility on the Camino. Believe me, Humility with a capital H blindsided me. I was fit, I’d trained hard, I was all prepared. Yes I was anxious, but I believed that I’d get through it fine, and I’d fly across the Meseta.

My knee gave out on me on Day 2, and the rest of my Camino was difficult. Very difficult. I was the slowest person on the path each day. Everyone passed me. There were days when every footstep was like a hot knife stabbing into my knee, or my shin, or my heel. I was dosed up on painkillers but they had no effect.

A lot of people saw me struggling, saw that I was in pain, and felt very sorry for me. Many helped me. Many were sympathetic. I’m sure, (and they later told me) that they thought I’d give up. I was humbled. I wasn’t the fit strong guy I thought I was.

Yet I remeber thinking, one day when I was really doing it tough, that if I kept on putting one foot in front of the other, eventually I’d get to Santiago. All I had to do was keep on putting one foot in front of the other. And that’s how I could repay the sympathy and kindness of my fellow pilgrims. Simply by finishing.

I was also humbled by other people’s achievements.

I met people who had already walked over a thousand kilometers before reaching St. Jean Pied de Port. One fellow took one rest day in St. Jean, then he kept going to Santiago. His plan was to then walk down to Lisbon, and back to Santiago again. More than 2,000 kms in total.

I met several pilgrims who were walking back from Santiago. Back to St. Jean. And then there was the couple who had walked from their home in Nimes, France. Their Camino would be 1,300 kms. They were in their early 60s. These people humbled me.

Ultimately though, I was humbled by the occasion. By walking the Camino. In being a part of something very spiritual that has existed for a thousand years or more, that has attracted millions of pilgrims, and that goes beyond my comprehension. That in itself was humbling.

BIG GOALS, SMALL STEPS:

I also learnt that huge goals can be achieved with small steps.

I walked over the Pyrenees, and across Spain, taking small steps. A lot of small steps. I’d set myself the goal of reaching Santiago de Compostela from St Jean Pied de Port. When I looked at the journey on a map before I left home, I wondered how it could be possible. It seemed so damn far.

But, by putting one foot in front of the other, and by doing that hour after hour, day after day, I did it. I got there.

Now, if I can take that concept into my life as well, what a huge benefit that would be. What else can I achieve in my life by taking small steps? By just keeping on putting one foot in front of the other…

Fascinating thoughtโ€ฆ

MY POSSESSIONS ARE MY BURDEN:

This thought occurred to me time and time again as I walked the Camino.

Everything I needed was on my back. I was carrying it. Which made me examine and question everything I “owned” for that period of my walk. Because I had to haul it up and down mountains, and across endless plains, and every ounce mattered.

I heard of a woman from Finland who was carrying 6kg of cured reindeer meat in her backpack. She was fine with it. She needed it. My mate Balazs carried an espresso machine, a grinder, and coffee beans. It wasn’t a problem for him. He accepted the weight, and the burden, because he needed good coffee. And he made coffee for other pilgrims, and this was a way of him saying thanks to his friends.

I also heard of a woman from California who carried 2kgs of cosmetics and a hair dryer. She had to pull out and go home prematurely. Her backpack was too heavy.

On the Camino, none of us bought anything from shops along the way, other than essentials such as food or pharmaceuticals, because we’d have to carry it. What a great way to approach the disease of consumerism. Only buy what you’re prepared to carry. Only buy what you really need. Because your possessions are your burden.

Now if I can take that concept back home with me, wouldn’t I be so much “lighter?” Wouldn’t I be able to walk through life so much easier, with more freedom, with greater agility and sense of ease?

I’ll go home knowing that I don’t need so much stuff. I thought I did, before the Camino, but now I realise I don’t. If I can live for nearly 5 weeks with just 8 kgs of belongings, why can’t I apply that notion of need as against want to my life back home?

I think I’m going to be giving a lot away to the Salvos when I get back.

JUDGE NOT:

There were so many times I misjudged people, or underestimated them.

Like Soren, the 67 year old bloke from Switzerland who whooshed past me going up O Cebreiro. I thought he’d take three days. He’d showered, done his laundry, had dinner and watched a game of footy on TV by the time I got in…

Then there was Laszlo, my Hungarian mate from the Taxi Four. Laszlo was carrying a lot of weight, and I wondered early on whether he’d go the distance. He did. He lost 20 kgs on the Camino, and he kicked on to Muxia and Finesterre hoping he’d lose another 5 kgs. What a remarkable man he was.

I learnt that you must never judge, and never underestimate the capacity of others, and their propensity for charity and kindness. The Camino engenders extraordinary acts of generosity, sharing, and care. Why can’t that spill over into life back home?

It actually can.

WE ARE MORE CAPABLE THAN WE REALISE:

Every day I saw pilgrims reach within themselves and find something extra to go up that steep hill or go that extra 10 kms to reach the next town. I talked to people who couldn’t quite believe what they’d done in reaching Santiago.

I saw pilgrims in their 70s climbing up mountains carrying 10 kg backpacks. Without real effort. That’s what the Camino does to you. It infuses you with an energy that makes you capable of things you wouldn’t believe possible.

Personally, I discovered that I was stronger and more resilient than I realised. I dealt with pain simply – by turning a switch in my brain and telling myself that pain didn’t exist. That it was simply something that had been put in front of me to test my resolve in reaching Santiago. I wouldn’t let it stop me.

I refused to go to a hospital. I knew the doctors would tell me to rest for several days, or perhaps even go home. I didn’t need them to tell me that. I would ignore them. So why go?

Miracles occur. My pain left me on the Meseta. It was truly a miracle. The thing about the Camino, you have to leave yourself open to miracles entering your life. That’s what happened to me. If I’d gone to a doctor, the miracle would never have happened.

EVERY DAY IS A PILGRIMAGE:

This now is the challenge for me. To take being a pilgrim back to my normal life. To approach every day as being on a pilgrimage.

What have I learnt so far? ( because the lessons will keep on a comin’… )

I’ve learn that the only thing that really matters is love.

That’s what the Camino has taught me.

 

34 thoughts on “Camino Audit #6 – What I have learnt, so far…

  1. This is so timely. I leave for Paris tomorrow. I’m a bit anxious. Full of what ifs. This post is what I can carry with me, and it doesn’t weigh a thing, but it is so what I needed right now.

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  2. Thank you, thank you!! I have learned so much through your writing and seen SO much in your pictures!! My Camino is over a year away and I am sure I will reference back to your blog many times before I begin!
    Debbie

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    • Fantastic Debbie. If you’re anything like me, the pressure to walk the Camino builds and builds. I’m delighted that the blog will be of some help in your preparations. Bill

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      • Bill, We finnally arrived in St. Jean last evening and decided to stay an extra day as they left our duffle bags in the rain in Madrid and we had to dry it all before we ship excess for post Camino to Santiago tomorrow. Looks like it will be the low road for us also. Looking forward to getting started. Will miss your blogs. Steve & Jill

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        • Hey Steve, ah, the Camino is already throwing curve balls! I look forward to following your journey. Hope all goes well on the first stage. Like kick off on a big game, it’s always a relief to start! Best to you both, Bill

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          • Bill. We would be flattered if you followed our posts. I am having a little technical difficulty, such as replying to your post directly, but hopefully you will get this with no problem. I also noticed that my last post to you was anonymous rather than me, so I don’t know how that happened either. The trials begin.

            You have led the way and we will think of you while following in your footsteps. You have certainly paved the way. Think we might get a bit more rain gear as I had rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Especially, since it looks like we will not have the same weather you did. Ah, part of the adventure. Steve

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  3. Bill,i stumbled upon yer blog last week,there was a reason for that happening,i no not what that reason is but thank you for a brilliant read n the inspiration it has given me for my Camino,Bernard.

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  4. Hello Bill, how wonderfully you describe what I call the “Gifts of the Camino”. They are given to all pilgrims, the trick is to be willing to accept and receive them. You did! These gifts are lasting and Life will probably express itself as Bill before and after the Camino. It is that to me and enables me to live my authentic self in joy. There will be times that the people around you will look at you and not know who you are and what you are talking about. Some will never get it. It is almost like Spring cleaning, you let old, stuffy air out and invite fresh, clean energy in. I do agree with your wife, you will be back. So will I, physically. Spiritually I have not left.

    Many times I signed with Ultreya during your journey, which means Onward, something you probably heard from O’Cebreiro on. From the locals it is an acknowledgment that you are a pilgrim and close to your goal. You are now on your journey home and I will greet you as they did the pilgrims in the past, who turned around and walked back home. Suseya (upward) pilgrim Bill. Ingrid

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    • Hi Ingrid – sorry for the mixup with the name below. Sometimes I’m rushed for time and make mistakes. But just to reaffirm that your comment above was very affecting. Thank you. Bill

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  5. That’s very cool – Suseya – thanks Debbie. I never thought a walk could be so affecting. I can feel it shifting and moving my genetic structure. You must have felt that too. Bill

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  6. Bill,

    I started reading your blog just after you started. I was a bit concerned for the first few posts, wondering if this Aussie guy really knew what he was doing. ๐Ÿ™‚ But soon I started seeing that you had a great way of explaining what was going on around you, and what you were going through yourself. There were several days I cracked up laughing because of something you said — mostly because I can see myself reacting exactly the same way.

    My wife and I leave THREE days from now to start our own Camino from St. Jean. I’ll carry with me all of your thoughts, and try to keep in mind that if Bill could do it with his bad knees, then I can do it with mine as well! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for sharing such a great moment of your life with us. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Russell
    http://www.farofflands.com/camino

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    • Hi Russell, yep, you’re right. I wasn’t sure what I was doing when I started off, and that probably came through in the writing.

      But thank you for following the posts, and GOOD LUCK when you start in a few days. That first stage is hard, but if the Route Napoleon way is open, then it should be amazing. I’m sorry that the weather and snow prevented me going that way.

      Have a great time, and don’t worry about your knees – the Camino will pick you up and carry you, like it did me.

      Bill

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  7. As I was walking the Camino, being a pilgrim meant, to me, being grateful. Grateful for simple things. I was grateful for a bed at night. I was grateful to be able to put on clean clothes the next morning. I was grateful it wasnโ€™t raining. I was grateful on those days when the pain receded.

    True pilgrim ๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. Bill, again I breakfast with you, and again I shed tears- happiness for what you have shared, endured, learned and overcome; tears for all those who do not recognize the blessings in their lives and tears of anxiety for my forthcoming pilgrimage. What will I learn?
    The lessons you have shared cannot be taught. They are the lessons of life. As an educator for 40 years I can only hope that my students have had sufficient valuable learning experiences to help them realise the inner strength they possess, their gifts and challenges and that they can achieve their goals by putting one step in front of the other. If I may, I would like to share some of your comments to inspire my students.
    God bless you. Anne

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    • Dear Anne, thank you once again for your heart felt comments. I would be delighted for you to share my blog with your students. You will have such a wonderful time on your Camino. And it will affect you in ways that you will never be able to predict! Blessings, Bill

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      • Bill, I am already planning how I can inspire my students, through your example and experience. Thankyou again. Maybe one day as I pass through Mudgee, I’ll stop and share a Coke Zero with you. I look forward to continued audits as I re evaluate my priorities. Anne

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  9. Hi Bill Bennett, my name is Lucy Clark and I’m the editor of a news and opinion website in Australia called The Hoopla – you can check it out at http://www.thehoopla.com.au – and I would like to republish this latest wonderful blog of yours on our site. Can you let me know please if this is possible?
    My very best wishes to you,
    Lucy.

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    • Hi Lucy – have sent you a private email, but in principle, yes I’d be delighted if you could help me get the blog out wider, and also to help promote the concept of PGS – of allowing your intuition to guide you. Bill

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      • Just read this post on the Hoopla. It’s wonderful and a lovely thing to read on a Friday afternoon. Thank you.

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      • I also just read it on the Hoopla and found it a beautiful piece. It made me think about the concept of pilgramige and what is available for people closer to home -cradle mountain sprung to mind.
        Thanks for shareing your journey, Cathy

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  10. Bill……over the past few weeks I have looked forward to your posts daily….I have pulled over on the side of the road, snuck away from my desk and re-read them in the evenings. At the moment I am home sick from work…and was feeling pretty sorry for myself as I have missed a weeks worth of training. I was starting to think that my next Camino would have to be postponed……..:-(
    But then I read this post and the comment….Big Goals…small steps……You are right….any thing can be accomplished with just one little step at a time….and that’s all I need to do. Before, During and After the Camino…..just take one step at a time.

    I feel like I know you so well and that you have become a friend..and I am soooo very proud of your achievement.

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    • Hi Abbey, not sure if you realise but when you posted that comment some time ago now, how you had to pull over to the side of the road to read the blog before a meeting (I was late posting that day – I’d done some huge miles) – well, that had a real impact on me. Firstly, because it told me that you, and possibly others, were reading it seriously – and secondly, that I had to make sure I got it out each day in a timely manner!

      I too feel like we’ve become friends, and it pleases me immensely that you’re getting something from it. Bill

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  11. I too cried, enjoyed, and rushed to the computer every morning. I told my family and friends that I was going to miss your blog. Thank you. I will be doing the camino in late September and all of October. I will turn (hopefully) 67 on the camino. I am sooo looking forward to the experience.
    Connie

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    • Hi Connie, you’ll have an incredible time on the Camino. And as I’ve said in my blog many times, it’s the 60+ pilgrims that seem to handle it so well… Thank you for following my blog too – it’s very much appreciated. I’ll miss it when it comes to an end. Bill

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  12. bill….gracias….gracias ….i hope i can do my camino by the end of sept …..like i said before ….thank you …….

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    • Hi Pedro – I’m sure you’ll have an incredible time. And it will be beautiful doing the walk in the autumn, with all the leaves turning gold. That will be amazing.
      Bill

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  13. Thank you so much, Bill, for your photos and perspective on the Camino. I also hope to walk the Camino in late Sept and Oct, and if that happens I will be one of the “Old People” the Camino is so full of – and a woman walking it alone. Like Connie, I will also celebrate my birthday on the Camino. (Buen Camino, Connie – maybe we’ll meet somewhere along the way.)
    You’ve provided a wonderful and different impression of the Meseta from what I’ve heard, and I truly thank you for that! I’m now anxious to meet it face-to-face – and see it more positively.
    Your photographic detail has inspired me to look more closely at what I’m seeing, and I will take a small camera to help me notice my surroundings more. My photos will later jog my memory for the greater “picture” that may include other senses.
    I wonder tho’ ~ IS it the end of the journey? Maybe it’s a continuation ~ another of life’s experiences – albeit, one of the more important ones – that ultimately makes us who we are. Terry

    Pragmatically speaking, maybe I WILL take my iPod – if only for the last 100k… ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    • Hi Terry, as I said in my posts, I found the Meseta to be one of the great highlights of my Camino. It’s not something to be anxious about. It’s sublime. But as with anything, it’s how you approach it that determines your experience.

      And yes, maybe the iPod might come in handy the last 100kms!

      Bill

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