‘My name is Ozi. Ozi means ‘strong,’ and that’s how I saw myself for a long time, both physically and mentally. I was born and raised in Switzerland, and I had a beautiful, carefree childhood. After that, my life also went well; I studied, got married, had two beautiful sons, and started a successful business. Of course, I sometimes had setbacks, but I knew how to deal with them. But then, at age 58, I suddenly had to deal with Murphy’s law; everything that could go wrong went wrong. A bad investment brought my company to the brink of collapse. We also received the news that my oldest son had been hospitalized around that same time. He was in critical condition with an as yet unknown cause. For weeks we didn’t know if he would survive. The stress gave me heart problems, and I was twice taken to the hospital with sirens wailing. It turned out to be heart palpitations. Because of all those uncertainties, I lost control over my life. Before, I had the feeling that I had many options. Now the number of options was rapidly diminishing. I began to panic.
My doctor knew that I was an avid hiker. He recommended that I walk the camino. When my son’s health improved spectacularly through the doctors’ efforts, I started walking. The camino on doctor’s prescription, I always say as a joke.
The first days on the camino were stressful. I couldn’t relax because I had to think about my company which was on the verge of collapse. I felt like I was running away from my problems. After two weeks, I realized that this was not true. I had simply taken the issues with me. To be more precise, the problem wasn’t in me but my reaction to that problem. That caused the stress. I then mentally let go of the company. I was ready to let it go bankrupt. And oddly enough, that’s when the possible solutions came flooding in. That gave so much energy. When I was back home, I managed to save my company. But had it not succeeded, then it would also have been okay. Challenging, but okay. Then I would have started something new. I am, after all, an entrepreneur.
Now I know that having a grip on life is mostly an illusion. Of course, you can influence certain things yourself. You can decide to start exercising to get healthier or make an investment decision to grow your business. If you don’t make that decision, you can be sure that you won’t become healthier or grow your business. But of course, if you do make those choices, there is no guarantee that you will succeed. You can go bankrupt despite all your wise decisions or get sick due to all sorts of factors that are beyond your control. And when things go wrong, or as I prefer to look at it nowadays, when you don’t get the desired outcome, you have to learn to deal with that.
After walking my first camino, I learned that it’s usually not a good idea to take action immediately when there’s a big complex problem. Many people have that reflex. So do I. But often, those decisions come from a state of panic, and those are usually not the best decisions. The camino gives calm, and you distance yourself, sometimes literally, from the problem. And no, that doesn’t always feel pleasant. Especially not for action-oriented people like me. You want a solution here and now. But sometimes, it takes time and patience. It’s a cliche, but the grass doesn’t grow faster by pulling it.
I now walk the camino every three to five years. I see it as mental maintenance. It makes me more resilient, not just physically but especially mentally.’
*Shout out to Eleanor, who put me in touch with Ozi. Read her story here:
Paul (60, The Netherlands) – ‘The camino taught me how to live again’
Carla (36, The Netherlands): Recovering from burnout while walking the camino
Sofia’s (54, Brazil) camino story: ‘At Cruz de Ferro came the sadness’
Nagela Alexa’s Camino Story: ‘The Camino changes your life if you allow it.’
Fabrice (38, France): ‘I realized that walking the camino itself was self-imposed pressure’
Andre’s story (58, Belgium): ‘On the camino, I had to face the hard fact of how horribly I treat myself.’
Emma’s story: ‘I learned to say goodbye on the camino (and in life)’
Maarten’s story: The power of vulnerability
Agne-Henrik’s story: ‘The camino changed my life’