‘The reason I started walking the camino is because of my father. Not because I wanted to walk the camino so badly. I don’t even like walking. I’m the kind of person who goes to the store two blocks away by car. In that respect, I am the opposite of my father. He loved to hike immensely.
For years his big dream was to walk the camino one day. But there was always a reason to postpone it; busy with his work, obligations within his church, his physical condition was not yet good enough, etc. In the end, he postponed it until after his retirement. When his retirement was approaching, he began to prepare meticulously. He started training, bought a good outfit, read travel guides about the camino, you name it. He told everyone who wanted to hear that he was going to walk the camino. I have never seen him so happy and excited. It was a side of him I didn’t know. I knew him as preoccupied, hard-working, and dutiful. He did things like working extra hours when asked and always being at the service of others, even if it was at the expense of himself or his family. He saw that as his duty. I don’t think he ever wondered if something could also be enjoyable for himself. The camino was something he really did all for himself. And you could see that; he was beaming all over.
I took him to the airport. Before he went through security, he hugged me. I was a bit startled because he never did that. He held me for a few seconds without saying anything, and then he walked away. He waved without looking back. I think he was emotional but did not dare to show it. Four days later, we received the message that he had been found dead on a bench beside the road. Fellow pilgrims who found him waited with him until the emergency services arrived. We immediately flew to Spain to pick him up. I was sad but strange enough; I also felt at peace as soon as I saw him. He looked so peaceful.
Not long after his funeral, I decided to finish his camino. I don’t know exactly why. It was a strong urge. When I started walking, I expected to be very sad. Sad that my father died but also because he could not finish his camino. But to my surprise, I felt joy and gratitude. Yes, my father died, but he died while chasing his big dream. I also felt his presence. When I arrived at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, it felt like I had walked the camino with him and that we had arrived together. That is also the only time I cried. However, it was not sadness but a mixture of happiness, gratitude, and accomplishment.
The biggest lesson I learned: is never to postpone things that are important to you, even if it is complicated. In that respect, I was very much like my father. I also often put things off. Unimportant things but also important things. For example, my best friend emigrated to Australia years ago. We call regularly. And every year, I resolve to go see him the following year. And then a “but” follows. But first, the kids have to be a little older, or; once I’ve taken the next step in my career, then maybe…
Therefore, never postpone. That’s the biggest lesson that I like to convey. I also understand that sometimes things are just not possible. But examine the reason why it can’t be done. Is it really true, or is it an excuse? I still apply this myself. I research it whenever I say, “I’d love to, but …”. In most cases, if I look closely, the reason that comes after the “but” is an excuse. This lesson has genuinely changed my life. I put off fewer things that are really important to me. And yes, I have finally visited my friend in Australia. I had to save up for it for a few years, but three years after my camino, I had a beer with my best friend in Australia.
Gerald (57): ‘A hug on the Camino changed my life’
Aparecida Campos (47, Portugal): ‘On the camino I embraced my inner-child’
Ozi (Switserland): ‘I learned to solve problems by distancing myself from them.’
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)’