‘During my first camino in 2016, I focused too much on the goal of reaching Santiago. I had a deadline of thirty days maximum. After that, I had to go back to work. But on the third day, I got a knee injury that only worsened. As a result, when I lost sight of my goal, I could no longer enjoy the journey. With great difficulty, I arrived within the thirty-day deadline. But I was in so much pain that I could not be joyful. Shouldn’t I have come home enlightened? I felt that my camino had failed completely.
Back home, I told my best friend about the deception of walking the camino. I regretted that I had wasted my precious time on this. Her response was short but firm: ‘I’m not surprised you are disappointed. The same goes for other areas of your life. You’re so focused on your goal that you can’t enjoy the journey towards it.’
At first, I became angry with her for her heartless comment. I had expected support. But in retrospect, all she did was support me because she was right. For example, in the matter of relationships: I was ready for a new relationship at some point after a previous relationship had ended. But I was so focused on having a relationship that I found the way towards it a hassle. Dating had become a kind of necessary evil. That’s why I put a lot of pressure on my dates. In hindsight, I have sold a lot of nice men short, but most of all, I have sold myself short.
I am also very goal-oriented at work. Achieving the goal is the only thing that counts. If I don’t reach my goal, then the lovely colleagues, the creativity, and the moments of inspiration don’t seem to matter anymore.
Two years later, I again took thirty days off to walk the camino. The goal was the same, but the deadline was not so rigid. This time I enjoyed the camino more; the encounters, the inspiring stories, and the beautiful views. Also, I was less hard on myself. During the first camino, I walked with a heavy backpack because I have weak knees. During my second camino, I had my suitcase transported from hostel to hostel. At first, I was a bit embarrassed about this because someone had told me that a “real” pilgrim carries her own backpack. But in the end, my knees were very grateful to me for putting that shame aside.
Walking the camino was great practice for me. What helped with that was that I didn’t have to try so hard to stay focused on the end goal and what I had to do to reach it. In fact, on the camino, that is very easy. You just have to follow the yellow arrows. After the last arrow, you are right in front of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
After the camino, I started practicing at work and in the domain of relationships. At work, I succeed more and more with trial and error. In terms of relationships, I don’t have a steady relationship yet. But I date a lot of lovely men. I’m having a great time. It seems like I’m making up for the time lost. And that long-term relationship? That will probably come one day.’
Aparecida Campos (47, Portugal): ‘On the camino I embraced my inner-child’
Ozi (Switserland): ‘I learned to solve problems by distancing myself from them.’
Eleanor: ‘On the camino I regained inner peace.’
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’