The Camino de Santiago: More than just walking 250+ miles from point A to B

Elizabeth, a member of the inaugural cohort of students, was one of 15 people who went on Wayfinding Academy's first ever Learn & Explore trip to walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in April 2017. Not only was Elizabeth a participant, she was also the trip leader for one of the two routes explored during the 15-day journey on foot. In this week's newsletter, Elizabeth shares how the experience was more than just walking for 250+ miles.

At Wayfinding, there's a lot of talk about stretching - getting outside of our comfort zones. Sometimes, it can begin to feel romanticized - almost easy.

But the whole point of getting outside of your comfort zone is that it will not feel comfortable. It sounds simple on paper; however, in life, it’s so much harder to grasp.

There is this hope that if you get outside your comfort zone often enough, it will become easy ... comfortable even. But that’s the thing: it never will.

Maybe it will become easier to push yourself into that stretchy space, but that space will never be comfortable. That is the point.

Yes, we’ve all agreed that this is where the magic happens but very often, in the moment, it doesn’t feel like magic at all.

I experienced this first hand, leading the first Wayfinding Academy Learn & Explore trip along the Camino de Santiago. Guiding six other people on a very long walk across two countries was pretty far outside of my comfort zone.  

Making decisions.
Being in charge.
Traveling in a group and being responsible for people other than myself.  
Direct communication.

None of these are things that come naturally to me. All of these are required to lead an international trip.

It is hard to explain the Camino experience to people who haven’t done it before. I’m sure the other trip participants are discovering this as they dig into processing their experience and trying to share it with their friends and family. It is what I am struggling with while trying to write this newsletter.

On the surface it seems relatively simple - we walked 250+ miles from point A to point B, while carrying everything we needed on our backs.

Walk, eat, sleep, and repeat.  

It might sound boring and monotonous to those who have never experienced it before. An experience like this is anything but boring. Something magical happens when your life becomes so simple and all you’re doing is walking. The Camino clears the space for you to think. There is very little to worry about and very little for you to do.  All you’re left with is yourself.

You have nothing left to distract you from you. You pay attention to your surroundings. To yourself.  To your life.  You start to notice the patterns and stories that you continually act out. Eventually you start asking yourself why.

You cannot go around, you have to go through.

For me, one of the themes that emerged was letting go.

Letting go of the old to make way for the new.
Letting go of old ways of being.
Letting go of decades old habits and patterns.
Letting go of old stories.
Letting go of things that no longer serve me any more.  
Letting go of how I think things should be.  
Letting go of perfectionism.  
Letting go of playing small.
Letting go of caring what others think of me.

Letting go of who I used to be. So that I can become who I am now. Who I will be.

The Camino and Wayfinding both present spaces in which one can more clearly see themselves. They reflect back to you how you are in the world and show you all the ways in which you get in the way of yourself.

This was a challenging experience for me in many ways. I’m so glad I did it and I'm so grateful that I'm having a learning experience that supports and provides out-of-the-box opportunities to stretch and grow.

I would totally do it again ... maybe even in Cuba (hint, hint).

~ Elizabeth

Learn and Explore trips are adventures that stretch your world view. The trips are one of the six elements of our 2-year program. Each trip includes learning components and a chance for participants to stretch. Learn & Explore trips are open to our community and to learn more or sign up for an upcoming one, click here to learn more. Our next one will be lead by another one of our students, Alden, in early June and will focus on Camping 101 - Basic Skills for camping in the Pacific Northwest.