On September 12, 2012, my journey on the Camino began with an early morning flight. My blue backpack, weighing 22 pounds, fit nicely in the overhead compartment. The minimalist contents included several pairs of socks, three undies, four shirts, one pair of pants, a sleeping bag, hiking shorts, a toothbrush, floss, and a battery charger for my camera. Leaving my “stuff” behind was a very liberating part of the trip. I boarded the plane without a single expectation and decided to spend the next 35 days experiencing the experience. To maintain sanity, I gave myself permission to abort the walk. If it sucked, I could always hang in Paris for a month and enjoy a different type of vacation. There is never a downside to traveling outside of a comfort zone!
30 hours later, a taxi delivered me to St. Jean Pied-de-Port. The first morning breakfast was memorable for audible mixture of hellos, bonjours, ciaos, and holas. After devouring toast and sipping dark black coffee, I exited the albergue and took my first of a million steps. My pack was spotless, my shoes were without dirt, and my clothes were brand new. Adrenalin wiped out my jet lag and took me across the Pyrenees mountains. Sheep bells provided the music as I drifted into the magic of the Camino.
Within a few weeks, I felt as if I had never lived in another place. The comfort of the trail, the camaraderie of my foreign friends, and the routines were creating an euphoric experience. I had never lived with so little, expected nothing, and been so happy. Worry and fear did not find a place in my blue pack. I let go of control and endeavored to accept everything without judgement.
About halfway to Santiago, I found myself walking with a young man from Alaska and his mom from Pennsylvania. We stopped to admire the sun as it cracked the horizon and lit the sky. The Alaskan asked, “How do you go home and explain what happens to a person on the Camino?” Without hesitation I replied, “Not sure, but I plan to write a book that will allow people to enter my shoes, head, and heart”. Eyes rolled as the sunrise regained center stage.
Throughout the rest of trip, I felt like a lottery winner every single day. As I learned to let go, I found that things seemed to work in my favor. Letting go of more equated to smoother sailing. A trend was established and needed to stay in my life.
When I returned to Boise, it was fulfillment time for the promise to my young Alaskan friend. From the viewpoint of the first step, Santiago seems like a distant dream. The first keystroke of the first sentence in a book instills a similar feeling. There is a first time for everything, so I began typing without expectations. The writing process quickly consumed my life. Some people are born with several speeds. I am not one of them.
For the next five months, I spent three to four hours per day in front of a keyboard. My journal was the written record and 2,295 photos allowed me to extract the jewels from my experience. Music and coffee con leche provided the comfort as I ventured down this new path. I tried to write the book like I walked the Camino; in the moment with little focus on the past or future. Throughout the entire first draft, I never re-read a single sentence. Five months later, a 72,000 word blob was born. It was one continuous untitled chapter.
During the writing process, I created a PowerPoint presentation and began speaking around town. I spoke without expectations. I accepted every invitation and ended up speaking to over 3,000 people at 50 events. Like a struggling musician, I poured my heart into each event. I knew that something was developing, but decided to just let it flow like a river. In other words, let it go where it intends to go.
After the birth, I gave the blob to the world’s greatest editor, Jeanette Germain. She trimmed a cool 20,000 words, created 32 chapters, and added 1,000 of her own words. We played electronic ping pong with the manuscript for several months. This was my first rodeo but the old cowboys tell me my luck is never ending. She kept my voice in the manuscript! On August 24, 2013, A Million Steps received its first order on Amazon.
Arriving in Santiago and publishing the book were similar in that they created an opportunity for a new beginning. The new phase of this journey became full time marketing. I decided to promote without expectation and to ditch my spreadsheet mentality. I had to let go of my fear of going broke. My pile is far from unlimited, but I cannot fret over each dollar spent. Some will be wasted and some will be very productive. After they are tendered, regret will not put them back in my account. So far, I am into this project to the tune of a fine luxury SUV. A really good German one with shiny wheels, leather seats, a Bose stereo, and variable temperature ass warmers. This does not include a year of my time with a financial value of zero. My current revenues would have filled the gas tank a few times.
I would not trade one single day of this experience for a fleet of Bentleys. Just like the walk, I know that every day something related to this project will send chills down my spine. I wake up every day and try to move the ball a bit further down the path. It may be another speaking engagement, responding to a tweet, writing a guest blog post, or scheduling an interview. Each morning I ask myself, “What can I do to make someone read or buy my book today?” If it is meant to happen, it will.
Last Friday night, my cell phone rang as I was getting ready to run out the door. My Los Angeles PR firm booked me for an hour long joint interview with Lydia Smith (Director/Producer Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago). On December 9, we meet Justine Toms to record an hour long interview for New Dimensions Radio.
About New Dimensions Radio:
Created in 1973 as a tax-exempt, not-for-profit educational organization, New Dimensions has been broadcasting continuously for more than 38 years, addressing the cultural shifts and changing landscapes in our society. It is heard on public radio in more than 300 communities around the U.S. Other outlets are the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio National (beams all over Australia), on the worldwide web at www.newdimensions.org. “New Dimensions” is heard in parts of Canada and New Zealand, and on Live365 Internet Radio with its own internet station. It is estimated that the program reaches 1.3 million in the U.S. and throughout the world. It is also heard by a growing number of listeners on internet radio stations including our own New Dimensions Internet Radio (NDIR). Podcasts of the first quarter of our programs are available on iTunes. A monthly E-newsletter is available on-line. In addition to the New Dimensions flagship series it also produces the podcast, “New Dimensions Café” which is also carried by iTunes and is available on the website as well.
New Dimensions has deep dialogues with hundreds of the most innovative movers and shakers on the planet such as the late mythologist Joseph Campbell, poet Maya Angelou and Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, as well world renowned architect William McDonough. Featured on New Dimensions are such luminaries as Pulitzer Prize winners E.O. Wilson from Harvard and poet/ecologist Gary Snyder, and many spiritual leaders such as philosopher J. Krishnamurti, Thich Nhat Hanh, Swami Muktananda, Chogyam Trumpa Rinpoche, Fr. Bede Griffiths, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and many, many more. From politics, with the former President, Jimmy Carter, to health, with Dr. Andrew Weil, from H.H. the Dalai Lama to cultural observer, Alice Walker, As you can tell, we conduct conversations on a wide breath of topics.
Stay tuned for your chance to tune in……..