Prior to taking A Million Steps on the Camino de Santiago, my life was always rushed and my eyes were squarely focused on the horizon. My passion for biking was enhanced by being able to cover lots of ground. I blew through college and found myself in entry level classes during my final semester. I ran out of runway too early. I climbed the corporate ladder and retired at 36. Always in a hurry and looking to get to the next place. I have surrendered to the concept that the next place does not hold the key to happiness. Instead, happiness comes from within and can be enjoyed every single day.
I spent the last few weeks in one of my favorite places on the planet. Ketchum, Idaho is surrounded by several mountain ranges and is loaded with fresh air, excellent scenery, great food, and lots of hiking/biking trails. My only obligations were a few radio interviews and one speech at the local library. My intent was to view this as miniature Camino and just seek to enjoy the beauty of each day. Just like the walk, I began to embrace all of the great people that crossed my path.
The condo I rented did not have a land-line, so I found a local friend with a hard wired phone. She offered her home for both shows including one at 5:00 AM. I had never been to her house, so we made arrangements to meet there. Upon arrival, I was fortunate to meet her children. They are free spirits and have lived very interesting and nomadic lives. Several days later, I met the same friend for coffee at 3:00 in the afternoon. She is a fellow Camino Pilgrim and three hours disintegrated as we chatted about many topics. One biggie that stuck with me was her admission that her children have been her greatest teachers. In discussing judgement, she gave me another jewel. When pointing a finger, notice that three are pointed back at you. How reflective is that?
The next day, I met some friends that drifted into my life from last year’s speech. I agreed to be the delivery man for five bags of inner-peas from Trader Joe’s. They enjoy giving them as gifts to friends. My reward was four hours of conversation and lunch at their home. I could not have imagined a better way to spend the day.
A few days later, I met three friends at the Hemingway Memorial as the starting gate for a hike up Proctor Mountain. I also met these friends the previous year and one of them maintains my website. I though we were headed for an easy trail, but we messed up and ended up walking the first two miles directly uphill. One of them said, “Note to self, never hike with a guy that walked the Camino. Big mistake. Big.” We all laughed. After the walk, we regrouped for some live jazz at the rotary park. After the tunes, they invited me to their home for chicken and steak with the rest of the family. I could not have planned a better day.
One evening, I spoke at the local library. A couple that heard me the previous year attended the repeat performance. They kindly invited me to walk with them the following day. As a result of our initial meeting a year earlier, this couple will be leaving for Spain in September to walk the Camino. They did not confess their age, but I would guess mid 60’s. I wish people could climb inside my heart to know how much that means to me. It I never did another thing, my life would be complete at that moment. After the hike, we enjoyed breakfast and lattes at Java. Of course, I ran into them on the trail the next day. Still smiling.
My last night in town included the art-walk with another local friend. This monthly event is used to draw crowds to about ten galleries that stay open late to serve food and spirits. While meandering through the night, I ran into a pal from high school. We made plans to reconnect in Boise. Later, I stumbled upon another friend that was hosting the grand opening of the Sun Valley LunchBOX waxing salon. She is part owner and has been running around the country selling franchises. Her energy is unstoppable. If she were a public company, I would put all my eggs in her basket. Another perfect night.
Yesterday, back at home, I spent the day with my 75 year old neighbor. We have been compadres for over 22 years. It started out a bit rough, but the friendship is now one of my best. We drove to Bogus Basin and hiked 9 miles and climbed over 1,400 feet. Yes, he is 75! I learned several new things about him as we enjoyed a perfect day. The cherry on the walk was a peanut parfait at Fancy Freeze in 100+ degree heat.
Not a single one of these moments required big sums of cash. None of these encounters were big events that required lots of planning or took dubious amounts of time. All of these events were taking time out of my life to enjoy the moment and maintaining my focus on being present. There is no better place to be……