Because of my book, people contact me for travel advice and most are mainly interested in walking the Camino de Santiago. There is a very familiar pattern with many of the requests. They begin by telling me that they have been dreaming of walking the Camino for a large number of years, have read 15 books about the walk, tested 9 pairs of shoes and will be embarking on the actual walk in 5 years. The start date is usually centered around some future event that may or may not happen. One man actually told me that he had been practicing packing for over a year and weighs each item on a kitchen scale to seek ways to trim weight. He saved a few grams by taking a guillotine to his toothbrush. Ready, aim, fire works well in the military but can be a major hindrance to living life.
Walking the Camino can be boiled down to a very small number of requisite ingredients including a plane ticket, 4-6 weeks of time, good boots, some cash, clothes, and a backpack. I am not insinuating that any of these essentials are easy to obtain. I am suggesting that too many people spend way too much time creating a fantasy trip and then find disappointment when they never reach the loft of lofty expectations. The best moments in life usually happen in-between the expected big moments.
During my speeches, I try to share how walking the Camino allowed me to really appreciate the present moment. Every morning on that trail begins with monumental amounts of unknowns. Rarely did I know how far I would walk, if my body would hold out, what I would eat, where I would sleep, the upcoming terrain, or the weather. In that challenged environment there was no time to be wasted on yesterday’s problems or tomorrow’s land mines. Walking without worry or plans allows a person to really soak up and accept whatever happens with each step.
My favorite line of my lecture is to ask the audience the following question, “How many people in this room are where they expected to be five years ago?” I am still convinced that the only guy that ever raised his hand did not really understand the question. I never recommend that anyone should fly to Vegas and bet it all on red. Practical planning is required for daily life and a 500-mile walk in Spain. A perfect example is to create a college fund for a newborn baby instead of fretting about which college the next president will be attending in 18 years.
My best advice for walking the Camino is to get on the plane with very little baggage and leave all expectations behind. Come to think of it, this works for daily life too.