Hola and Welcome to Discover The Camino.
As you’re on this page, I imagine you are curious about this thing called the “Camino”, transformational change and me.
HOW DOES ALL THIS FIT TOGETHER?
Well, it begins because of my passion for Spain. In May 2010, I found myself people watching as I sat at a terraced cafe in the northern city of Burgos. I was in the city simply because I had been asked to plan, organise and deliver a week long tour of northern Spain by a couple of friends who had not seen each other for 20 years. I drove the car and showed them the sights whilst they reconnected and enjoyed the ambience, history and culture of Spain.
The friends were exploring Burgos’ magnificent 800 year old Gothic cathedral. For centuries, the cathedral has been a beacon of encouragement for those walking the pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela, a further 315 miles to the west. I had known of the Camino de Santiago for at least 15 years and to wheaten to my appetite further, I had managed to build, over this period, a mini library of Camino books.
I always knew I would walk the Camino one day. I just didn’t know which day.
The people I watched were the pilgrims walking by. I had never seen a pilgrim before. Beginning in the French Pyrenees, the 176 mile (284km) journey to Burgos would have taken most of them, at least, 12 days to cover. Some pilgrims were hobbling into town, with gritted teeth, as their blistered covered feet fulfilled their daily duty. The pilgrims displayed an immense sense of camaraderie and an amazing spirit of joy and happiness, despite any travails. I could only think this came from going on such an adventure and being away from the daily routine for 5 weeks.
I received my “Call to the Camino” that day. As I sat drinking my coffee, looking at the different shapes, sizes, ages, fitness levels of the pilgrims, I decided to resign from my uninspiring corporate world job. I committed myself to walking the whole length of the Camino in 2011.
That’s my story of how I came to the Camino.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
In April 2011, I took my first walking step in the French Pyrenean village of St Jean Pied-de-Port. The Pyrenees mountains and 496 miles (798km) lay ahead. My transformation journey had begun. Well, in fact, it began 3 weeks previously when my back gave way and I collapsed onto the floor in a hotel room. My last corporate world business trip to Buenos Aires certainly was memorable.
As I lay stuck on the floor, I wondered “was my Camino over before it had even begun?”
Gazing up at the ceiling, I realised that this was my first Camino lesson and it began with a question: “What will I have to do differently if I am going to walk over the Pyrenees in 3 weeks time?”
After about an hour, I finally got myself crookedly standing up. For the following week, I walked around Buenos Aires at a snail’s pace and at the same angle as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Whenever I contemplated the thought of the Pyrenees challenge that lay ahead, my inner wisdom always responded – “walk extra, extra, extra slowly over the Pyrenees”.
TAKING THE FIRST STEP
The day arrived to take my first step. For once, I listened to myself (I had no other option as it was still very painful to walk) and the second footstep was an extra slow step. I discovered very quickly that going slowly and walking at my pace offered huge benefits. Firstly, I got the chance to meet everyone overtaking me. Secondly, I saw that despite us all being the same (we were all humans, walking, carrying rucksacks and going to the same destination) our attitudes were all completely different.
My thoughts led me to predicting who was going to suffer because of their speedy pace and the amount of the load on their back. Over the days ahead, my guesses proved to be remarkably accurate.
THE THREE STAGES OF WALKING THE CAMINO
One of my walking companions explained to me, in religious terms, the three transformational stages of the Camino. The first stage covers the experience of walking over the Pyrenees and the first week of walking. It represents “purgatory”. The body is suddenly set new daily challenges; the need to let go of items that are too heavy to carry and the acceptance that new routines, beliefs and attitudes must be adopted if Santiago is going to be reached. Until these lessons are learned, the Camino may remain a very painful experience.
Once the first stage is completed, then the silence of the flat, barren, desert like table top central plateau of Spain called the “Meseta” must be crossed. This is the second stage or “death”. It is a 10-day journey where the “aloneness” of the landscape can force you to go within to acknowledge and face the things which perhaps, through the rapid pace of life, you never get the chance to consider. Crossing the “Meseta” can be a time of feeling lost, abandoned and insecure as you step through the vast, open, landscape.
In personal transformation terms the second stage is the period of no longer being who you once were and you are not yet who you want to become.
Finally you enter the fertile, green and rich landscape of Galicia region, the capital of which is Santiago de Compostela. This is the third stage or “resurrection”. Here, near journey’s end, new purpose, new ideas and new creativity emerge. You acknowledge your re-discovered strengths and your increased self-belief received from confronting and overcoming the challenges. With this, plus the positive connection with others and the act of just trusting to the future, far-flung dreams feel they can become real possibilities.
THE BIRTH OF ‘DISCOVER THE CAMINO’
My Camino reminded me of whom I really am. I have always loved walking and trekking and the lure of the Spanish culture, language and history has fascinated me ever since I was a kid. I also enjoyed inspiring people to step out of their comfort zone, to have an adventure and to create the life they want.
But this was not the life I was living.
It is said the real Camino begins the moment you finish your Camino journey in Santiago de Compostela. I committed to myself in Santiago to begin my own transformation journey to create and live a life of fulfillment. This has been achieved through introducing individuals to the ‘life enhancing’ effects of the Camino whether it be ‘receiving quality time and space to think’, to ‘step outside the comfort zone to experience something new or even to take an ‘inner journey’ to create a more fulfilling and inspiring future self.
Since my Camino, I have led and supported both 1:1 and small group walks along the Camino holding the space for individuals to enjoy their own unique Camino experience. So much so, the Camino experience prompted one individual to resign from his job on the Monday morning after his return from Spain, and for another to return to the Camino but this time walking to Santiago de Compostela all the way from London!! My time is now split between working in the UK and on the Camino, in Logroño, in Spain.
I am also the UK ambassador for the very successful documentary, ‘Walking The Camino: Six Ways To Santiago‘, which follows a diverse group of pilgrims, ages 3 to 73, as they embark on their Caminos. I host cinema screenings, Q&As and talks to bring alive the Camino journey to those interested in finding out more from the comfort of an armchair!
After walking more than 2,000km along the different Camino paths, I know what it takes to create a rich, rewarding, unforgettable and life changing Camino journey….. it’s walking with wisdom.
For further information covering talks, documentary screenings, masterclasses, walks and day trips please click here. I hope our paths will cross one day.