Even the most accomplished guides lose their way from time to time; I certainly do. The other Thursday evening in London, I’m with a friend in search of La Tasca. We want to indulge in a paella and sangría night. I momentarily forget that the tapas bar come restaurant is in James Street (in a Camino context, where else would it be?), and we find ourselves wandering through the streets of London heading towards Oxford Circus.
I’m suddenly confronted by the Barclays Bank branch in Great Portland Street where I worked in 1994. I’m explaining to my friend that I sat at a window desk on the first floor, that I regularly gazed out of the window thinking of pastures new and it was at that very window desk that I did take the decision to resign from my banking job after ten years of being a dutiful employee.
No sooner do I say this when a young woman standing in front of me turns around and grabs my arm.
“You used to work here?”, she asks excitedly.
“Yes, but I left in 1994.”
She gestures to her two companions. “We all work here now, but digital banking is taking over. The only interesting parts of our job are about to be taken over by machines. We’re so depressed.”
“We want to get out, but we’re trapped”, pipes up another of the young women.
“What do you do now?”, enquires the first.
I explain that I inspire people to walk the Camino.
“The Camino? What’s that?”
I explain further; my audience is enthralled. According to my friend, I go into preaching apostle mode, encouraging the young women to think – and move – beyond the boundaries of corporate life.
“You’ve given us hope for the future. We’re so glad we met you here. It was meant to be. Do you have a card?”
I hand my business cards round and direct the women to my website. Will I ever hear from them again? Probably not. Does it matter? No: the Camino has already worked its magic in this nondescript corner of London. It’s inspired people who feel stuck to step out of their everyday life for just long enough to gain a new perspective on it – and maybe, just maybe move on to something different, better, more life-enhancing. Job done.