Ange Camino pic

The Camino de Santiago – also know as the way of St James.

It is an ancient pilgrimage to the Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  The earliest recorded pilgrimage was in the 8th Century and by the 12 century it was very popular.  Today its popularity is  crazy, more than 200 000 people walk it every year.

I walked the Camino St Frances which starts in St Jean Pied de Port up over the Pyrenees in France, then across Spain and into Santiago. This entire Pilgrimage took me 34 days of walking with a few days thrown in to relax and sightsee along the way.

I arrived in St Jean with a chest infection and throat infection which I haven’t had for around 10 years.  I did have to take antibiotics to see if I could shake them before I walked so I learnt my first lesson almost on arrival.

Ten Lessons I learnt

Be Patient

I wouldn’t classify myself as a very patient person and the start of the trip threw lots of things in my path that really tested my patience.  Not just with myself but also how I deal with other people.  Being sick the first day of my walk I had to walk up to 1601 metres, it was a hot day and I had trained for six months and I had to walk very slow, at times I didn’t think I was going to make it.  I had to take lots of breaks and I spent a great deal of time leaning on my poles.  Then I met a lady a few days after I started and I walked with her for around 5 days. Everyday there would be things that would slow us down with her so it was a great lesson for me in patience.

Be Grateful

Everyday I was grateful to be able to be on the trail, not to get blisters, to be able to manage my knee issues and know that my husband was taking care of my family. I’ve never really practiced gratitude regular but this was a real turning point for me.

Commitment and Consistency

One of the things I noticed was the people who took care of their feet often had the best results walking.  The people who didn’t stop if they felt uncomfortable of they didn’t think their feet would need such vigilance they normally fared the worst. I saw people walking in thongs, sandals and socks or having to catch the bus because their feet had been so badly damaged from blisters or not taking the time to run in their new shoes. Commitment to your feet was a must!

Consistency to walk at your own pace on the Camino. If you waked too fast you could damage your feet or your shins. Too many days off and you would have to deal with the sore muscles over again.

Connection with others

The Camino is different than your everyday life as most pilgrims talk to everyone.  There is no getting to know each other they walk up to you and ask you where you are from,  why you decided to do the walk and where you plan to walk to. You may walk with this person for an hour or for a few days so getting to know them quickly is key.

Go at your own speed

There were people that would walk fast and there were others that walked so slow I found it excruciating to watch and walk with them.  I actually met a lady who was only walking 10 km a day and it would take her all day to do it. Yes it meant her Camino would be longer but this is how she wanted to walk it. The same in life we should go at our own speed and not compare ourselves to others. We are all individuals and we should treat ourselves that way.

Life is not a race

An interesting thing I took away from this trip is there is always someone else who can walk, longer, faster, further than you. Some people could leave at 7am and be at there next destination by 11 am whereas others would take much longer.  To be honest it didn’t really matter how long it took, you had all day. In life we need to take as long as you need to reach your destination and enjoy your journey along the way.

Break goals into smaller chunks

Walking 800 kms is not an easy task.  You wonder if you can go that far, how will your feet/body be and if you can even mentally cope with walking that distance.  The walk is broken down into manageable sections. If you know how far you need to walk each day and then you can plan your accomodation around this. This is similar to health as you know that you need to change your eating habits but you don’t need to go cold turkey.  This is where I see people fail most often.  They have a huge goal and they try and accomplish it all in the first day. By breaking it down into smaller chunks you are more likely to succeed.

Help others

This was so prevalent on the track. Pilgrims would give each other bandaids, shoes, bandages, drink bottles essentially whatever it took to get another pilgrim back on the track.  That is a big theme for life as well. We should all help others whenever we can.  This makes life worthwhile.

Ask for help

This was a tough one for me and I know I am not alone here.  On the second and third day I knew if I didn’t get some help for my knees my pilgrimage may have been short lived. Then I met Louise a physiotherapist from Sydney who looked after my knees by taping them and she also give me exercises to do. We are not meant to do everything by ourselves.  We should seek out people who can improve our lives and find people we can help.

It’s the little things that make a difference

Sometimes the smallest thing could change your life as you were walking along.  A proper hat, sunscreen, the right blister pad, a banana, using a walking pole , someone helping you put your back pack on. This is true in life if your struggling with what to eat, how to work out what foods are for you, knowing that there is someone who will support you on your journey.  That is the same how I treat people in clinic  I will do whatever it takes to support you in your journey to great health.

Whether you walk the Camino or not these things can definitely help you make changes to your health and your life.  I would love to hear what you think.  

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