This blog was contributed by my dear friend Brenda. We first met while on a dogsledding trip for Veterans and have been close friends ever since. She joined us on the Camino and was gracious to share her thoughts…Brad Genereux
I searched for the words to describe the Camino – the problem is, this didn’t feel like an adventure to share. It is one that must be lived.
Better late than never and better to try and fail than never try at all…
For 30 days we traversed mountains, rivers, grassland, farmland, scree, gravel, boulders, dirt and desert.
We overcame rain,
snow, hail, sun, pain, blisters, sleepless nights and… loneliness, ignorance,
hate, love, distractions, luxuries and obstacles.
We found simplicity. Beauty. Equality. And peace.
Mostly, we faced our demons and found ourselves. We learn who we are away from the world, yet closer to the real world – this separate little cult-world lacking fakeness, media, and societal rules.
A little deeper, the Camino is a metaphor for life. You set an end goal of 500 miles and just head west. Some days you have distractions, heartbreaks, and find it hard to see the destination. Eventually, with one foot in front of the other, every day, you arrive where you are supposed to be. Goal achieved. Yet, as soon as you get there… you have a midlife crisis wondering what is next. You hold on and walk to Finisterre and have the same anxiety at the end. Eventually, you decide to be an adult and return home – to your normal life – changed.
So, if you’ve done the walk – you know what I’m saying. If you haven’t, this oxymoron just makes no sense. But, here’s my description for those you have not yet walked these 500 miles.
Each day was simple. You wake up, grab your bag and then you walk. A lot. Then, you get hungry and stop at the first place you see for food; you say “Buen Camino!” to all the others you see walking in the door. Repeat. Then, you walk until you stop. You pay for your room. You shower & prepare for tomorrow (to include washing clothes, drying today’s and personal hygiene). Finally – you sleep! Then repeat.
In this simplicity, you will find beauty – it is impossible to miss. Every day has its own picturesque moments. The way the sun kisses the land is incredible. The rain drops glistening after a storm. Even the storm clouds are amazing as they roll into your path. But the beauty is more than the surface. It is the ability to remember what matters in life when you have solitude in nature. You appreciate your very life so much more.
Another piece is that everyone is equal here. The richest person suffers the same hardships if they are going to complete this journey. No shortcuts to walking. This creates its own beauty. Getting to know another’s story calms the soul. Everyone you meet is just like you. Walking. It feels so good to be the same as everyone. Yet, still a very unique snowflake. Everyone loves your story. Everyone loves your being. Anyone on this path is a strong person. You have their respect and you give them yours. Fear of others not understanding is washed away. You will find some peace and comfort.
It is so strange, the
days feel like they will never end, yet the weeks and milestones are left far
behind. Like life, each step seems
inconsequential, yet truthful self-reflection will show miles of adversity
overcome. It is hard to remember each
step without the milestones and pictures.
We find strength by having everything we need on our backs. And we often find something precious to give to another soul who needs it more. Whatever you need in life, the Camino provides. It is truly miraculous and rejuvenating.
And lastly, I can’t even think about the Camino without remembering the amazing people. You will meet soooo many people. All for a reason, season or lifetime. Some become friends forever. The veterans who I thought about every day, thank you for welcoming me to your circle. Your strength and resiliency humble me. I live for you. I live to serve. You push me to be better. Thank you.
My advice to everyone
past, present and future walkers… and especially the veterans by my side or in
my mind –
This life is your story. You have such depth behind those eyes. You all have seen darkness. You are all stronger than it. Leave it past but stay badass. Fight for happiness, honor and integrity every day. Eyes follow you. You all inspire others. Even others that never speak a word to you. Soldier, you carry yourself different than the rest of the world… Be a good example.
Here. On the Camino. Away from the real world. (Remember it? Hold onto it.)
I challenge everyone to reflect and redefine success the Camino way. Wealth and power have no place here. We are all equals.
Or is this the real
world? Can you live this every day? Avoid society’s trap. Build your
walls and don’t let hate, selfishness, and fear enter your heart.
Redefine success. Shift from external comparisons to internal. Take this home. Don’t accumulate wealth or buy appearances.
Live simply so others may simply live.
Spend money on experiences. Spend time on relationships with people. Seek fulfillment, good health, and wellbeing. Ignore the norms, be the change. Be fiercely independent in this world of lemmings. Seek others like you.
Never forget there is
strength in asking for support from friends. Us. Your Camino family
and your veteran family. The world is full of media & bad
advice. Come here for help. If you refuse help, you rob a friend of
their fulfillment in helping you. Give
and receive help. It is rewarding.
Beautiful souls. (That’s you.) Be you. Fight those demons and daily grinds. You are so strong. Stand for what you believe. You are elite. Only a small group of people serve. Less walk the Camino. You know better than to wait for superman. You are superman, yet that is a lonely path. Stay strong my brothers & sisters in arms. We are in this together no matter how far away in time and space. I am so proud of each of you. I can’t wait to see where our paths cross again someday. Be true to yourself. Learn, smile, and appreciate every day.
(PS. PA has its doors open for you and I like
Oh, and if you’re still reading this, there was some not-so awesome there… Just to keep it real…
Well… most nights you get no sleep worrying about bed bugs. Then, you don’t care about the bedbugs, you just wish the noisy snoring next to you to stop. I mean, how can you make noise on both inhale and exhale? I mean… try it. This is a hard skill! Typically, you do sleep a few hours and your bunkmate decides it is time for a restroom break and the squeaking bed springs wake you with a start. When you look at your phone, you realize it is not charging because there are too many on the same circuit. Eventually, you are just thankful there is a path to walk and morning finally comes. If you’re smart, you packed last night and can start walking to catch sunrise on the trail. Maybe tonight will be quieter. Always be an optimist.
Anyway, another life metaphor… Forgive the bad and remember the good. It’s the balance of the two that makes this world worth living. If you’re one a down day, there will be an up. Trust it. I promise you. And if you can’t see it…. come see me! I might be having a bad day, too. And I know a visitor will change my down. =)