On 1st May 2017 I set off from Zamora, Spain, with my wife and daughter on a part of Europe’s greatest pilgrimage, the Way of St James, or Camino de Santiago, arriving at the city of Santiago de Compostela 15 days and 350km (217 miles) later. Both my wife and I average 50 and are overweight, so it was not easy as the sore feet and ankles, as well as my blisters, can testify. My daughter, 18, skipped along and stayed to do a second ‘Camino’. Such is youth.
Whilst being a religious pilgrimage, the Camino means lots of different things to different people. Some do it to escape from the pressures of life, albeit for a few weeks. Some to free themselves mentally and spiritually, or to get over their timidity and shyness. Others feel a calling or being drawn by a ‘galactic force’!
Whatever the reason, I see a lot of parallels with the Camino and work, in all of its guises.
In life, work is about the journey, not just the destination, and this is what the Camino is about. Work is adventure, it’s about setting your sights on the horizon and planning your steps. The Camino sends you many challenges and obstacles to overcome, just like real life itself.
The Camino is about relationships along the way, meeting new people with the same objective, it’s about helping one another to reach this goal. Work is the same, or at least it should be.
Every so often along the Way you have to stop and look back at your trail, to see and appreciate where you’ve come from and what you have achieved. In the real world we should do this more often and learn from our mistakes.
Business is not easy, neither is the Camino. There are times when you want to give up, when the motivation leaves you, when the rain and your drenched clothing are too much for you and you want to take the weight off your feet and ditch that backpack from your shoulders. But ultimately the rain always stops, the clothes dry out and your back and legs strengthen. Re-taking the route can be painful, but after each slow step it becomes less so, until the pace quickens and you are back up to speed.
And yes, we all lose our way from time to time. This happens for our own personal reasons or because the signs are not clear. It can also happen because the Camino was not what we were expecting. Some take time out to rest but most return, eventually, to finish what was started. There are about 33 Caminos in all, 33 different ways to journey to the same destination, so if your Way is not to your liking, there are always other routes to choose from.
I have heard it say that the angels of the Camino will guide you and this too is true of work, for who has not relied on someone for job and career advice?
For my daughter this has been a great experience, the start of her journey in her professional life. She will go to University this year to gain knowledge, just like I did when planning the Camino. She will be continuously filling her backpack with experience, she will observe highs and lows, happiness and frustration, success and failure. She will stumble and lose her way like we all have, at times questioning if she has taken the right path, before finding it (or another) again.
And I hope to be her angel along her Way.