Saturday, August 24, 2013

What I Learned from Walking 470 Kilometers

Buen camino!

I spoke that phrase often this summer. The favor was returned countless times by complete strangers. Buen camino is the customary greeting exchanged along The Path of St. James in Spain. The Path of St. James, or El Camino, is an ancient pilgrim route winding through the countryside of northern Spain. While there are numerous routes, the most popular trail counts about 800 kilometers. This summer, my wife and I (we got hitched in July) spent two weeks trekking just under half the path. 

Without question, it was one of the most amazing, beautiful experiences of my life. For thirteen days we simply walked across Spain. It sounds so excruciatingly basic, but in essence that is all we did. We carried our lives on our backs and worried about nothing. We ate when we were hungry and stopped when we were tired. We didn't make reservations, or worry about staying in hotels with favorable yelp ratings. Most nights we stayed in town albergues, sometimes large halls or old schools, filled with shabby bunks. 

We shared conversations, meals, and walks with all types of people. Locals, Germans, unemployed, young people, recently retired, Irish. The list could go on and on. One night of food, or twenty minutes of discussion often felt like a reunion between old friends. It was uncanny. You formed instant and genuine connections. There were times of mental and physical pain, but it was completely worth it. The journey was liberating. 

The trip was a giant adventure and I certainly learned a ton. It was a giant lesson in creative learning. Specifically, there are a few things I took away. 

Nature is beautiful 
There is so much to learn and experience from what is around us. We take it for granted. Take a walk and pay attention. How can you not marvel at the entire system we call the world? How does a single bee survive in complete wilderness? How did it get there? How long has it been there? Nature poses so many questions that are simply magical. 

All we have is time
We have more of it then we think. We throw it away, have jaded priorities, and rarely notice the present. Our time is ours and instead of worrying about wasting it, why not simply enjoy it. 

So time away from tech is not bad
Technology does so many wonderful things and I am a big, big fan. On the other hand, it can be a social crutch that sometimes takes us away from enjoying others, ourselves, and all around us. Instead of reaching for your phone, why not pay attention to the person next to you. The device and all it can do will be there five minutes later. 

We learn so much from other people
We learn from our interactions with others. Enjoying others is a wonderful thing to waste. We all have gifts, talents, stories, expertise, and knowledge to share. Complete strangers can teach us all sorts of crazy things. Why not listen?

No comments:

Post a Comment