Monday, 14 November 2016

Camino lessons 14th November 2016 by Susanne Irving

When my friend and I walked the Camino Ingles to Santiago de Compostela last month I learned many valuable lessons. Here are some of them:

Be sure that you know where you are heading: 
There are thousands of signposts all along the path, but not every signpost would have led us to Santiago. It paid off to carefully follow the instructions in our guidebooks and if in doubt, check a compass– but a compass is useless if you don’t know in which direction you are meant to be going!

Focus on what you want rather than on what you don’t want: 
On the first day, the path led over a motorway bridge. I started to panic when I saw the low railings. My rucksack seemed to be filled with lead. I had fantasies about being pulled over the railing by its weight. I knew that if I wanted to continue on the camino, I had to train my mind and eyes to focus on where I was heading. The bridge looked broad and spacious when I looked back once I reached the other side. 

Let the “why” determine the “how”: 
I quickly learned that those who walked on the same path were not necessarily on the same journey. We met a German couple who were seasoned walkers and saw the camino as a great physical exercise. Whenever we walked with them, we seemed to get from A to B at lightening speed. Their stories about the Camino Frances were a welcome distraction when we had some challenging uphill climbs. 

However, I also noticed that I did not remember very much about my surroundings after walking with them. If we had continued to keep in step with them, we might have reached Santiago more quickly - but I would have missed my goal. 

I wanted to get a taster of what it is like to be on a pilgrimage. The daily journey was therefore as important as the destination. I had to find a pace and rhythm that suited my purposes and accept that my walk would take longer than I had originally envisaged.

It is easy to lose one’s way – not just on the camino
How often have I got stuck and walked around in circles because I was unclear about my writing goals. I am also prone to letting a negative mindset derail a project. I have found the input and encouragement of my writers’ group a great help on the creative journey. 

About the author:
Sue Irving is the co-ordinator for the Creative Communicators in Petersfield. She has co-written a book with her husband John about their experiences when climbing Kilimanjaro. It is aimed at both trekkers and those who are going through a dark time in their lives. How to conquer a mountain: Kilimanjaro lessons is available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon, with all proceeds going to charity.


  1. We visited Santiago de Compostela some years ago. We flew there, I'm afraid. Well done on walking.

  2. I would love to do that walk, but as I have a disability I'd have to drive betweens tops