As I embark on this my 4th Camino some all too familiar feelings wash over me. The first one, of course, is gratitude. For me to undertake a journey like this, which this time is going to be about 10 weeks, requires enormous support and sacrifice from those around me. Most of all, of course, my wife Pat, who I know doesn’t relish the idea of me being away for that long. Her love and support and encouragement mean an enormous amount to me. And of course, there is a much broader team that has allowed me to do this, and that is my team at work. So many people who are having to cover for me in so many different ways whilst I am away, and I am just enormously grateful to everybody for that support.
I suppose it reminds me that in life when we strive to do things, challenges, and whatever they might be, it is rare that we can actually overcome them purely on our own. It is more often a group effort I found and the support of others through life in so many ways is so important.
And then, of course, we come to the guilt bit. I always feel an enormous sense of guilt when I do this. Being away for so long and leaving others to cope with things in my absence just seems such an utterly selfish act. That is something that I have to deal with in my head through the journey. And I suppose it stems a little bit from having led a life, mostly of service to others, and taking time out like this for myself just seems a little bit alien. But for a person who has very little life outside of work, I have to confess, I find these extended breaks have become a very important part of keeping me sane. And I know that when I come back, I’m a much better person for it in many ways in my personal life, in work life and I always come back with a much better attitude.
For me, that’s the wonder and the beauty of walking or camino. It’s the opportunity to mull things over – hours, hour after hour, every day – to think about what’s important in your life, what your priorities are, and to a large degree, finding yourself, which is very hard in a busy day-to-day life that most of us lead. That’s probably why, 8 years ago, I called this website and this blog, well it’s called Rob’s Camino, but the sort of subtitle is ‘Searching for Santiago’. I think for me, these walks are very much a search. It’s not really about the hiking, it’s about a walking meditation. It’s the thinking time away from the day-to-day world that is so valuable. I just hope that the sacrifice those around me have made to allow me to make this journey, I can repay over and over when I come back.