In the early days of walking Camino, I struggled to find my own rhythm and pace. There seemed to be a real pressure on beds and if I didn’t walk fast enough or far enough, I would be left without one. That had happened twice and inwardly I felt:
I’m not walking fast enough.
I’m not walking far enough.
I’m not quite keeping up with “the done thing” here.
Even though I talked about going at my own pace, the truth is, I didn’t do it.
I talked the talk but literally struggled to walk the walk!
At the time, I couldn’t quite tell whether the “race to keep up with everyone” was my own personal sensitivity , or if others felt the same. Was it my perception or was it reality? I don’t know if others experienced that same inner push and shove, but I would love to know.
I came across a piece in my journal from the time, and it reads as follows:
“I understand that people have jobs and families to fly home to but if everyone is goal-orientated, then the journey itself is lost–
If the priority is to reach Santiago in 5 weeks or less (as Brierley’s book will have you do), then the spontaneity, reflection, and inner journey is pushed aside in the name of scheduling.”
I was very upset about the pressure to keep up with a set schedule – whether it was imposed by Brierley or airline companies.
I met people along the way who naturally, happily, and easily walked 30+ km every day, and just so happened to reach Santiago in a month or less. One of them was a woman I met on my very last night before reaching Santiago itself. She started walking later in September than I, and had covered longer distances each and every day. I might have sat there, feeling inadequate about my own performance, except that she was entertaining, heartfelt, bright, and sassy. She was great company over dinner.
Some had criticised her for going too fast and for “missing out” on the real Camino. I guess there were people like me who were slower, and who looked on with the idea that she wasn’t “doing it right“. She explained that she naturally woke at 4-5am and was restless in bed, so the only thing she knew to do was to walk. She wasn’t trying to prove a point or rub anyone’s nose in it – she just happened to be very fit and very fast. And as it happened, she was reflective, articulate, and spoke of having a transformative experience along the way.
So it would seem, she didn’t ‘miss out’ on the inner Camino after all.
I started out wondering if the people with schedules, plans, and daily targets, were an enemy in some way. No doubt, the Camino was far more commercial and goal-orientated than I ever expected. I wasn’t sure whether I was overly sensitive, or was really inadequate and naïve.
Was Camino to be like “the real world” – a competition for the survival of the fittest?
Sometimes it felt like it, despite also feeling the sense of community and camaraderie.
I didn’t know what my own pace was, but I seemed to have little consistency from one day to the next. Some days were 25km in length, then others were only 8-10km. I wasn’t sure where my happy medium lay. And I wasn’t sure whether the Type A pilgrims were creating a standard that was atypical for the “true Camino”. They were able to walk fast enough and far enough to secure beds early in the day, and spend their afternoons drinking beers and sightseeing. Surely the trick was to set my own pace rather than try keeping up with them – right? And yet, there seemed to be so many of them, and they seemed to set the tone for so many things.
Were they a hindrance or a help?
Were they the true representation of Camino and life, or were they destroying the Camino spirit with their ambitious targets and KPIs?
I couldn’t quite tell.
“This walk is a pragmatic lesson in pacing. Quite literally, there is always someone ahead of me and always someone behind me. Quite literally, there is no winner or loser. We are each doing our best. We are each making our own way.”
“On more energised days, I have collected litter along the way. I have been able to make people laugh…I’ve picked up peoples’ washing off the ground and re-hung it for them, without them knowing. I’ve prayed for Handsome Husband and given thanks for the people who have supported me.
The quality of what I do is enormously important. Yes, I would love to energetically bounce along 25km every day without issue. But when I can’t do that, I like that my slower pace allows me to do other things – and that I do them.
There is tremendous power in the small gestures, the intention, the quiet support. For me, this is Christian living….I am only partially interested in Santiago as a destination and even less interested in the certificate. I am more interested in the process.”
By the end of it all, I came to realise that we all have a different pace and rhythm – on Camino and in life.
I forget this far too easily and quickly, negatively comparing myself to others and their progress.
Mental note to self: Remember to respect my own pace in life.