Dick Measuring – On Camino & In Life

I had an unfortunate encounter this week. I crossed paths with someone I didn’t want to see. She isn’t part of my inner circle but she’s someone I have known a long time so I was obliged to say hello.

Exchange pleasantries.

Pretend to be interested.

I did all that and expected our conversation to wrap up quickly but before I knew it, she started asking more detailed questions. About what? About my plans. Career. Childcare. Things I don’t want to talk about right now. Things I am still figuring out. Things that take time to explain and require great listening, understanding, and trust. Just some of the things that are lacking between us.

I wasn’t prepared for the inquisition. She’s one of these people who hasn’t learned how to ask open-ended questions in a neutral tone. I didn’t want to get into details so I fudged a vague reply. She didn’t take the hint. She asked more questions. Pointed ones. The kind of questions that indicate judgement about my choices, my priorities, my heartfelt journey through life.

And I came home feeling sh*t about myself.

Sound familiar?

We all have people in life that rattle and upend us. The holiday season shakes up our social circle in all sorts of ways and we often come face-to-face with people we’d much rather avoid. It’s part of life.

And it’s part of camino, too. Every day that I walked, I met people who needled me for specific information: How many kilometers had I walked that day? How much money did I earn? What hostel would I stay in that night?

Sometimes these questions were just conversation starters. Most of the time they were benign and meaningless. But all along camino, I met people for whom these questions were far more important. They asked them as a means to gather information about me, often without answering them in return. Or they asked them so they could brag about their own achievements (in life, on camino, whatever). They asked them so they could judge me. Was I as rich as them? As fast as them? As fit as them?

I’m told this is called “Dick Measuring”.

And just as it happens in everyday life, so too on camino. You’d think all those pilgrims would know better.

They don’t.

They walk 500 miles asking pointed, nosey questions that undermine the people around them. They needle for binding, yes/no answers that are easy to catalogue. But I didn’t abide by the black/white rules of life: I was living proof of grey.

It took me a while to figure this out on camino. I went to France/Spain with my heart on my sleeve. I was open. I didn’t have a strategy in my conversations or in my everyday walking. I assumed that the people around me were wholesome and open-minded.

Sometimes, I was wrong.

I learned to keep some details to myself – mostly because they were irrelevant but sometimes because my honesty was used against me.

I had only one true plan: I would do my very best to walk all the way to Santiago. After that, I hadn’t a clue where I would sleep each night or how far I would walk each day. Some people thought I was being difficult or cagey when I didn’t answer their questions. They thought I had something to hide but the truth was less dramatic: I just didn’t have the answers. And I didn’t pretend otherwise. And that was an almighty liberation from my everyday life where I felt this ongoing, immense pressure to always have a plan and always be “on track” with that plan.

As soon as I started seeing a guy, people wanted to know when we would marry.

As soon as we married, people wanted to know when we’d have kids.

As soon as I had a kid, people wanted to know when I’d have another, return to work, and get the first child out the door already.

All this push push push to get to the next thing. And for what?

We’re all going to die. Fact. So why the rush to get through all of life and get to that end point already?

Truth is, I don’t really have a plan. I have aspirations and intentions, and sometimes they merge into a sort of plan. But that’s as organised as it gets around here. I don’t really get into Dick Measuring because it’s absolutely unhelpful in my life. Actually, genuinely unhelpful. And unhealthy too.

I’d like to be asked different questions, like: When did I last get a good look at the sky? What was my favourite thing to happen this week? What am I enjoying these days?

I walked my camino with a deep need to walk with trust instead of fear. And I try to carry that through to my everyday life, too.


To all the people who have needled and pressed me for information: I’ll tell you if there’s something worth sharing but in the meantime, let me be. The answers will come when you stop harassing me with questions.

Just as it was on camino, so it is in life.















































9 thoughts on “Dick Measuring – On Camino & In Life

  1. Me: Hi, how are you?
    You: I’m good, how are you?
    Me: Great, thanks.
    You: Where are you from?
    Me: Sudbury, Canada, about 4 hours drive north of Toronto
    You: Cool, I’ve heard of Toronto. Have you done the Camino before?
    No: I was inspired by the movie, The Way. I wanted to do the walk with my father before he passed away but didn’t think of it in time, he wasn’t fit enough to do the walk when I broached the idea to him and since then, he’s passed away.
    You: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.

    These are the questions you and I might have had had we met on the Camino, nothing too prying, nothing to detailed, that could wait until we were more comfortable with each other and if not, the conversation might end here.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for your post. I found it so, as well. The thing irked me most was the judgment. What’s your job? Was a question I got a lot. You had to be in a job or retired. I was neither. There was a lot of judgment on the camino. People want to put you in a box – even on the camino. But then, that’s also my learning. Why should I care for their good opinion?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wise words indeed!
      Like you, I was in a transitional state when I walked camino: I had just quit a job and didn’t really know what would happen next. Good thing we are more than just our jobs, right?! 🙂


    • Regrettably, people are defined by what they do so having this information allows “me” to know whether I am “better than you”. For that reason, I try not to ask that question or at least not as an opener.


  3. It’s soo easy to be judgey while on the Camino, just like in life. Peregrinos want to place you in a pigeonhole as soon as possible. One thing that irks me still 6 years after first walking the Camino is being asked “so why are you walking the Camino?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh I can imagine….and how do you answer?
      Glad to hear it’s not just me who felt pigeonholed along the way (although I’m also sorry to hear that it’s not just me). I wonder if the other (quieter) routes are different?


      • I would usually give an open answered question. Something like… “I have no idea, but let’s hope I know when I reach Santiago” or “it’s the food that brings me back, don’t you feel the same?”. I keep it light hearted without giving a smart response. Hopefully that will give me companion a hint that I would prefer not to have a deep conversation. With regard to quieter routes, I’d assume it is different. I have walked to Finistere from Santiago in September and everyone is interested in the moment, the ‘now’ and reaching the coast.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The food? Ha ha ha ha ha….oh that’s a good one!
    Sounds like the Santiago-to-Finisterre stretch is more like my kind of thing. Do you think that’s because that stretch attracts a different type of pilgrim or maybe it’s because by the time people get that far, they have adopted a more Zen approach? Or maybe there’s a different reason?


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