Did you change? Do you feel different? What did you learn?
These are some of the questions I’ve been asked after having walked about 800km - from Pamplona to Finisterre - on El Camino de Santiago in Spain.
To be honest, I’m still not fully aware of how I've changed. I know something feels different, and I'm processing a lot these days… what I know for sure is; the pilgrimage made me see with crystal clarity what I value in life.
These are five elements I value deeply and that I prioritize to cultivate going forward:
Being in nature feels like the most valuable way I can use my time. Breathing in the fresh air, opening my senses to all the colors, sounds and smells, and experiencing the peace and presence from just being.
When I was walking I would purposely stay present by shifting my attention between the senses. For a time I would focus on all that I was seeing, then I would focus on all I was hearing, then I would focus on feeling my feet as they stepped on the ground, then I would focus on the smells, then on the sensation of the air, and then starting over again. I found it to be a brilliant and simple way to really experience nature.
Freedom through minimalism
Having few material things gives such lightness – and I felt this quite literally when carrying everything in a backpack while walking for four-eight hours daily. Some years ago I sold most of what I owned, and I’ve accumulated very little since then. I find a great sense of freedom by having few material things; not to mention the economic freedom it gives to spend a lot less on shopping.
Deep human connection
I don't really care about small talk. I can do it, but it quickly feels empty, and to be honest, I’d rather stay silent than spend a lot of time talking about nothing. However, the fulfillment I get from sharing profound conversations, where I listen deeply and feel heard and seen, is priceless.
My body feels stronger than ever, and I deeply reconnected with my love for movement while walking for several hours daily. It was interesting to observe how movement directly impacted my mood. I would see a clear pattern; in the morning my body was a bit heavy and cold, and by walking slowly it warmed-up. After a period of walking endorphins would kick in, and I would literally feel high. I call it the 'hiking high'.
It’s easy to constantly be one or several steps ahead mentally, and I would lie if I told you this didn’t happen to me sometimes while walking. Yes, my mind would drift; I would think about other things and get lost in the past or future. However, I found that I often felt very present during the walk. I think it had something to do with the simplicity of the days; the clear physical action, and the constant connection to my senses. Reaching Santiago de Compostella and Finisterre didn’t feel, to me, as profound or exciting than actually being on the journey, and I keep this insight vivid in memory. So as to remember that reaching a goal in life isn't as great as being here, in this moment. Living, breathing and being.
I’d love to know what elements you value and choose to prioritize in life. Tell me in the comments below...